Thad and I woke up this morning and left for our motorcycle trip. Dustin and Jared decided to sleep in and have a lazy day. We left and headed north on Hwy 13, one of the few paved roads in the country. We had no set agenda, just to explore. This we accomplished to perfection. We crossed rivers, rice fields, went through bamboo forests and banana groves, flew down dirt paths carved in the side of mountains, and chickened out of fording a stream. We parked the bikes for a while and went hiking into a cave, where a guide appeared out of nowhere and pointed to a sign that said no admission with out guide. Obviously a rip off, but what were we going to do? This happens all the time around here – 5000 kip to cross a bridge, 10000 to enter a lagoon area, 20000 for a guide because you can’t enter without one… we think most of it finds its way to organized crime but who knows.
We went 1 km back into this cave and swam around for a while in an underwater lake. This was extremely cool, and the pictures do not do it justice. After leaving, we found a well traveled dirt road and decided to follow it. It ended up leading through the mountain range to a small village on the other side. The river had washed out the road and we were nervous about crossing since our bikes were hot and we would have to pay for any damages. Loas on the other side were telling us that it was fine to cross, but we didn’t. On the way back I did get a picture with some Lao kids who were carrying AK-47s. Strangely, they have been the only show of a darker side of Laos that I have seen yet. I assume there is a stronger violent presence, but it is not evident. These teenagers were thrilled to have their picture taken, and took the time to straighten their shirts before the shot.
We are thinking about heading to Laung Probang tomorrow, not sure if we are still going to do it on motorbikes or the bus. Motorbikes were fun today, but tiring.
Skinny boats at the river crossing
Another panorama (to view larger, visit flickr.com/benhanna)