Travelling with the Kirkhams travel blog

31st January

Took a minibus back into Luang Prabang. We made a deal in which for extra dosh we could reserve the front seat and one behind the driver. Of course when we got to the bus station there was no such thing. Fortunately I was on board early and so got good seats anyway. So journey started with a whole family in the front seat and 6 adults and kids across the back. Hadn't gone 5 minutes before a lady in the back and the front seat lady threw up and thence it continued for the whole journey. Poor things, their constitution does not allow travel along windy roads. It was better than the big bus though as we made it in 6 hours rather than 8 on the big bus.

It felt nice to be back on familiar territory again and had the most gorgeous barbecued fish on the night market. It's a very sociable place to eat and had 2 different conversations while we sat there.

Today we caught another bus to Nong Khiew, no sickness and only 3 hours through lovely scenery and villages. It did make your heart ache though at the extent of the forest clearance. I think the Chinese have a lot to answer for, as we were told they are investing in Teak and Rubber here and we saw at least 5 huge piles of root bases from really big trees. These will no doubt go to Vietnam and China to make the grossly fascinating furniture that we saw as features in hotel lobbies. It's only saved by the fact that some forest is inaccessible due to the steep mountains.

Its really beautiful here with huge limestone cask cliffs dropping into the clear river. It's more developed for tourism than I thought it would be though and we are staying in a lovely riverside rattan bungalow.

We arrived at lunchtime and went to one of the newly opened cafes where a 16 year old was trying to write his menu in English. They seem to pride themselves in having as much choice as possible rather than going for a few things that they are good at. I think that was the secret in Vietnam where they were often known for one specific dish. Anyway I started helping him with his pizza terminology and we had stilting discussions about 'pork' or did he mean salami. I'm sure I ended up confusing him even more but he seemed very grateful.

After my bit of English teaching we wondered along a dusty track by the river where a cave was promised. After paying our entrance and picking up our torches we set off across the rice paddies and soon had 2small boys with us. They immediately wanted 'kip' but I said 'children that ask don't get but you could guide us' which amazingly he seemed to understand. The other lad then pinched a very lethal looking machete from a lady walking past and proceeded to cut us bamboo walking poles which he presented with a dazzling smile.

Our route then went up steeply and we arrived at various notices 'officers meeting room', 'guard room' etc which were proudly presented to us. One even had a gun and the remains of an old chair. We continued up and eventually reached the mouth of the cave to find 2Australians and a French man sitting there puffing and not knowing what to do next. So we followed our young guides into a black hole, down loose scree rocks with our torches flickering. I didn't last very long (the Australian mum and the Frenchman didn't come at all!) but Dave continued down with Lara and they had great fun in the dark pulling funny faces in the torchlight. Altogether it was one of the really lovely experiences where we paid our young guides for their work and they seemed to enjoy our company.

We got back to the entrance and negotiated a boat trip back, not realising that we were going in a tiny, unstable canoe type boat which was obviously overloaded with five people in it. It was exciting though as we went down some quick flowing water. We felt we deserved our beer when we got back to the village!

Had a really good meal but felt we were a bit late, and sure enough when we finished at 9.15 all the lights went out and it was obviously bed time. You understand why though when the cacophony of noise starts at 4.

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