One of the many great things about travelling on 2 wheels is the immediacy one feels with nature and the landscapes you are travelling through, and never more so than when those landscapes are inspiringly beautiful. Even in a small vehicle such as a car or minibus, views are restricted and speeds often too great to really appreciate the stunning scenery that you are passing through.
Southeast Asia boasts some fabulous scenery, with many locations throughout the region dotted with limestone features such as karst towers. While the karst scenery of Halong Bay in Vietnam and Krabi in Thailand is relatively famous, less well known are some of the spectacular karst formations of Laos.
Karst towers are formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, usually in conjunction with a warm and wet climate, as is found in much of Indochina. While karsts features are found all over the world, including Europe, South America, Australia and the Middle East, true tower karsts require the right combination of rock and climate, which only exists in the tropics.
Over millions of years, layers of sediment are laid down which in time form limestone. Steady tectonic pressure from below causes these layers to fracture and be raised upwards. Rain, picking up carbon dioxide as it falls through the atmosphere, forms a weak acid, which infiltrates through the cracks, dissolving the limestone. The resulting towers, often wonderfully precipitous and jagged in form, are typically between 30 and 300 meters high with bare rock walls, and are often riddled with caves.
Laos has several areas of karst formations, both in the north and central parts of the country. In the north, the three especially noteworthy karst areas are found around Vang Vieng, near the small village of Phukoun and along the Nam Ou river around Nong Khiaw.