Poukham Cave, Vang Viene, Laos

Vang Viene is two things: partying and karst topography. My goal was to get to the town in enough time to see some karst. And now at 4:30 pm the only way to make it happen was to resort to tourist offices. For the third time I walked into a tour outfit and asked if it was possible to do some trekking this afternoon. Finally, someone said yes. The Lao lady with perfectly manicured bangs pointed at the boy next to her and said that he could take me of his motorbike. If I really wanted to make this happed I would need to trust this guy to take me to the cave and back- on a motorbike.

The dusty road lead to the wooden bridge (a 2,000 kip fee to cross) that lead into the small village of Nathont. The road was made of a mixture of dirt, cobblestone, and the occasional plank of wood. It was a busy time of say when the children were coming back from school. Seeing 10 year olds on oversized bikes and motorbikes told me to relax and enjoy the surrounding mountains. We did eventually ride to the end of the 7km road with the only insult being that teasing the driver (Tal Oo Intuom) received from his fellow villagers. Probably because of the blond lady on the back of the motorbike who was not sitting side saddle style. 

An unexpected 10,000 kip entrance fee was the first hint that I was not were I had thought I was headed. The blue lagoon was beautiful but full of tourists deinking, swinging off rapes and hollering cheers of excitement in the cold water. The disappointed expression on my face was accurately interpreted by Tal Oo whom assured me there was a cave not far down the path. Up about 150 steep meters was the opening to an enormous orifice into the limestone mountains. The light streamed in and illuminated the golden Buddha that was laying on its side un a protective gold canopy. Ngam Lie! ('Beautiful' in Lao). 

The Italian couple behind me shortly arrived but did not stay long and did not venture past the opening. Equip with my old and failing petzel headlamp followed the warn red arrows back into the depths. Along the way there were pockets of plants that survived with the few hours of sunlight that passed by the maze of fallen rock and onto a moist, eroding wall of the cave. 

Deeper into Poukham cave was a most spectacular sight with gigantic stalactites and towering stalagmites. The calcite deposits glistened like diamonds anytime my beam past over a surface. One of Natures finest displays of sparkle. Inspired by the sense of abyss I found a comfy seat and settled into the darkness. With my light off I could keep my eyes wide open and see nothing. Ah, the nervous system relaxes into the space of reduced sensory input.