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Published: October 26th 2012
Kong Lor Cave
Wow. Definitely worth the trip back from Paksan!
And the inter-city bus ride hiccups keep on coming! This time I'd missed my stop, and what was supposed to be a relatively straightforward 1.5h ride turned into a 5h+ detour. I was heading northwards from Tha Khaek, and I was supposed to stop at the junction town of Vieng Kham, to turn eastwards towards Ban Na Hin, the base from which I could visit the Kong Lor cave. However, I somehow ended up riding on the bus all the way to Paksan, a good 2h further north! So I had to back-track via a combination of sawng thaews, before arriving at my intended destination.
It's not even as if I slept on the bus and missed my stop. When I boarded, I told the conductor I wanted to go to Vieng Kham, and he seemed to acknowledge. About 1.5h into the ride, when I felt was about the time it should have taken, I asked him again when I should alight, and he said later. It was only another 2h later when we finally pulled up into Paksan station that I asked him why he hadn't told me to alight earlier, and only then did he ask the bus
Ban Na Hin
Non-descript, almost one-street town that essentially serves as just a base for a visit to the nearby (40 km!) Kong Lor cave.
driver where Vieng Kham was!
But anyway, just one of those things that come with travelling. The irony of course is that my intended next destination after Ban Na Hin was going to be Paksan! So I had to make a quick decision whether to back-track and visit the Kong Lor cave after all. I decided to, and it must have been the correct one to make.
The Kong Lor cave is 7.5km long, supposedly navigable only by longtail boat because of the river that runs through it, though by now it was the beginning of the dry season, so the waters were so shallow at points the boatmen had to get out to push the boat along!
What's in the cave? Well, lots of stalagmites and stalactytes that you learn about in high school and try to remember which ones are the ones coming from the top down, and which ones bottom up. But apart from that, not much else, including no light, so you have to bring your own flashlight or headlamp. I guess it's the sheer length and eerieness of the otherwise pitch black, silent and water-logged cavern that is awe-inspiring.
Ban Na Hin
The kind of scenery of the environs -- plush greenery enveloped by rolling limestone mountains.
ride there from Ban Na Hin wasn't half-bad either, taking us through some beautiful Central Laos country-side of padi fields enveloped by picturesque limestone hills, though I probably can't say the same about the amount of dust particles that were kicked up on the sun-baked mud tracks and which we all had to negotiate.
In all, certainly worth the back-tracking. I just know I would have kicked myself later if I had decided to skip Kong Lor after the debacle with the bus, so I'm glad I did it.
Stayed at the Khoum Kham Guesthouse.
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