One afternoon this week we set off with a big bottle of water and two mountain bikes to conquer caves and rumored waterfalls outside of Nong Khiew, a tiny town which spans either side of the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos. The cave was easily reached just over a mile out of town across a bamboo footbridge over a stream at the top of a steep three-story ladder in the mountainside. As we continued, however, it was the mountain that nearly conquered us with stretches so steep it took all our strength to round the next corner.
All the effort was worth it, as we practically flew down on the way back alongside subtropical forest and slowing down only in each of the roadside villages where dozens of kids ran after us and surrounded our bikes, offering to refill our water bottles in exchange for pens (the kids here seem to love pens). One of those perfect exploration days that really gave the feel of local life in Nong Khiew.