Ban Nahin, Laos & Kong Lor Cave
The day we were set to leave Thakhek the heavens opened once again and we were travelling to Ban Nahin in the rain. Ban Nahin is the town closest to Kong Lor Cave where you can stay overnight and rent a motorcycle.
We took a tuk-tuk to the bus station and promptly caught a bus (30,000k/$3.70) to Vieng Kham, a small town acting as a transfer point to Ban Nahin. The bus was loaded with people. We bought a ticket and climbed in the bus only to find that all the seats were taken. We stood for about 10 seconds contemplating our fate of having to stand for the next two hours when a man pulled out a stack of plastic stools, threw them down, pointed at us and then them. So we got a seat, albeit a rickety plastic one with no back rest.
We were loaded off the bus into the flooded streets of Vieng Kham and quickly realised our only option of getting to Ban Nahin was by songthaew (20,000K/$2.50) — packed to the gills with people, and with our luggage strapped to the roof under a tarp. After a few circles of the town to load up on more passengers (20 at the last count) and goods, and a couple of laps for good measure, we were off to Ban Nahin. Unfortunately, we missed out on the scenery, which by all accounts is breath-taking, as we were sealed into the songthaew by a tarp to keep out the rain.
The next day the weather obliged and we rented a motorbike from a guesthouse for 80,000k/$10 per day. Ahead of us was a stunning 45km ride to Kong Lor Cave.
Exploring the Massive Kong Lor Cave
Arriving at the cave we paid 3,000k/$0.40 for our motorcycle, 2,000K/$0.25 entrance fee per person, and we rented a boat for 110,000k/$13.70 (headlamps are available to rent for 5,000k/$0.60 if you don’t have a torch). We walked with our guide to one of the many long-tailed speed boats that awaited us at the mouth of the cave.
We were then taken on a Space Mountain-esque ride through the impossibly long cave. The river wound through the cave seemingly forever and our driver and guide manoeuvred the speed boat skillfully along, narrowly avoiding jagged overhangs and rocks peeking out of the water. At one point we had to get out while they dragged the boat up a shallow rapid. About half way through the cave we got out to admire some stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, but we were soon back on the boat for more impressive manoeuvres in the dark. The guy at the front of the boat acts as the head light for the driver, illuminating rocks that appear before him and steering the boat with a paddle if the boat gets to close to the rocks. About an hour after boarding we made it to the other side of the cave.
We disembarked at a town that can only be reached by boat or trekking. We relaxed with a nice cold beer and then it was all aboard for the return ride through the cave back to the entrance.
We headed back to Ban Nahin happy that we had made the effort to get to Kong Lor Cave. It was, without a doubt, a highlight of our trip to Laos.
We are off to Vientiane next (with a small detour in Pak Kading).