There's a set of roads in central Lao that creates sort of square. It has become so popular for motorcycling that it's now simply known as "The Loop". We had already ridden the eastern section to get to Thakek, so our plan was to do the southern, western, and northern sections and then head back to Vientiane. The eastern section follows the Mekong river valley, and there isn't much in the way of scenery, but there's always plenty to see. The rest of loop on the other hand is supposed to be one of the most beautiful areas of the country.
We begin our day with a motorcycle lesson for Natasha that I've been promising for a while, and after a bit of shaky start, she's got it down in no time.
We head east out of town and stop to pick up a watermelon for snack later.
Upon leaving the Mekong river valley, we're instantly transported to a different world. As opposed to the high rolling mountains of the north, we're surrounded by jagged, off kilter limestone karsts. The road is flat and smooth with only a few curves, so it's perfect for taking in all the scenery
Because of all the limestone, this whole area is riddled with caves. There's also plenty of waterfalls and swimming holes. You could probably spend several days exploring all of them, but our time is limited so we pick one cave to stop at on the way to our next destination of Nakai. There's a drink shack near the trail head where you can park your bike, and we see this little girl out front. I don't think I was allowed to play with knives this big until I was twenty-one.
After a short walk through the woods, we reach the cave entrance. It seems a bit ominous at first, but we muster our courage and head in. It's about 200 meters long and you wade through a river to get to the other side. Once you emerge from the darkness, you're greeted with a huge flat valley surrounded by the jagged peaks of the karsts. There's a large clearing and a small swimming hole. We spend the next few hours laying around and enjoying the scenery before wading back through the cave and heading on our way.
There's a 70 Km section of dirt road on the eastern leg of the loop. We're kind of dreading it, but it turns out to be no where near as bad as some of the other roads we've been on, and our destination for the night is in the middle, so we don't have to do the whole thing in one day.
There's a small place, called Sabaidee Guesthouse, with a few bungalows in the village of Nakai. It sits next to a newly formed lake created by the recently built dam to the south.
The whole place has a very chilled out vibe. We sit around a campfire, have a few Beer Lao, play some petang with two Swiss guys, while the owner plays his guitar.....once again I think to myself.....I love this country.