Latest news: I jumped off a cliff today.
Last night I signed up for a kayaking trip down the river, with a tour outfit named Wildside. I’d walked through all of Vangvieng–which takes about fifteen minutes–and decided they were the most interesting/professional outfit in town, and the guidebook said they were excellent.
They were. Our tour guides were hysterically funny–splashing us and everyone else on the river (I got in a few good splashes on them, too 🙂 ), deliberately capsizing themselves every five minutes, and generally living it up on the river. They were also quite good about rescuing us when we capsized, and retrieving our gear–which was a good thing, since I’m very nearly hopeless in a kayak. (Mind you, I’d never stepped into one before, which probably didn’t help. 😉 ) I fell in twice and capsized the kayak once (with some help from my kayak-mate)–fortunately, no ill effects, not even bruises. I may even learn to paddle decently someday…
Anyway, we made a couple of stops along the way…one at a spectacular limestone cave, full of glittery crystals in the stone. There I discovered that, “Don’t worry, we’ll provide a torch for you” can be taken a little too literally…instead of the flashlight i was expecting, I and another woman were both issued tiny candles (!). So I explored that cave partly by candlelight, partly by the little penlight I carry everywhere. It was really cool–I took a bunch of photos, will try to post soon.
Ah, the cliff? You want to know about the cliff. Well, one of the major tourist stops here involves leaping off a suspension bridge, which sounded like fun, so we asked the guides about it…alas, it’s the dry season, so the river was too low for bridge-jumping. (Too bad; I thought the idea of leaping off a bridge in Laos particularly funny.) But, they took us by a little cliff that’s used for the same purpose…”little”, in this case, being about 15-18 feet over the river.
I’ve now discovered two important facts:
(1) 18 feet is just about enough time to think “What the F— am I doing and what kind of idiot was I to get into this??” before you hit the water;
(2) leaping off a cliff is lots of fun. 🙂 I even got a picture the second time…a glorious shot of me leaping over the edge. I did decide to skip the third time, though. Wouldn’t want to push my luck…esp. since I bruised my tailbone the second time, on hitting the water.
Anyway, the kayaking itself was gorgeous, once i figured out how to avoid disaster…thick green bamboo forest on one side, jungle on the other, and lots of naked kids and fisherfolk splashing about in the water. Half the kids were fishing with snorkel masks and tiny spearguns (they looked like rubber-band guns with tiny skewer-sized spears attached)–very cute, especially when one of them tossed the miniature fish he’d speared to us. It was about 3″ long. The other half were splashing about in the water or floating around on bamboo rafts…also very cute.
The women were mostly working with small seine nets, the men were fishing with larger ones. (I’m pleased to report–strictly for journalistic purposes, you understand 😉 –that Lao guys are every bit as cute as Thai laborers. Lots of muscle and very little body fat, definitely fun to watch.)
Probably the best part of the trip was when we rounded a bend to find 300′ green cliffs towering up on one side, with the sun shining down through the mist…gorgeous. I wish I’d had the camera then, although of course it would have drowned four times over if I had.
I’m exhausted enough from today that I declined to go on a trek tomorrow…I’m going to take a quiet day, and maybe spend 2-3 hours floating down the river in an inner tube. The day after tomorrow, maybe I’ll try rock climbing. Or white-water rafting; there’s a group leaving Monday.
Oh, I almost forgot–I got scratched by a monkey today. There was a baby monkey chained up to a tree at one of the rest stops. I went by to see it, as I felt sorry for the poor thing–it promptly ran up my back, tried to eat my hair-scrunchy, and, after being removed by a Japanese tourist, launched itself at my face, scratching me accidentally (I think). Fortunately it didn’t break skin, but I decided to keep my distance after that, despite its cuteness and the total unfairness of chaining it up to a tree. Our guide had a great time playing with it, though.