The next day we caught a local bus heading south towards the Tham Kong Lor Cave. We were a little unsure what to expect around this area as the guide book was a little vague. We had booked accommodation in a village called Ban Nahin and when the bus pulled up and we got out at the bus stop/taxi rank/cattle grazing grounds we felt we had definitely gotten off the beaten track.
The town itself was about 2 streets wide surrounded by beautiful limestone mountains and I think there were more cows than people in the village. We walked through the streets to our guesthouse and soon found ourselves at a little gem of a place. The family who run it were lovely, there was an attached restaurant and we had a beautiful room. We went for a little walk around town to stretch the legs and were greeted by all the locals with a wave and a Sabaidee (hello). The kids were especially friendly.
We headed back to the guesthouse and ordered a meal which was some of the best food we have had in Laos. As there wasn’t much else much to do we went in for an early night and had one of the best nights sleep we have had in a long time. It was so beautifully quiet.
After breakfast we organised a scooter from our guesthouse and started towards Kong Lor cave which was about 50kms away. Except we didn’t get very far because as soon as you drove out of town you were surrounded by rice paddies and mountains and the photo opportunities were endless. The positive of this is that it gave my legs and bum a rest from sitting behind Tim on the scooter. We also passed several other villages smaller than ours and got to see what rural life in Laos is like. The majority of houses are built of wood on stilts and are very simple. One room maybe two and everyone has their plot of land to grow rice. We came at a great time as the rice was being harvested and we either had farmers cutting and stacking on one side or beautiful green and yellow fields to stare at on the other. It was one of the most beautiful rides we have done.
We have mentioned previously that the people from Laos are poor and that is visible when you drive through their towns, yet they are some of the most friendly smiling people you will meet. They are so content with their life and what they have and it seems that as long as you can feed your family and have a roof over your head then you are okay. They certainly don’t seem to over work and don’t seem to be very ambitious. In other countries that are poor you sometimes feel uncomfortable entering their villages and dare I say it a little apprehensive as you feel as if they see what you have and wouldn’t hesitate to take it. But that is certainly not the feel or the case in Laos. They couldn’t give two hoots what someone else has. Their way of life is certainly a relaxed one.
We arrived at the entrance of the cave and after purchasing our tickets walked through the forest to the river. Kong Lor cave is a pretty special one as it is actually an underground river that extends 7kms under the mountains. We were introduced to our boat man and were given a life jacket and a head torch. Now we knew we were catching a boat through the cave and back but really didn’t know what to expect. After taking a rickety boat to the other side of the river we walked into the cave entrance where our man grabbed a motor and attached it to another rickety boat, bailed out some water and told us to take a seat.
Soon we were heading up stream into blackness where we soon realised how long this cave system was. It was massive! Certain parts were about 3 metres above our heads but most of the time the roof was 20 to 50 metres high and the same across. Lit by only our head torches it was all quite scary considering the river was not straight and there were occasional rocks jutting out of the water. Luckily our captain’s was a lot stronger than ours so he could pick out the twists and turns of the river.
We came to a bend in the river and he beached our boat and told us to get out and follow the steps. So we did and found ourselves on a little beach with a path leading up. We were then walking through a section with very impressive stalagmites and stalactites. Back on the boat we continued on our way. It was so eerie and for me felt as if we were with the ferryman taking us across the river to the underworld but I probably read too many fantasy books.
After about an hour we saw light ahead and emerged into eye watering sunshine where we disembarked at a local village for a drink and then headed back the way we had come. The trip back was just as enthralling as the way there and I must admit it was definitely an experience I will never forget. I was a little apprehensive about the trip as I am not a big fan of enclosed spaces or caves etc but this place was so big you even had air flowing through the cave. I never even once thought about the giant amount of earth bearing down on us from above.
Back out on the other side we jumped back on our scooter driving home the way we had come. But again the scenery didn’t disappoint. We had a little bit of time up our sleeves so we decided to hit one of the viewpoints to see the surrounding country side from above. The climb up wasn’t too bad and the views of the surrounding mountains was spectacular. It still astonishes us just how uninhabited Laos is and how dense their forest it.
On the ride down I mentioned to Tim that I could smell our brakes and we wondered if we should stop for a little while but didn’t. On the last downhill Tim suddenly exclaimed that our brakes had gone! Luckily up ahead we could see the road flatten out and eventually go up another hill so Tim put his feet down (we are smart and wear our hiking boots while riding) and we slowly came to a stop on the flat. Phew!! Letting the brakes cool for a little while, they came back online and we drove home. Deciding that one viewpoint was enough.
We are so glad we made the stop in Ban Na Hin and getting to see a little more of the real Laos. Even without the cave our time here would have been worth it. It’s amazing the places you get to see when you least expect it. S
Downtown Ban Nahin
One of the smaller villages lining the road on the way to the cave.
Our (not so) trust scooter.
Wonderful colours and beautiful landscape all around us.
The locals working the fields.
Simple houses but stunning location.
We came upon three water buffalo cooling down in the water, the other two were almost completely submerged.
The light at the end of the tunnel, unfortunately the inside was too dark and too vast to get any photos.
Our captain for the day.
Nothing needs to be written just amazing to see. Some shots of the journey back.