The breathtaking limestone mountains that frame the Lao city of Vang Vieng are rugged by underground cave systems. Some of the caves are well developed with electric light and masonry steps; others must be explored by the light of the headlamp. Some caves are unbelievably large and are adorned with stalagmites and stalactites; some are so small that a human can barely squeeze through the tiny openings. Some are filled with water and can be explored by tube or kayak, others have served as temple sites for Buddhist believers for centuries.
The latter includes the Tham Poukham Cave, also known as the ‘Blue Lagoon Cave’ or ‘Gold Cave.’ It is located about 7 kilometers from Vang Vieng, directly above the Blue Lagoon, which is a trendy tourist destination. For this cave, you need a headlamp, because once the entrance is left behind, you find yourself surrounded in deep black. The cave is not yet fully explored, but believers have erected a memorial of the reclining Buddha in the entrance, which resembles a vast hall. Anyone who dares to continue is rewarded with stalactite caves in concert hall size and branched, often challenging to tread corridors.