Caving in North Laos


WE were in Laos, readying to explore a cave in the northern province of Luang Namtha. But before we could enter, it was necessary that the village headman or guide first “obtained” permission from the cave spirit.

This involved a prayer. When I was caving in Madagascar some years ago, we had to pour an offering of rum to appease the ancestors. But the Lao cave spirits were content with just a verbal request.

I was on a German-Dutch expedition, partly sponsored by the European Union, to set up eco-tourism and help the locals. Our base was in the village of Vieng Phoukha, close to the Burma-China border. Although Laos is considered a Buddhist country, the people to the north are animists. Most of the people in Vieng Phoukha are Khmu, and we had a few of them as our guides.

There were six members in our expedition and each day we split into two teams to look for potential caving attractions. We would drive to a village and ask the headman if the people knew of caves in the area.

Many of the caves required a long walk to get to, sometimes up very steep mountains. One day, we were told of a cave close to the road. Some 45 minutes later, we were still huffing and puffing and soon found ourselves climbing up a mountain. From that day on, we asked the distance in terms of how long it took to get to the caves.

The biggest difference between Malaysian caves and those in northern Laos is the temperature. The caves are definitely cooler over there and the water is cold. On the first day we did a river cave and were up to our waists in water within minutes. The next day we entered a cave and had to crawl through water, where the roof almost met the floor. Our guide Hong Tong stripped off down to his underpants, lay in the water and disappeared through the hole. Seconds later, we heard his excited cry, “It goes”. (...)
Full article: Thestar.com.my

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