We took a day off from Travel Inspiration week yesterday to share a culinary post in China to celebrate Intrepid Travel’s Delicious Discoveries, but we’re back to our regularly scheduled program.  

We had such an amazing turn out for our inspirational travel series and we have been sitting on many stories for a few months. It is just too slow of a process to put them out only once a week so we decided to post a week of inspiration to excite you and inspire to make a change in your life or just head out for that much needed vacation. Enjoy!

Cycling Through the Countryside in Vang Vieng Laos by Dean Wickham

Vang Vieng in Laos is one of those places that you hear mixed reviews about. Some people have the time of their lives while others can’t wait to get out of there. The general apprehension is that if you’re a twenty year old backpacker wanting to get drunk and go tubing down a river, you’ll love it. If you fit into any other category, you’ll hate the place. I wanted to find out for myself.

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The View from my Guest House

I awoke on my first morning in Vang Vieng ready to explore the laid back little town and see what it has to offer. I had no interest in getting sloshed and tubing down a river, so after a hearty breakfast I decided to rent a mountain bike from a small shop on the main street. The bike cost me 30,000 kip ($3.80) for the whole day, and the lady gave me a rough map of what I can go and see in the local area. I decided to head across the river and make my way to Poukham cave, which I had heard was interesting to explore and had a nice swimming hole nearby. I hadn’t ridden a bike for quite some time but I soon got the hang of it again (It’s like riding a bike). As I came to the bridge I paid the 5000 kip ($0.60) toll and rode my bike over the wooden bridge, crossing the beautiful Nam Song River that flows through the town.

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Rice fields and limestone karsts

Riding down the dirt, potholed road I soon entered the surrounding countryside, dominated by beautiful green rice fields that stretch across the flat areas of land between the huge limestone karsts that rise up above them. Farmers tended to their fields while chickens scratched in the dirt and cows grazed on the side of the road. I stopped often to take photos and just enjoy the stunning scenery. As I continued along the road I passed through several small villages, with their basic bamboo houses sitting amongst bunches of banana trees and little vegetable gardens. It was a Sunday and all of the local kids were out playing, riding their bikes, swimming in streams and chasing dogs and chickens. Women bathed and did their laundry in the small fresh water streams that came down from the mountains, while other people went about their daily chores, chopping wood and preparing food.

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A small village

I decided to stop in at a small swimming hole, as I had built up quite a sweat from the bike ride. Some local kids ran beside me as I made my way down to the stream, and soon joined me for a swim in the lovely cool water. They couldn’t speak a word of English but a simple “Sabai dee” was enough to get a smile out of them. As I rode away they ran beside me to show me how fast they could run, and then waved goodbye with a big smile on their faces.

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A house and some kids near the swimming hole

I was fascinated by the peacefulness of the typical life in the Laotian countryside. It was so good to be having a true local experience, away from the hordes of tourists that can take away that something special from a certain place. This was a place where I could be on my own, and truly see what life is about in this amazing country. Here, life is simple, people have very little and yet they are so happy. Here kids don’t need video games and brand named clothes to be happy. All they seem to need is their imagination.

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Stopped to have a rest next to a stream

When I got to the entrance of Poukham cave I paid the 10,000 kip ($1.20) entrance fee and crossed the bridge where I parked my bike, before climbing up the steep path and exploring the large, dark cave on my own, an adventure in itself. By this time the heat and humidity of the tropical climate had me drenched in sweat, and I was ready to cool off in the Blue Lagoon, located near the cave where I had parked my bike. The cool fresh water was a lovely blue colour, coming from a small mountain stream, with schools of fresh water fish swimming against the current. Some locals were also enjoying a swim in their local swimming hole, floating around on tyre tubes and enjoying the rope swing, while I just floated in the cool clear water, relaxed and enjoying the natural scenery.

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Having a swim with the locals in the Blue Lagoon

Once I was cooled off I began to make my way back to Vang Vieng, stopping for some lunch at a little local restaurant in one of the villages. My huge plate of noodles cost just 10,000 kip ($1.20).

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Having a swim with the locals in the Blue Lagoon

I had passed only a handful of other tourists throughout the day in the local area, and overall it was an extremely peaceful and rewarding experience. My whole day out only cost me $6.80. laos It goes to show, you need to explore a place on your own to really experience what the place has to offer. As I found out about Vang Vieng, there is always more to a place than what you may hear or read. For me, this type of experience is exactly what travel is all about. You can learn so much about life from the local people, even without any words being exchanged. From that moment on I would seek out these kinds of experiences everywhere that I travelled.

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Dean Wickham is an intrepid traveller from Australia with a thirst for adventure. He has travelled extensively in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Nepal and South East Asia, trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp, climbed through ice caves on glaciers and for his next adventure, plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He is always planning his next trip, and writes about his travels on his travel blog: The Road to Anywhere, where he hopes to inspire other people to travel the world through his stories, destination tips and travel photos. You can follow him on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.

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Inspirational Series 

This is an ongoing series of Inspirational travel. If you have an experience in travel that changed your life, made you look at the world differently or an amazing moment that you want to share, please contact us for more details and we will email you right back.. You can also read more about submitting an article to this series at Calling All Writers, Share your Inspirational Travel Story

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13 Comments

  1. AnitaMac

    Sounds brilliant! I have always wanted to cycle in Asia – getting out on the bike really gives you the chance to explore! Thanks for the inspiration – more fuel for the bucket list!

    1. Dean

      Hi Anita, cycling and walking are my favourite ways of getting around in Asia. There is always something amazing to experience and you see so much more :)

  2. jipp

    Been thinking whether to go to Laos before Myanmar or the other way around. Those are the only two countries in SEA that I haven’t been to. Seems like I now know where to go to first, thanks to this marvelous post. :-D

    1. Dean

      Hey Jipp, glad I could help! Laos is a beautiful country with lovely people, and it’s still very easy to find a nice quiet place to yourself. Myanmar is also on my list! Cheers

  3. Ryan Brown

    Wow, gnarly views. Great way to enjoy the countryside. I’ll definitely have to hit the trails when I am traveling there one day! Exploring alone is sometimes the way to find the best things =)

    1. Dean

      Hey Ryan, I agree. I have had some really great experiences exploring on my own, and I think it is something everyone should do from time to time.

  4. Euan

    That’s awesome! We took that trip a couple of weeks ago, only we kayaked instead of cycling. So much is said about tubing in Vang Vieng but we thought it was one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been!

    1. Dean

      Hi Euan, I did the kayaking trip as well while I was there. That was another great way to experience the beauty of Vang Vieng. Cheers

  5. Katie Martin

    I had never even heard of Vang Vieng, but it sounds amazing! Although personally I don’t know a whole lot about the SEA region in general, something I hope to remedy in the near future. That conversion rate is pretty intense for sure! Were all the places you went to part of the “recommendation map” that the bike shop woman gave you? If so, it sounds like she has good taste!

  6. Pingback: Photo of the week: Rice Fields and Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng, Laos | The Road to Anywhere | World Travel Blog

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