Monday, February 28, 2011


After riding motorbikes through the countryside around Thakhek, we continued traveling by motorbike to do a side trip to the Konglor Cave. The Konglor Cave is actually more of an underground river that you can cruise through on a boat. It's still relatively undeveloped since it was supposedly only discovered in 2004. Being about 5 miles long with huge caverns supposedly up to 100 meters high and 30 meters wide, it's a spectacular place to visit and was one of the highlights of the trip.

Riding by motorbike out to Konglor from Thakhek is quite scenic and you pass by a lot of local villages after you get off the main highway. It was a bit of a long drive using the small motorbikes we had, but it was manageable for a day trip. Unfortunately, both of our bikes started to show signs of wear and tear on the drive. Phil's was the first to go, with the sprocket on his back tire getting really worn down, so the chain would just spin when he tried to go. At first we thought we were in trouble, but after stopping for a bowl of noodles for lunch, we had a local direct us to a small repair shop. We expected to get charged a lot for the repair, but it was only around $10 and only took an hour to repair before we were able to get back on the road.

 Phil and Countryside on Way to Konglor

Getting the Bike Repaired

Rocky Karst Mountains

Water Buffalo Doing What Water Buffaloes Do

After finally arriving at the cave, we arranged to have a local take us on a canoe type boat with a motor through the cave. At first it was hard to see where the entrance was, but it was amazing how big it was once you were inside.

Where is It?

 Oh, There It Is

Because it's completely black inside the cave, it was tough to get a lot of quality videos or pictures. The best thing to do was to just sit back and enjoy the experience of blasting through the darkness on a rickety boat driven recklessly by a local Laotian. All we had to guide us were some flashlights and headlamps, but the drivers seemed to know what they were doing. There were definitely some tricky spots, where rocks would jut up out of nowhere or the river would get really shallow, that would definitely wreck an inexperienced driver. Other times the boat would scrape on rocks, go over a small fall or rapid, or we'd have to stand up and carry the boat past a particularly rough patch.

The Starting Point 

Driving Into the Darkness

At one point, the boats are stopped at an area of the cave with a lot of rock formations that they light up temporarily. When you get off the boat, the drivers lead you on a narrow strip of shallow rocks with sharp drop offs on each side into deep parts of the fast flowing river. I'm not sure who first explored this cave, but there definitely seem to be several parts like that where you could easily get into trouble in such a big dark cave with a river flowing throw it. 

Lit Up Section of Cave

 More Rock Formations

While the rock formations were cool, the best part of the cave really is the boat ride through the darkness and being amazed about how huge the caverns are and at times not even being able to see where the walls are. Eventually, after going all the way through the cave, you finally see light at the end of the tunnel. Then, the boats head back in the opposite direction and you get to do it all over again. In all, you're in the cave for around an hour or more.

End of the Tunnel

By the time we finished with the cave, it was already getting a bit late and we decided to do a home stay for the night. A home stay is basically staying with one of the locals in their hut, receiving room and board for an evening. There were several people offering home stays outside the cave and we joined some other foreigners who were also on the boat ride to go stay with a family. The village was right near the cave and in a valley between two ranges of mountains where people were growing rice or other crops. We had an opportunity to take in the beautiful countryside and talk with several of the locals as we relaxed that evening.

 Countryside Near Konglor

Rice Fields

Local Kids Coming to Shake Hands

The home stay itself was a lot of fun. We stayed with a nice family and enjoyed eating dinner and breakfast with them. At night there was a world cup soccer game on and since the family we were staying with had a TV, nearly all the men from the village crammed into the hut to watch the game. It was surprising to see how interested everyone in Laos was in the world cup on our whole trip and we had a lot of fun watching the games with them.

As we were packing up to leave the next morning, the Grandpa of the family said to me in broken English, "Hello Mister, I love you." I'm not sure where he learned how to say that, but it was definitely a surprise for me to hear. Most likely he tells a lot of guests that, even though he probably doesn't clearly understood the meaning of the words, which probably has given a lot of people a nice surprise like I had.

Kids and Grandma from the Home Stay Family

Authentic Laos Dinner

Watching the World Cup Game

 Receiving a Friendship Bracelet from the Grandpa

After eating our breakfast and getting cleaned up, we hit the open road and headed back to Thakhek. Pretty much right on cue, my motorbike started having more and more trouble. Eventually I had to stop and get the clutch replaced. Fortunately, it was again a pretty cheap and quick fix and we were back on our way. 

Phil at Laos-Style Gas Station

Wes Cruisin' Like a Boss

The Konglor Cave was a unique experience and was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The home stay and beautiful countryside helped to make the trip even more memorable. While the area seems to be developing for tourists very quickly, it will still be one of the best places to visit in Laos.

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