A Travellerspoint blog

It's all part of the adventure

Travelling to Kong Lor Village

We didn't hang around when we got back from the homestay in the afternoon. We picked up our bags from the office, said our fond goodbyes to Champa and headed straight to the bus station in Savannakhet where we waited for our mini bus.

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Our next destination was the town of Tha Khek a couple of hours further along the Mekong. The bus journey was simple enough until we were dropped off seemingly in the middle of nowhere with no tuk tuks to be seen to take us into town. There were no other tourists on the bus so we were on our own but soon realised we were just down the road from the bus station and found a tuk tuk there. Phew! We had decided that it would be nice to treat ourselves to a night in a hotel and so headed to the Mekong River Hotel recommended in the guidebook but were very disappointed. It looked fancy from the outside but as they say "never judge a book by its cover"!The first room we were given the bed was broken and the second stank so much of stale smoke once you closed the door it was hard to breathe in there! Definitely not worth the money and completely soulless so we decided not to stay there which was the best decision as we found Ithira hotel near the square which was perfect and also really buzzing with other travellers in their bar and restaurant downstairs. It also had the most amazing hot rain shower in the room which after only having a bucket and a barrel of water at the homestay and cold showers in the other places we had stayed was incredible.

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Tha Khek is a small town on the Mekong and you can see Thailand on the other side. I think you can get boats from here to cross the border and it was odd to realise just how close we were to Thailand.

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Most people seem to come to Tha Khek to do "The Loop" which is a 4 day round trip exploring caves in the area by motorbike. We had debated doing this but it would be 8 hours a day on a bike and the roads were more challenging than those we had been on before. We were knackered just after our one day to Tad Lo, let alone 4 days! We were really only wanting to go and see the main highlight on the route of Kong Lor cave, where you can travel through the cave to a remote village on the other side by boat in pitch black for 7kms! So we just had to work out the best way to get there, do we travel ourselves or go with an organised tour?

After looking into it we realised that it was going to be quite difficult to get to Kong Lor on our own as there was no direct route or bus that goes there, but then on the other hand the day tours we had seen would have cost just over £100 for two of us! Baulking at this cost we decided to bite the bullet and have a go at making our own way to Kong Lor Village....only 185kms.

So to make it to Kong Lor we would just need to get a tuk tuk to the local market where we were advised that on asking around we would be able to find a songthaew to take us on the first leg of our trip the first 100kms to Vieng Kham. There we would need to flag down another songthaew to go to the village of Ban Na Him, which is now also known as Khoun Kham, before getting another songthaew the final 40kms to Kong Lor village itself...simples! It's all part of the adventure!

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We set off prepared for the days travel to be a hard slog after reading how much of a mission other people had found it so we were pleasantly surprised when our tuk tuk driver took the lead after realising we were heading to Kong Lor and took us straight to the right songthaew that was heading to Vieng Kham. he spoke to the driver and translated the cost for us, such a nice guy. We bundled in the back with a family travelling with their little boy who spent most of the trip hiding under his hat and a girl called La who was travelling home with her moped also in the back with us! It turns out that she had been taking a business course in Tha Khek and spoke some English and was happy to help us along the journey even teaching us some Laos. The following is phonetically so probably spelt wrong in Laos...

"Hoi bam lam cam bai Kong Lor" which means "I go to Kong Lor" which would help us find our way.

We stopped several times along the way to pick people up and at one point we had about 20 adults, a couple of kids, a moped and a plastic bag full of live chickens all crammed in the back. It was a pleasant atmosphere with plenty of smiles and I think they found it funny when we were trying to learn Laos.With the wind buffeting through the open sides of the songthaew it was not long before everyone was huddled down trying to get out of the wind and I was glad I had kept my fleece but was missing the body warmer I had got rid of in Vietnam! We were rewarded though with some glimpses of great views along the way.

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Fortunately La's village is down the road from Khoun Kham and so she would be taking the second songthaew with us too and so we knew when we needed to jump off and move our bags to the roof of the next songthaew. The mountain pass we were taking had many twists and turns and steep in places so we had to hold on to the side, which was not helped when we had to stop suddenly meeting logging trucks trying to go the other way. Several times the moped tied inside with us moved, once trapping my foot underneath so I was glad I had my walking boots on otherwise that would ve hurt.

We to a junction on the road not far out from Khoum Kham village and the driver pulled over and La told us this was where we needed to change again to get to Kong Lor. We were nearly there! Our final songthaew was the first time we had seen other tourists on our trip and along with a family of Japanese tourists who shared with us some rice cakes and an English couple and we made our way to the village. The scenery was simply spectacular as we came down from the mountain into the valley with blue sheer karst mountains surrounding us in the afternoon sun. It was a fantastic end to a great journey and we were glad we had made the effort to get there ourselves and the relative ease only demonstrates how friendly and helpful the Laos people are.

We found room at the Kong Lor Eco Lodge which is a 1km walk from the cave and having decided not to rush trying to fit in the cave in on the same day to explore the village and find some food instead. We would explore the cave in the morning.

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On the way to find some dinner, which turned out to be the largest bowl of soup ever, we were joined by a little boy who loved teaching Dan songs as we walked. So cute! Bing Bing!

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Kong Lor village has the most stunning backdrop with just one road running down the middle to the entrance of Phou Hin Bun national park and agriculture and houses on either side. It seems we have come at the right time as there are not many tourists here and it seems relatively unspoilt although from some of the building work we saw I imagine more guesthouses are coming and once more people know about this place and work out how to get here I'm sure this could change but I really hope it doesn't.

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Walking through the village we suddenly heard a rumbling behind us, only to find some of the village racing kids to chase after us on their bikes and with their push toys. Some of the little ones found it hard to keep up but they liked to have their photos taken and giggled and hid when they saw themselves on the screen before running back for another shot.

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Pleased that we made it we settled down for a beer lao as we watched the sun go down behind the mountains.

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Comparing costs for our adventure versus the day trip mentioned earlier (we ll tell you all about the cave and getting to Paksan in the next post)

Day trip Per person - 750,000 kip = £57

Our trip to Kong Lor:

tuk tuk - 20,000 kip
Songthaew to Vieng Kham - 30,000 kip
Songthaew to Khoun Kham - 25,000 kip
Songthaew to Kong Lor village - 25,000 kip
Guesthouse - 60,000 kip (2 nights)
Entrance to Phou Hin Bun national park - 2000 kip
Boat trip - 55,000 kip
Head torch - 5000 kip
Songthaew to Khoun Kham - 25,000
Songthaew to Pakading - 45,000
Bus to Paksan - 40,000

332,000 kip = £26..... Half the price and so much more adventure and fun! And time to take it all in Kong Lor is by far one of the most beautiful places I have been.

Who wouldn't want to wake up to this every morning!

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 02:13 Archived in Laos

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