Edit Blog Post
Published: January 17th 2013
Immigration at Thai border
Standing in line to leave Thailand for Laos
Well I haven't blogged for a long time so need to catch up you on some of our highlights from previously hopefully I'll find the time over next few days.
We finally arrived in Laos after a very long trip up from the islands of Thailand. We first took a 3 hour boat to Don Sak, then an hour and a half bus to Surat Thani, then a 13 hour overnight train to Bangkok. We arrived early hours of Sunday morning and spent the day wasting time until our overnight bus to the Thai/Laos border. We got a VIP bus from Bangkok northern bus terminal which was actually quite comfortable. The seats were very wide and reclined right back so you could sleep, well try to sleep as the roads are not in the best condition so no matter how comfy they are, getting thrown around becomes the norm and a full nights shut eye is near on impossible- except for expert sleepers like Pete.
The overnight bus dropped us right at the bus depot in Nakhon Phanom at 7:30am after 12 hours (Thai side of the border) where we had to change to another bus in order to
The start of our trip towards the cave entrance
cross over to Laos. This all went pretty smoothly with us getting off the bus to have our departure from Thailand stamped then crossing the Mekong river and getting off again to do our Visa on Arrival on the Laos side. The bus was full of locals and we were the only westerners on it, however the locals were really friendly trying to ask us questions, making jokes (probably at our expense) and even saving our seats at the back of the bus.
Once in ThaKhek bus station we got a ride to our hotel only to be dropped at the travel lodge and not Villa Thakhek. it turned out however, it was the same place which pleased us as we had originally tried to book the travel lodge and couldn't, but the villas had better rooms.
We came to Thakhek specifically to do the visit to Kong Lor Caves so asked about it as soon as we got there. We were informed it was 1,200,000kip between the two of us (£96) or would be 300,000 each if we could get at least 2 other people. We asked him to let us know if any more people wanted
to go as we were not prepared to pay that much to see a cave, no matter how much the lonely planet recommends it.
In the afternoon we took a walk to the river which we were told was 2km straight down the road. After walking for more than 3km we still couldn't see the river so turned back. On the way back we were chased by 3 snarling dogs. luckily Pete had a large bottle of water to throw all over them which seemed to stop them in their tracks. Good job Pete had something to protect himself with as I was using him to protect me he he.
As we had not heard anything about the caves we decided to cut our losses and get up early to catch the bus to Pakse. In the morning we went to check out and were asked why we weren't going to the caves. We were slightly confused but it soon became apparent that 3 others also wanted to go but were waiting on us deciding. Luckily we hadn't booked any accommodation in Pakse so decided we would go to the caves.
We jumped in the minivan and
Looking good with his head torch
had a very very bumpy 3.5 hour journey to the caves. I tried reading up on caves and sleeping but the ride was so bad I couldn't do either as was being thrown like a ragdoll all over the place so just spent our time chatting to the others comparing travel stories.
Once we arrived at the caves we were all given life jackets to wear before getting in our boats. Lucky me - I got the jacket that absolutely reeked of BO, needless to say so did I by the end of the day and no-one wanted to stand near me ha ha.we walked across the bridge to the opening of the cave and climbed in our long boat. We set off along the river into the darkness with only our head torches lighting a few meters in front.
We kept an eye out for the 'fist sized spiders' apparently in the cave, my description of which made Ted regret he had come due to his fear of spiders. Luckily we didn't see any. After a short ride we got out of boats to explore some of the cave on foot. We walked up some stairs where
Stalactites and Stalagmites
Walking through the cave to see the lovely natural structures
the cave opened up and we saw the stalactites and stalagmites glistening in the light.
We returned to the boats and continued through the cave, having to get out several times and walk through the water as it was too shallow for the boats to go over. We watched as the driver pushed the boat over the gravel before we got back in. I did wonder whether we should have helped him as it looked like quite hard work but he seemed to know what he was doing so we left him to it.
The best part is when we came to the end of the 7.5km long cave, where it opened up to beautiful scenery along the Mekong river with the karst peaks all around us and in the dstance. As we rode along we saw buffalo lazing in the water, children paddling on boats and people having their daily wash. It was a great scene and was definitely my favourite part of the trip.
After a short break we made our way back through the cave and then endured the 3.5hr bumpy bus ride back. Despite the almost non-starter we were glad we got there
Riding through the cave in the pitch black
and had a real adventure both with the journey and the cave. We also got to meet a lovely older couple from Vancouver who told us about their travelling experiences that go back to the 70's, where travelling the world was very different. They even offered us a place to stay when we go to Vancouver which was very nice. Travellers Tips: If you are purely coming to Thakhek to go to Kong Lor Caves I would re-think and stay somewhere closer to the caves. It is 196km from Thakhek and can only be done in one day if you hire a car or do a tour by minivan. Most people who come to Thakhek do so to do 'the loop'. Most people seem to rent motorbikes from Mr Ku at the Travel Lodge but I was told by another traveller that they rented bikes from elsewhere at half the price. Mr Ku charges 100,000kip per day and you will need a bike for 2-3 days to do the loop. If you plan to do the trip to Kong Lor Caves in one day try and get at least 4 people as the price becomes 600,000kip
End of the Cave
Stunning scenery as we emerge from the darkness into the light of day
per couple as opposed to double that if just two going. There isn't a huge amount to do in this area although there are apparently a few other caves and waterfalls to see. Watch out for wild dogs, they do not seem to be as friendly as in other areas and will chase you.
Tot: 0.06s; Tpl: 0.017s; cc: 11; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0118s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb