Cave, floating on an inner tube, a river and great scenery: the Water Cave seems to combine aspects from all of Vang Vieng’s main attractions into one special experience. Jump in the cool water, head to the very low mouth of a cave, grab the rope and pull yourself hand-over-hand up the underground river for 500 metres. The tunnel is narrow and very low in parts, with eerie formations on the ceiling. Though the water is not so deep, the darkness and disorientation makes for an exciting experience. It takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the end before having to turn back.
The Water Cave is often included in a popular full-day trip, with the cave followed by a picnic lunch then an afternoon of kayaking down the Nam Song. This means the cave is extremely crowded and rather chaotic before noon, with screams and chatter echoing throughout making for a less than peaceful experience. We recommend you try it in the afternoon and hopefully there will be fewer people. If it was quiet we imagine how mysterious and thrilling it would be. It wouldn’t be cheaper than an organised tour but it would be far more pleasant and a very pretty drive by motorbike or bicycle.
To find the cave, head up scenic Route 13 north to Luang Prabang for 14 kilometres. Just before Ban Nadao village you will see a sign at the top of a dirt road listing the group of four caves: Elephant, Loup, Hoi and Water Cave. Turn left and travel along for approximately one kilometre. It’s 5,000 kip to park your motorbike or 3,000 kip for a bicycle, then it’s 10,000 kip to cross the bridge (or you can swim across).
Follow the road to Ban Tham Xang village where you can see the Elephant Cave. In Lao culture, caves are considered sacred spaces and are often made into temples. The Elephant Cave contains Buddha statues, but this cave probably isn’t so interesting to the average tourist.
Follow the dirt track to the back leading away from the village through the rice paddies. At the T-junction, make a left, then a right at the stream and follow it to the source. You can’t miss the snack shops and restaurants. 10,000 kip will get you a tube and a head torch. We walked around and found a tour leader willing to rent us his dry bag, and we paid a local 10,000 kip to accompany us as guide, which is not a bad idea if you are alone.
Visiting the Water Cave is only possible in dry season. A tuk tuk round-trip will cost around 160,000 to 180,000 kip.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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