Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dirt Biking through Laos: Vientiane to Vang Vieng

Go Laos, way to be beautiful!!!

The view from our hotel in Vang Vieng.

After a 24-hour travel experience (Kratie, Cambodia to Paske, Laos, to Vientiene, Laos) Andy and I picked up dirt bikes in Vientiane and were on our way. (See what I did there? Skipped over the icky bits and made it all sound so easy!)

Here's a little background on how this all came about: Andy and I know each other through running the  Ragnar Relay. Back around December, I mentioned to him that I planned on traveling in SE Asia this spring or summer. Turns out he was thinking of doing the same! Me: Want to travel together? Andy: Sure! I was thinking of doing it on a motorcycle, would you want to do that? Me: Ok sounds cool! And that, my dear readers, is how my major life decisions are made.

All geared up on top of a mountain in Laos!

We left the city, and biked 150 kilometers through lowlands then up into the hills and over a super-curvy little mountain. The mountain part was mostly in the rain, which makes for quite the beginner's dirt biking experience! Considering that this was my third time on a dirt bike ever, and first time on a dirt bike really outside a parking lot, I'm feeling pretty darn pleased with myself for surviving and enjoying it. 

I assume that most of my readers are not dirt bikers (neither was I until about 6 hours ago), so I'll explain that they're manual, like a motorcycle, but with more suspension so they have a higher center of gravity. 

Our first stop along this dirt biking tour was the riverside town of Vang Vieng, a so-called "backpacker haven," that now, in the semi-off season, is actually quite nice. (Though we are techincally backpackers, we're not really the stereotypical "backpacker/traveler" type.) The ride there was beautiful, through bright green rice paddies, blue and cloudy skies, and jungly mountains. Seriously, I cannot get over how spectacular this country is. 

Kaeng Kyui Waterfall

We spent a day in Vang Vieng, and here's where the dirt bikes come in handy: we can just go places -- no tuktuks, busses, or taxis required -- whenever we want! And we can go places those other vehicles can't, because dirt bikes are meant for potholes and mud! 

First we biked to Tham Phu Kham ("Blue Lagoon") cave outside the town. It was big, with interesting rocks and stalagmites and stalactites and crevices to explore. 

There are a lot of caves in the area, but I'm not much of an underground person (i.e. I don't love caves), so one was enough and afterwards we headed to the cave's nearby lagoon and rope swing to cool off.

[It has recently come to my attention -- as in I just googled -- that the Tham Phu Kham cave was supposed to have a big Buddha statue. We saw nothing like maybe we misread the map and went to the wrong cave? Meh oh well, it was still pretty cool!]

The next stop for our day was Kaeng Kyui Waterfalls, about 15 fun kilometers to the east of town. As you may recall from my Erawan Falls experience in Thailand, waterfalls are my jam. Much more so than caves! I led Andy on an Mollie-style adventure, clambering up a rocky waterfall just to see what there is to be seen. 

And we totally lucked out weather-wise! It rained until about 10 am, then was overcast, and then sunny! Monsoon shmonsoon. The ride back from the falls was beautiful!

We have the dirt bikes for six days, and plan to tour to the max around Northern Laos. So wish us luck and safe riding and sunshine -- I'll keep you posted!