Vang Vieng is a small town in Northern Laos which is unfortunately a stop on the backpackers beaten trail, destroying any charm it once had and turning it into a feeding frenzy for those looking to squeeze an easy buck from the ignorant travellers. We had to stop however because just outside Vang Vieng are incredible limestone cliffs and the only climbing sites in Laos. The weather was threatening to rain but we decided we couldn't risk missing the only chance we would have. We grabbed our shoes, rented the rope and harnesses we would need from a local shop and headed for the closest, driest site.
Eager to get some real climbing in
The shop we had chosen saw fit to employ a non-English speaking girl with no climbing knowledge to run the shop, but we were in the end able to piece together all the gear we would need. (Climbing is not a Laos activity so all climbers here are foreigners; Maybe something to consider when hiring employees) The directions we got were something like 'Walk to the mountain and then turn left at the trail.' An hour later found us zigzagging along levies in the rice paddies when the sky opened up. We had to find shelter in a hurry and took off our shoes to squish through a mucky pond to reach a grove of trees.
Wandering through rice paddies
Eventually the rain passed and we found our way to the site. There were several climbers up there to answer questions and suggest routes and we were soon hugging limestone, which had managed to stay dry even through the downpour, with huge grins.
After several climbs each we headed for home, by way of the trail which the others helped us locate, and got drenched again.
The next day began with a drizzle but soon cleared enough to convince us to rent gear and go for some more climbing. We opted for the other shop in town and were pleased to find ourselves paying much less for better gear. The friendly owner gave us as much info as we could handle, making us regret having ever gone to the other shop.
The walk to the rock went much smoother and the weather cleared, giving us a beautiful sunny day for climbing. We tried as many routes as our poor unconditioned arms would let us, and both got to lead climb routes that got the adrenaline pumping. The view from the top had the added benefit of starting from 50 meters over the valley floor at the base.
The view from the top
Lead climbing a route
When we could no longer hold on to the rock we packed up and headed for home, basking in the glow of another perfect day.