Tuesday

I woke up to sun! It wasn’t warm, but like an autumnal morning it had the potential to be.

Eline bad been busy and found 2 French people (Simon and his wife…..both spoke amazing English with only the occasional need for my schoolgirl French or the dictionary!) who wanted to hire bikes for the day and were also catching the bus to Vientiane that evening. So after a quick practice on our semi-automatic bikes we were off – thankfully the French guys knew where they were going, we just followed!!

At the stop for the first cave (name to follow!) we were waved to the side of the road by a lovely old man who was our self-appointed tour guide. We headed off through a paddy field and beyond with him pointing out the trees/bushes with thorns and spots where we might bump our heads. The cave was pretty cool, but as the rainy season water hadn’t fully gone down there was some rock scrambling/jumping to do. I went on as far as I was happy to, but then the jumps were bigger than I was happy with (and I’d torn my trousers – the 2nd pair in a week as another pair got torn kayaking!). The others went on, but I was quiet happy sat in the sunshine and reading about the cave until I got to the bit where it mentioned it was home to the newly discovered Laos cave rat!!

This cave is linked through legend to the second one we visited. There was an ex-novice monk who was trying to woo a girl he saw at the 1st cave and pursued her to the 2nd where he flirted with her – the name of the 2nd cave is something along the lines of the flirting cave!!

The flirting cave was like something out of a fairytale, staircases leading up and around and down and all lit up – beautiful, probably my favourite of the day.

We stopped here for lunch, us all having fried rice except for Eline who went for the chicken soup. The rice was yummy, the soup contained essentially a whole chicken chopped up, feet and all!!

We then stopped at a river – Nam Don – in an area where the French used to picnic, hence it’s name – Tha Falang. Lovely spot, if we hadn’t just eaten it would have been perfect for a snack!!

It was here we said goodbye to the French and Eline and I headed to Tham Pha Pa (the buddah cave). This was off the main road and about 9km down a dirt track – great fun to ride along, a bit hairy in placed, but soon got into the swing of things. We parked up a d were told by 2 guys that it wasn’t work the trip, but we’d got that far!

Had to cross a wooden bridge and as we did so we could see some locals getting ready to talk to us…. They seemed to want us to hire sarongs from them…. They tied them around us despite our protests that we didn’t need them as we were suitably covered for visiting a temple but they wouldn’t let us take them off,so we climbed the stairs up still refusing to pay. The cave at the top was quite small but full of buddahs of all shapes and sizes. It was discovered a few years previously by a local man looking to catch some bats and instead peered through a hole and saw 100s of buddahs staring back at him!

The guys were right in away, it wasn’t much to see, but I love the story, how could this be lost for nearly 60 (or 600 – must check!) tears??

Eline and I removed our sarongs at the top of the stairs, walked down and quickly handed them back while walking away!!

Just as we escaped the ladies we bumped into Andrew and Jackie, his loop buddy, we waited for them as they went up to the cave and then all rode back together.

The French guys, myself and Eline were all catching the bus to Vientiane that evening, so once we were back it was time to eat, pack and have a quick snooze!!

After saying a sad goodbye to Andrew (so jealous he gets to do the loop, I have to be in Vientiane by 21st so not enough time) we headed for the bus station and arrived in time to get the 10pm bus. The driver rearranged the locals so we could all sit together!!

The journey took 6 hours and was very uneventful. We didn’t realise we’d got to Vientiane, the others assumed it was a wee stop, but when the guy came up and nodded is head in a ‘you get off here manner’ I grabbed everyone’s stuff and got off!

I was meant to simply text Ant that I had arrived and he’d come get me, but, my phone had no signal (later worked out that it’s because it’s a Cambodian sim – wally). The nice man at the bus station let me try his phone but it wouldn’t accept either of the numbers. So, as Ant hadn’t given me his address, my best bet was to head into town with the others and find a phone there…..

If you do the maths you can work out we arrived at 4am, not the best time for the others to find a room or me a phone – everything was locked up…. Eventually we came across a Best Western that was open. They charged 20,000 kip (£2) for a call, but at least it was a phone! I had to write the numbers down, he called for me and announced he had a farang here wanting to talk to them…… To my great relief it was Kay on the other end and Ant was dispatched to collect me.

I only had to wait about 20 minutes, but the guy at reception told me v firmly, I should wait outside!

I was so relieved to see Ant I may have shed a couple of tears of relief – so lovely to see a friendly face of one of my oldest friends

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