Stray Travel’s Bus Tour – Long Thaang Pass – Day 2: Nong Khiaw to Vieng Thong
Depart: 12:30pm – Nong Khiaw – Arrive: 04:30pm – Vieng Thong
Check out Pathok Cave, Hua Phan Province, Hot Springs in Vieng Thong. Stay in a town that rarely sees tourists.
Day two of Stray Travel’s Long Thaang Bus Tour started out well. I (Tanya) had a fantastic sleep. Andrew not so much. He made good friends with the squat toilet last night. It seems that the Lao Lao he drank while out on the river in the sun mixed with the Indian food he ate for dinner had to leave his body in a hurry. Poor darling. On goes the show!
Our bungalow turned out to be very comfortable. The power stayed on all night which meant that we had a fan above us throughout the night. It even got a little chilly. Luckily there was warm bedding for us to rug up in. A pink mosquito net provided up with bug proofing. We didn’t really get a chance to enjoy a hot shower at Sunrise Bungalows, however, we washed up as well as we could under the circumstances and headed out to start our day.
We ate a delicious breakfast while enjoying the Sunrise Bungalows kitty cats. Simon suggested we all organize some lunch for ourselves from the guesthouse to take with us on the road. So, along with the yummy breakfast of muesli, fruit and yoghurt, cups of tea and a banana shake, we also bought cheese baguettes and a can of coke for the journey.
Some of the other passengers on our tour had already seen the Pathok Caves therefore they got to sleep in while we jumped in the bus at 8:30am to check them out. The Pathok caves housed the population of Nong Khiaw, around 300 people, plus the regional government for over six years during the Vietnam War (more accurately called the 2nd Indochina war).
The people living in the caves became nocturnal. They slept in the caves during the day and only worked outside in the fields at night to avoid attracting more bombing raids.
Back to the Nong Khiaw Bungalows to pick up the others and then on our way to Vieng Thong. Not a lot really happened today. We spent a lot of time in our seats on the mini bus. Everyone seemed to be getting into the spirit of sleeping sitting up.
A couple of stops along the way took us to a Laos bush toilet and to a roadside stall where we bought some yummy tomato flavoured chips (crisps), some lychee lollies and some crackers. We needed nourishment as we had eaten our supposed “lunch” rolls by about 10am. We were hungry already.
Pro Tip 2: Purchase TWO baguettes in Nong Khiaw. It is a long day in the van with not many food options along the way.
We arrived at a very small town called Vieng Thong at around 2:30pm and proceeded to check into a guest house. The guest house seemed fine. Very basic but the bedding was clean. We know this because they were still making the beds when we were placing our bags in the room. No electricity at this time of the day.
We headed pretty much next door and dined at a local restaurant. As there was no electricity there either, we all decided against ordering meat dishes. We were unsure how the meat may be refrigerated so it was vegetable meals all round. It was lovely to relax and to be off the bus.
We were certainly the only tourists in town. As we walked down the only main road to the Hot Springs people seemed happy to see us. Many smiles were shared.
Visiting Vieng Thong Hot Springs certainly was fun. When we arrived, the staff at the ticket counter handed us a ticket saying that the cost of entry was 1,000 Kip each. A bit of a commotion later, that ticket was taken away and we were all charged 5,000 Kip to enter. The good old tourist tax strikes again.
We didn’t get to see anyone bathing in the hot springs but we did get to boil up our eggs in the water. Simon had bought the eggs for us on the walk through town. The smell of sulfur from the hot springs tended to have a negative taste effect on the eggs. However, everyone enjoyed the little outing.
Back into the village we went. This little town was very dusty indeed. There are a couple of notable things about Vieng Thong. One is the spire on top of the only hill in town. This spire was the only thing that was not destroyed in this town during the bombing. You can still see the shrapnel marks at the top.
The other important feature is the carnival that was in town while we were there. This carnival went all afternoon and night, running on generators. The children played on the blow up slides, little rides and games way into the late evening. Good on them.
Back to the same restaurant for dinner where we had lunch. There was no electricity in the whole town, including our guest house. The power did come on briefly around dusk but disappeared again shortly after. By this time the restaurant had fired up a generator so I guess this isn’t uncommon. We plugged in our power adapter and charged up both the camera and iPhone while we sat and ate.
Again, all vegetable meals. Unlucky for me, I walked by the freezer as they opened it to get some chicken out. It did not smell very nice. The vegetable rice and noodles were very tasty though.
As we were to be leaving early in the morning, we had to pre-order both breakfast and lunch from this restaurant. Four meals from the one place in town. Sigh.
Back to our guest house, still no electricity which meant no hot showers. Luckily we had an episode or two of The Big Bang Theory on our laptop to amuse us before sleep.
That was day two of Stray Travel’s Long Thaang Tour. Not bad so far. If I had of known, or realised, that food options may be a little dire on this trip, I would have bought a heap of snack foods like nuts, dried fruit and crackers.
Total Expenditure For The Day:
Last Night’s Accommodation – Sunrise Bungalow Room Cost in Nong Khiaw – 80,000 Kip
2 x Lipton Tea with Milk (6000 each) 12000 Kip
Banana Shake – 10000 Kip
2 x Muesli, Fruit, Yoghurt (20,000 each) – 40,000 Kip
Pathok Caves Tickets – (5000 each) – 10,000 Kip
What should have been lunch, but we ate early:
2 x Cheese Baguettes (25000 each) – 50,000 Kip
Can of coke – 12,000 Kip
Roadside stall snacks:
2 x tomato sauce chips / crisps, lychee lollies and some crackers – 2,000 Kip
Tanya is a TEFL teaching farmer’s daughter and writes most of the posts. She is also an experienced IT person, a fantastic organiser and an awesome cook. She left a free-beer-providing IT job in a brewery for life on the road. That is commitment!