There’s low cloud and mist shrouding our view of the river and mountain karsts this morning. Like most mornings, we’ve made our own coffee (cheapskates or coffee snobs, you decide) and are sat on the balcony of our shed, wondering whether this rain will ruin our plans to jump inside innertubes and hurl ourselves along the river later today.

We’ve been in Laos for twelve days and have made it as far north as Vang Vieng, about 130km north of the capital. With the looming deadline of our China entry date, its beginning to feel like our days of footloose and fancy free cavorting around the countryside are numbered (and that number is 5).

After some extreme four wheel driving and some even more extreme ferry boarding on our way to Savannahket, we headed north again to Kong Lo cave.

The road to Kong Lo Cave took us through the most amazing out-of-this-world scenery we’ve seen in Southeast Asia – never ending S-bend roads through forests, then to clearings with dramatic views of mountains with waterfalls cut into their sides, then into plateaus of rice paddies and villages strung out flat in a basin, protected entirely by the high walls of the surrounding limestone karsts. We drove through this on a clear day as the sun was setting - and it looked euphoric – like a lost paradise. As we rounded one of the many bends, two trucks had collided right on the corner, one was overturned to the side of the road – the driver and his posse were sat on some rocks nearby, unperturbed. Just chewing the fat. Once we’d identified all was well with a pause and a wave, we drove on, beeping the horn loudly at every approaching hairpin turn.

Southeast Asia is speckled with thousands of caves, mostly home to various kitsch shrines full of golden buddhas and pesky monkeys, but this one was different.

Kong Lo Cave is 7.5km long (that's right, Kilometres!), set underneath a mountain, with a river running all the way through to the other side. We found ourselves a suitable boatman and his guide, and they set off paddling upstream using only what appeared to be a large wooden chopstick and a flip flop. Just as I was starting to panic that this was going to be the average speed throughout the cave, we jumped into another longtail and started the motor, and then from the cave’s dramatic entrance of jagged white rock, we roared into the darkness.

It was cool and pitch black inside, and I couldn’t hear anything over the puttering of the motor. The boatman and the guide both had huge headlamps on, rendering my camping headtorch rather pathetic. Their torches cast just enough light on the interior to make my draw drop. Above, the cave opened out like an amphitheatre. The scale of it was phenomenal and a little bit hair raising.  About a kilometre in, we pulled up on a sandy shore, and the guide got out and signalled us to follow him up the dark path, it was uber pirates of the carribean, except you know, for the seven seas, and the pirates and the treasure and all that.

We wandered along the path through the stalactites and stalacmites (I forget which ones are which) some of which struck out like massive statues, some looked like drip castles I use to make at the beach. With eyes not fully adjusted to the darkness, the cave seemed endless and creepy – more like someone had put a lid on the world, trapping the darkness. We ambled back down to another little bay some time later, where the boatman waited, and continued onwards, under a ceiling of rock that was 50 feet high in some parts, winding along the river at a speed that suggested the driver knew exactly where the bends were, and then up in the distance, light, blinding, the cave opened again and the river was surrounded by jungle, bathed in daylight.

After our eyes had readjusted to the glaring sun and we'd filled our bellies with noodles, we started to head north again to Vientiane.

There seems to be a heavy correlation between our capital city time – spending loads of money – and not taking any photos. We never really get a chance to do much touristy stuff in capitals because we’re running around trying to get visas, doing stuff to the car or just enjoying being in a hotel with English TV.

I loved Vientiane though. Not only did we get in a few rounds at the Vientiane Tennis club, but I also managed to get my Russian visa in record time (he did it in about 10 mins) and we managed to get Bob serviced with NEW brakes (ready to take on Chinese traffic).

Our biggest downfalls were booking a budget hotel room sans windows which made it nigh on impossible to get out of bed, and following the lead of Vientiane drivers and getting our car clamped. A fail that cost us 175,000 Kip (about $25)

But, we did have massages, we did go to the gym, we had an amazing steak and about zillion fruit shakes, so all in all, I’d say it was a roaring success.

As our final hurrah before we enter China on Wednesday, we’re booked in for an overnight elephant trek in Luang Prabuang. And if this rain lets up, we might go tubing down a river today. And if it doesn’t, we might just spend the afternoon in one of the many restaurants on this road playing looped episodes of Friends, drinking Beer Lao, counting ourselves lucky we're not at work. No shit, I can hear the theme tune from here.

Joe's downstairs making the most of the rain to wash some of the mud off Bob, I'd go down and help him if i could only get over the inevitably that within a day he'll be caked in mud all over again. Such is life on the road in Laos.