Our last motorbike adventure ended up being a week long trip to the east. It turned into a much-needed history lesson on the devastations of the Secret War. We visited the Viengxay caves close to the Vietnamese border that was vital for the survival of the Laos people when the bombs hit during that Vietnam War. Communism is very prevalent in this area and the communist and Laos flag fly together. In the mornings and evenings the loudspeakers come on encouraging the communist values and lifestyle.
As usual the highlights of this trip included the moments in between the tourist attractions. One of my favourite memories happened after we stopped to buy a scarf from a woman at a small weaving village. She gestured to the fields and then back to the indigo dye they were using on the silk indicating the natural dyeing techniques. As we rode away I was wondering if the brighter magenta in my scarf could possibly be from natural dyes. A kilometre later a few kids caught my eye because they were climbing in trees with long-handled bug nets. They jumped down eager to check out the foreigners and proudly dumped out iridescent bugs from a glass jar. I pointed between my scarf and his bugs and he nodded enthusiastically.
Once we got back to Vang Vieng we reunited with our friends from Muang Kuai to celebrate my birthday. We spent a day walking to another – you guessed it – cave. We like to think of ourselves as cave conneseurs now after spelunking through every country. We’ve seen big caves and squeezed sideways through small caves. We’ve been to natural caves and man made caves. Caves where armies trained, famous people hid and caves where ordinary people lived for years. Caves where people come to pray to shrines. Caves that double as graves. We’ve climbed hundreds of stairs to reach caves, crossed paths with gangs of monkeys to get to caves. We’ve waded through rivers and climbed locked gates with local kids to get to caves. We’ve slept in a cave. We’ve explored caves in the mountains, on islands, by a boat, … well you get the point. Now I can say we’ve swam in a pit of dark water in a cave.
After briefly considering ceremoniously throwing our bikes off a cliff we decided we needed the $400 more and sold them. It was time to say goodbye to our beloved bikes and our beloved friends and ready ourselves for our first bus ride in three months. It really felt like a chapter of our trip was ending and it was a hard one to let go of!