Thakhek Loop: Kong Lo cave

Throughout Laos you can find some beautiful caves, some nicely set up for tourists, others  you explore with a torch. The most well-known and impressive of all these caves is probably Kong Lo cave. It it located beyween Thakek and Vientiane and is a popular stop of the Thakhek Loop.
The reason it is so famous is the fact that a river flows through the cave, connecting both sides of the mountains. So instead of walking you need a boat to head into the pitch dark cave. But this makes the cave so special – floating down inside a dark cave is something special. It is definetely on the THE highlights of southern Laos.

 

The cave
The cave is only a few minutes away from Kong Lo village. There is a enough space for cars and bikes, and as usual you ahve to pay an attendant a little fee for a ticket, and your bike is looked after. From here it is a short walk to the entrance booth. The entrance fee is around 70.000 Kip per person and includes the boat ride. You will not share the boat with strangers, so it will be only the people of your gorup. During peak time you might have a queue and wait for boats returning. At the entrance you can get life jackets and hire some torches. My little head torch was far too weak, and I would recommend to get at least one torch for your group.

The crew of the boat will pick you up from the entrance and will lead you via a little bamboo bridge to the entrance of the cave. If you see the entrance you might be surprised as it looks so small. But as soon you get a first impression of the size, as a larger chamber awaits here. The traditional wooden boats, that seem to be hardly above the water a waiting for you. Due to the nature of the boats water can get easily inside the boat, so make sure that your bags are on the bench next to you.

From here the journey starts, but the first part is not very long, as you get out of the boat to walk through the only section of the cave that is on dry land, with a number of nice stalagmites and this area is also lid. During dry season you need to get off here as the boat cannot get through the rocks with passengers on it.

After the little walk you are back in the boat and the real journey starts. The boat is floating on the river flowing through the cave, passing initially some little chambers, and the ceiling get subsequential higher and higher, before heading through a kind of tunnel. There is no light in the cave except of the torches of the crew (one is using the engine,mthe other sitting in the front of the boat with a pedal helping to get past some rocks. Halfway through the cave the most impressive chamber appears, the ceiling more than 20 metres above your head, the walls further apart than before. The size of the chamber is just impressive. Due to the darkness and the size it is difficult to take any pictures, so it is good to just sit back and enjoy the cave.

Near the exit you might need to leave the boat during dry season and watch the crew carrying the boat over some rocks. This was another reminder that it is a good idea to wear sandals or flip flops. From here you can enjoy the sunshine coming through the exit, giving an interesting contrast between the dark and light. And floating through the exit you are back outside, entering a valley on the other side of the mountains with trees on both side of the river.

After 10 minutes you arrive at the stop for the boats. The captain might tell you that you only have 15 minutes. But this is not correct. You can stay as long as you want. The crew will wait while having a drink with the others.

Next to the stop is a larger area with tables, chairs and a few stalls selling soft drinks, beer, food and souvenirs. The location looks peaceful and it has a nice and relaxing atmosphere. Nearby is a minoirty village you could visit. But if you do, tell the boat crew. There is apparently a homestay in the village, so this could be an option for an overnight stay. Ask your guesthosue in Kong Lo village for more information.

The return trip goes back the same way through the cave, so it is another opportunity to enjoy the boat ride.

After back at the entrance you do not have to leave the area straight away. The beautiful lagoon really invites for a refreshing dip, espeically at the little “beach section” or jumoing into the water from the alrger rocks.  As an alternative you could just walk along the river, seeing a bit more of rural Laos. Water bufallos enjoying the cold water, locals working in the fields, and the river peacefully flowing down. It is a nice place to put up your feet and relax, maybe tempting you to stay longer in that area.

 

Food & Drinks

Near the entrance are a few stalls selling bottle and some litle snacks. The area on the other side of the mountain offers a wider choice drink and food wise. But if you are after lunch best have it in Kong Lo village – or even better, get a baguette in the village and take it with you. This way you can enjoy lucnh next to the lagoon.

 

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