A four hour bus trip on a road that was perhaps sealed some time last century brought us to Vang Vieng, a little town on the Mekong. The surroundings were magnificent. It reminded me in fact of Halong Bay in Vietnam in that huge limestone mountians rose from nowhere in sheer cliffs to which trees and plant life clung and climbed amazingly. The difference was there was no water.
The next day we got up early bought bread from a little man on a bicycle ringing his bell to bring the people out from their homes to buy their daily supply. Then we proceeded out into the country side towards the mountains. 2 hours of walking brought us to a turquoise blue lagoon which had formed itself in a huge limestone cravis next to one of the limestone mountains. There were no banks but simply sheer edges down into the water from which one had to haul oneself out of once finished. A tree drapped over and a rope swung from its largest branch. Small fish clusterings around the walls glittered in their schools. It was quite lovely.
We climbed up the vertical face of the mountain clinging to the sharp limestone sides and the somehow thriving vegetation. After about 500 meters we reached the huge stone cavern which we sought. Therein lay a beautiful reclinging Budda, a small canopy had been erected over her in her recline. We sat there for some time with a feeling of satisfaction before crawling down and then making the long trek home again.
Near town we decided we should try the cave swimming for which Vang Vieng is so renowned. We turned off at the next sign and payed our fee. We entered a dark damp tiny space where the guide began fumbling with 60's style lamps to light our progress. When illumination came, a pitiful stream of pale yellow light that had perhaps a 20cm radius, we crept between the damp clay walls in tiny tunnels deeper and deeper. The air was almost unbreathable and we were clovered in red clay when we reached the 'swimming area'. This seemingly grand spacious title in fact refered to a steep crack in the clay floor where water had welled up and over whose surface hung closely the rock ceiling. I had images of that Harry Houdini flim with Tony Curtis where he gets trapped under the ice during a show as he can not find the gap through which he was thrown in. This combined with the ever thickening air caused me to say that I would rather like to go. Shane willingly agreed.
Back in town Shane had bio-Blueberry pancakes and I nothing- as my sickness had begun.