Laos Veng Vieng 2002.02.22 - 02.24

Limestone Caves

Vang Vieng is like summer camp for adults. The guidebooks tell of limestone caves, but the most popular activities are floating downstream on an inflated rubber tube, drinking beer, and techno-pop music. The big kids between ages 18-50 just hang out for days in Vang Vieng.

We came to see the caves. Limestone rock juts from the ground for miles around Vang Vieng. It seems that every rock has a passageway of caves. Each are accessible with a small admission fee. We glanced at a Japanese guidebook and picked one. Masami saw Tamu-chan (transliterated in English characters from the Japanese transliteration of Tham Jang) and delightedly pointed out, "That's my name!" Sure enough, Masami is still known as Tamu-chan among her high school friends.

Tham Jang cave is a short 2km from Veng Vieng town center. We rented bicycles from a guesthouse and cycled the short distance at a fraction above walking pace. Tham Jang cave is well abused. The cave administrator seems to think that illuminating stalactites with colored lights is a good idea. Mineral surfaces are worn smooth from excessive human touch. Every stalactite within reach has been broken off and claimed as a souvenir. The ground is littered with candy wrappers and cigarette butts. The concept of natural preservation hasn't reached Laos. One cave was enough.

From the south, 3 buses per day depart Vientiane for Vang Vieng at 07:00, 10:30, and 13:00 from the daytime terminal. Travel time is about 3 hours. From the north, buses depart Luang Prabang in the morning. Travel time is about 6 hours.

The sun sets over the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng. Surrounding outcrops of limestone house caves illuminated with colored fluorescent lights.

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