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Caving with Kids in Vang Vieng, Laos

What makes an adventure travel family?  Is it fearlessness?  Is it drive and perseverance?

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Vang Vieng, Laos

As I got older and had children I seemed to lose that drive in lieu of caring for babies and subsequently put on my responsibility cap!  Boring, I know.  Luckily after a couple of years I slowly realized that none of this exploring needed to end because I had kids. In fact, they are so much better for it!  Kids learn so much through outdoor activities and they help me push outside my own comfort zone with their fearless nature.As a teen and young adult I had a very adventurous spirit.  I loved exploring everything I could, hiking and mountain biking, and even tried bungee jumping a few times…although I realized while bungee jumping that maybe I wasn’t quite as adventurous as I had previously thought.

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We landed in Southeast Asia in November and have been busy exploring since we got here.  One country in particular has stood out for us as being the most relaxing, most fun, and most uncharted!  Laos, rarely visited, is a small country nestled in between Thailand to the west, China to the north, Vietnam to the east, and Cambodia to the south.  All vastly more visited countries.  But after spending one month in Laos we were in love.

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There really is no shortage of outrageous and downright dangerous things to do here, particularly in Vang Vieng, the unofficial backpackers paradise. It is where we found our truly adventurous spirit again.  I was pushed far outside my comfort zone in an effort to keep up with my kids wants and needs. It was amazing and one of the greatest gifts of motherhood!

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Exploring the rice fields, vastly easier in the dry season

We drove motor bikes through rice patties, explored deserted and beautiful lagoons, swam in waterfalls, and tubed down the Nam Song river.  All amazing and so much fun.  But the activity that took our award for most adventurous was the caving that we did while there.

You might say caving isn’t all that adventurous but these caves were!  We have visited and explored caves in Thailand and Cambodia as well as Malaysia but nothing compares to the adrenaline rush in Laos.  Perhaps it is the ancient folklore surrounding the caves (giant snakes inhabit the caves, didn’t you know?), or the lack of any type of guide, lighting, steps, or railings.

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My 9-year-old in a crack we all had to squeeze through

Finding the caves was an adventure in it’s own right. Typically there would be a broken down wooden sign out on the main (read as dirt and pot hole filled) road with an arrow…that was about it. Then we were on our own following some sort of bread crumb trail of plastic bags deep into some random rice field. Sometimes we found them from the hand-drawn maps provided to tourists and other times we weren’t so lucky, but  every time was an adventure!

Some of the caves had men waiting to gather a small amount of money but most we were on our own. None of the men would enter the caves due to the local tales. As we walked through the woods to reach the cave entrance we had to take several moments to really consider the safety in what we were about to venture into.  No sign saying it was even the correct opening, we just had to trust our intuition.

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As my oldest and I would sit there debating (or shaking in our sandals), my 2 youngest would forge on and head right into the mouth.  Luckily we carried headlamps with us. That certainly helps ease our fears and I highly recommend it.

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We explored 7 different caves in Laos, mostly in and around Vang Vieng. We climbed, squeezed, crawled and swam inside of some truly amazing spots.  Once my 2 youngest ventured in and crawled slightly up ahead, they would give the go ahead for us chickens more seasoned cavers to enter and keep on pushing.

To swim inside one of the caves we had to go under an overhang of rock to get to the other side where we could breathe again.  Remember, there were no lights or anything else to guide us to the pool. It was exhilarating, frightening and, most importantly, one of the most rewarding and overall favorite days of our extended trip so far!

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Tips

  • Carry headlamps and/or flashlights with you.  They do offer them to rent at a few of the caves but it was an added expense
  • Bring water, lots of it.  In the area surrounding Vang Vieng, there are some small stores but nothing near the actual caves.
  • Wear good shoes that have a lot of traction, think slippery, wet rocks, with no arm rails or anything for stability.
  • Do NOT wear clothes you are really fond of.  They will get filthy, ripped, and generally not be fit for further wear.
  • Follow the signs and plastic bags and do not venture too far into the rice fields during the rainy season.  It will not end well.
  • Most importantly push past your fears and enjoy, it’ll be worth it — just watch your steps!

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About the Guest Blogger

Mary and her family are traveling the world in an attempt to exit the rat race and enter adventure!  They left the US 6 years ago for an expat life in Costa Rica and have been traveling around Asia for the past 11 months.  She writes about their travels at www.bohemiantravelers.com .  Or you can follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bohemiantravelers .

 

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2 Responses to Caving with Kids in Vang Vieng, Laos

  1. Travel with Bender (Erin) October 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Awesome post. Wow, I would love to do that. So scary, Mary! You and the kids are super brave!

  2. Crazy Travel Adventures by Debra November 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    I went to one cave along the tubing route. I have to say, I am glad you included headlamp in your list. I didn’t have one and the guides didn’t have enough for our group. Had another person on tour not had their own and given me one of the ones offered by the guide, I would not have been able to go into the cave (or possibly made it out). Dark as dark can be. Wet and slippery as you suggest. Thanks for sharing.

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