Well they say that heavy nights lead to heavy hangovers and for myself, at least, today was no exception. Mrs Hughes was feeling fine and actually seemed to delight in informing me of her wellbeing whilst I felt like the invisible mad axeman had entered our room in the night and planted his invisible axe right in the middle of my ‘visible’ and somewhat throbbing head – argh! I knew this hangover would be one of those stinkers which would stay with me all day, alllllllll day!
Although I was a bit fragile we decided to go out for a walk, to clear away the cobwebs as they say. We set off to a nearish cave – about 3km away from the hotel – and even though it was a lovely walk it still madam feel somewhat haggard. The cave was called Padeng Cave and I must admit to it being one of those places which was not particularly recommended by anyone but the walk to it was pleasant enough. It took us over the rice fields and when you go over the fields there are always strange insects and things to see along the way. We saw a most colourful beetle that looked like it had been made of metal – such things never cease to amaze me, I suppose they have always been there just now I have more time to admire and wonder at such things!
When we approached the cave, the three ‘geezers’ in their hammocks were far less than wonderful to behold. One came with us to show us around but as soon as we had told him that we would go and have a look with him he took off at breakneck speed only hesitating slightly now and again to allow us to catch up. We reached a small stream which we had to remove our boots to cross and from there we were soon at the mouth of the cave. The opening of which was guarded by a small Buddha statuette which unlike the grubby urchins running the place did not have his hands out for our money. The cave looked small tight and grim so Liz did not fancy taking the tour inside but I was undeterred so in I went, hoping to see the many wonders of the cave!
I shouldn’t have built it up quite so much as there was not a great deal to see, a couple of spiders and a couple of stalactites – the guide explained that the stalactites were, as he put it – ‘beautiful’. Now I must admit more than ever that beauty must definitely be in the eye of the beholder as they were the grubbiest stalactites I had ever seen and even his comment was said with very little enthusiasm! The route, as we went further along, had some very narrow points and was quite slippy in some places too whilst bordering on dangerous in others and then at the end of the trail we finally reached the ‘swimming pool’ area. What was advertised as a ‘pool’ was in fact more of a ‘puddle’ and although technically jumping in seemed entirely possible, getting back out seemed much less so and I did not feel confident that my surly guide would be the best person to count on in a fix. So it was that I decided to forego the swim and return back with him.
Now for my rant, and as I am unaccustomed to this please forgive me, maybe it was my fragile nature but the whole ‘experience’ had lasted ten perhaps, fifteen minutes at a push and rather than it being ‘la creme de la creme’ it had been more ‘la crap de la crap’! Even though we had not been long though it was long enough for my good wife to start to feel nervous about what we were getting up to in the ‘little cave of horrors’.
Now up until this point, even though my head had not been at its best because someone in there was pounding away from the inside out, I had been okay about the whole ‘crappy’ cave thing, as the journey had been cool enough and Laos is a cool place to be but …. on the way back our guide asked for his own fee of an extra 20,000 kip, which I did mind. Now I have seen some crap on Trivago or some other website saying ‘is it really worth you haggling over something which is worth so little money back home?’ And yes, sometimes it is worth haggling over with someone. I am not a person who denies anyone their right to make a living but these guys were actually here taking the mick. So I somewhat begrudgingly gave him 10,000 kip and he just ran off ahead back to his hammock and did not even acknowledge us as we walked back past. So it is my hope that it is only by complaining or actually abstaining from going on crap tours like this that people like these will stop abusing tourists in this way. I urge anyone thinking of going to this cave to bear this in mind. If I had been told up front it was 20,000 kip I wouldn’t have minded even if I had thought it was crap. This is probably why this cave’s name gets changed every map you read … lol … and to be fair it none of the day’s events cured my hangover either.