sign in a cave in Laos

2 January 2012

Vieng Phouka, Luang Nam Tha, Laos 2006, Pt 1

The Northern Lao - European Cave Project is a team of European cavers that has been exploring caves in Laos since 2000. The aim is to achieve an overview of caving areas located in the northern provinces.

They cooperate with the local authorities and development projects and promote cave eco-tourism as part of conservation and contribution to the local economy.

Cavers of all nations are welcome to join. My first expedition with this project was in Feb 2006.

The 2006 expedition was to Vieng Phouka district to continue the work started in 2005. Vieng Phouka is in Luang Nam Tha province, which is close to the Chinese and Myanmar borders.

The team met in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. We used the border crossing at Chiang Khong - Houay Xai, which is separated by the Mekong River. At Houay Xai we found our 4WD, which was a UN car. The European Union Micro- Project in Vieng Phouka had partly sponsored our trip and also helped in arranging permits and guides.
From Houay Xai it was a very dry and dusty drive to Vieng Phouka. At the time a new highway was being constructed through Laos to connect Thailand to China. There were scores of excavators and bulldozers and diggers etc.

Our home in Vieng Phouka was the Thong My Xai guesthouse. View from my room

We spent the next 10 days caving in the area.

On the 2nd caving day we visited Tham Houay Put. It is a resurgence cave and about 15 m in from the entrance is a duck. Our guide Hong Tong stripped down to his underpants and went through.
He then went back and forth several times and started digging out the gravel floor. It was a flat out crawl, only about 4m long. Some time was spent digging it out then the others went through but I decided to stay put as the water is so cold.
Having come from a warm Malaysia, a water cave in winter in northern Laos was too cold for me! When Hong Tong came back he was surprised that I wasn’t afraid to be alone, because of the ghosts.

Lunch was sticky rice, bamboo tips, green veg, bananas and fried banana.

It was only the 2nd day, but Michael's overalls had had enough!

Some days we had problems with the mud and had to dig out the car and push it.

Tham Ban Thung - the main feature of the cave is the amazing bamboo scaffolding. It is used by the bat catchers.

We stayed overnight in a small village. This lady is smoking a long pipe
The village had a communal water source
Dinner was sticky rice, boiled chicken bits and some banana flowers and ferns.
Breakfast was colourful

From this village we walked to Tham Ong Pra Ngiene

See continuation on Part 2.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

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