Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 51 - Caves and Kayaking in Vang Vieng

Woke up early to start the kayaking/cave tubing tour around Vang Vieng. It was nice to have a small tour group again, this time with a Canadian, French, and San Diegan(?) with us. We took a truck to the starting point next to the Nam Song River, where we got some training on how to paddle and what to do if the boat capsized.

There were four kayaks, 3 of which were two-seaters and 1 of which was a one-seater. I ended up taking the one-seater to kayak on my own. We started off kayaking for a short distance before reaching the other side of the river to explore some of the caves and karst formations in the area. I believe the first cave we saw was called Tham Nam, and to access it, we had to use tubes to float in the water to the entrance to the cave. There were ropes tied throughout the cave system for us to pull ourselves through the inside of the cave while we were floating in the water. The inside is completely pitch black, so we all used headlights to navigate our way through. It was incredible, but also claustrophobic and scary. It kind of reminded me of my favorite horror movie, Descent.

We reached a part of the cave with ground space to crawl on and shallow waters to wade through. It was like we were at military bootcamp, the way we had to crawl through the small and sandy spaces. I'd never done something like this before, and it was so much fun! Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring cameras so I have no pictures inside the cave, but one of the tourmates had a waterproof camera, so hopefully I'll be able to get some of the pictures once she returns from her long vacation...

After lunch, we took a short trek to Tham Sang, or "Elephant Cave" which is a small cave with a Buddhist shrine and a rock formation in the shape of an elephant.

We headed down to the Nam Song river shortly after, where we would begin our 14 km journey of endless paddling. The river was flowing rather slowly so it took some effort to really paddle downstream. There were a couple spots where there were some rapids we had to go through. The first couple times were a little scary, but after a while, I got used to it. I didn't realize how long 14km, but I had to paddle the whole time since I was in my own kayak...and I was lagging behind everyone the whole time! By the time we reached the tubing drop-off point where all the bars were, my arms were spent... And in the last area of rapids, I ended up capsizing and holding onto my kayak for dear life, while at the same time trying to keep my paddle from floating away, while trying to keep my sandals from escaping the grasp of my toes. To be honest, I think I was focusing more on saving my sandals than anything else... I got some help from another kayak and got back on...how embarrassing!

We stopped by one of the bars for a couple of hours and laid in hammocks, watching some people float down the river in their tubes. It wasn't crowded at all, and we'd see a couple people float by every 10 minutes or so. There were also mud volleyball and tug-o-war pits for people to play and compete in. I could definitely see how people could accidentally get too drunk at these bars and end up hurting themselves while trying to get back to town by floating down the river.

The tour was well worth the money and I got to see a little bit of everything the city had to offer...plus some upper body work out that I'm sure I've been neglecting through these past two months...

Relaxing after Kayaking for 10km

Working the Rice Fields

Tubes used to go through the Caves

I was pretty sure we'd get electrocuted if we dropped the battery in the water...

Elephant Cave

Our Kayaks

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