Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cycling through karsts

Vang Vieng has a bit of a reputation as little more than a party town with a pretty backdrop. And this is not inaccurate. But there's a lot more to this town than just young, drunk gap-years, Friends re-runs, banana pancakes, and "in the tubing" tank tops.

First of all, if getting smashed isn't your thing, it's easy enough to avoid the buckets of alcohol. But if it is, then giv'er. You'll be in like-minded company.

Second of all, the backdrop is way more than just pretty. The karst mountain-scape is jaw-droppingly stunning. Dramatic limestone peaks jut up from the rice fields to jagged heights, while ferns choked by vines cling to their impossibly sheer faces. Throughout the day these monoliths shift colour as the light moves around them, from a pale blue in the morning before the sun burns off the mist, through various shades of charcoal, to a smoldering mauve at sunset when their layers solidify into one imposing mass whose silhouette looks something like an erratic soundwave.

On our first day we rented mountain bikes and did a 42k circuit west, over the river, alongside karsts and fields and through villages, with a stop en route at the neat-o Blue Lagoon and cave. After dodging cattle and water buffalo on the road, we passed a muddy river where they were cooling themselves, a pool of disembodied, writhing, horned heads grunting and exhaling loudly. It was amazing! And then, just around the next corner was another bunch in a pit, covered entirely in mud. It looked like a cow sculpture. Living cow art. So totally awesome.

As we rode through the villages, the kids would run to the roadside screaming "sabaideeeeeeee!" and holding their hands out for ride-by high-fives. It was the best!

The only un-awesome part of the day were the ridiculously rocky and pot-holed roads that vibrated our hands until they were battered and bruised...


  1. Wow. That looks unbelievably amazing!
    Those shots of the water buffalo are incredible! Both the ones in the water and the ones in the mud really do look like some sort of weird modern art installation! Oh, and your poor hands!

  2. OMG!

    Your photos are truly amazing. The bulls or Ox in the mud!
    Wow! What an adventure you're on! Keem the stories and photos coming.
    Living vicariously through you as we shovel our way out of approximately three feet of snow banks in the hood!!