Laos – Nong Khiaw, Nang None Mountain, Pha Tok Cave

09/06/16

Today I woke up early, had a yummy breakfast of muesli, fruit and yoghurt and got ready to head out for my jungle hike up the mountain.

To get to the start point wasn’t hard, it’s right opposite the hive bar, along the way I also had a dog for company who was really sad he couldn’t climb up to join the hike. Unfortunately it was raining really hard as soon as I set off but it didn’t deter me and actually it made it quite cool. The climb up was difficult in parts but overall was relatively easy, especially because they had put up railings to help you. It took an hour in total, and nearer the top there were ladders to climb up, all felt very unsafe but doable. I was so happy when I reached the top as it had stopped raining and it was the most amazing view. I could see the river down one side and Nong Khiaw the other, really beautiful! I stayed up there for a while enjoying the sunshine and the view, mentally preparing myself for the way down.

It was a whole other story coming down the other path, it was extremely slippery due to the rain and I was finding it really difficult. It was so exhausting trying to figure out how to get down safely and to try not to slip. There were moments where I was just sliding for 2m downhill grabbing hold of the handrails where possible to steady myself. Other times I was sitting on a rock to try and get myself as low to the ground as possible and step down. I slipped a few times which didn’t hurt too much but then nearer the end, the path was so overgrown and without handrails it was difficult to get through. I ended up slipping and grabbing a thorny branch which seriously hurt. By this time I was being eaten alive by mosquitos and was tired and just wanted to walk on a normal path. When I finally got out I was so relieved! The way out path took me to the riverside so I had to walk back. While walking in what I thought was the correct direction I saw a huge sign saying “welcome to the Muang Ngoi district” and as Muang Ngoi is the name of the next village I genuinely thought I’d ended up there! A few laughs of desperation later and a quick map check assured me I was in the right place….

I had a cheap noodle lunch and rested for a bit, then in the afternoon I rented a bike for an hour or so to ride to the cave. It was a nice 2km bike ride which was slightly uphill and downhill and it took me across the river, through the rest of the village where the locals live. I really enjoyed the views and the village and thought it was a great idea to cycle as I was so tired from the hike earlier. To get to the cave I had to walk through some more slippery mud and cross some streams which all made me laugh in exhaustion. I was totally not up for more slipping around… But luckily there were some steps leading up to the entrance of the cave and it didn’t take long to get inside. At this cave the villagers hid from the bombing and there were still remnants from their stay inside. It was really crazy how they must have had to climb up and hide away in dark corners listening to the bombs, and also to know that the bombing only happened 30 years ago is really harrowing. There was also another smaller cave where locals hid out, and this one was smaller and closer to the ground. It was a bit difficult to get in and around which amazed me as the locals stayed there for long periods of time.

Once out of the jungle I chilled out for the rest of the evening, I even got Indian take away! I was so beaten

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