As soon as Tim and I read about Kong Lor Cave we added it to our to-do list. A pitch black cavern which is so gigantic you can hide a church in it? That is definitely something I wanted to see. Blindly following the advice of our guidebook, we caught a bus from the capital Vientiane to Thakhek. The sole reason for stopping here was to use the area as a base from which to journey to Kong Lor Cave. This proved to be a mistake: travelling from Thakhek to the cave was much more difficult to organise than we had anticipated.
We spent a day researching and price comparing to find the best way to get to the cave. After having left a tour operator that wanted £100 each for the trip we were beginning to lose hope. It was then we ran into a pair of equally disheartened girls. As we chatted they explained that they were both hoping to make the same journey but the cheapest option they could find was their guesthouse which was running a trip for £110. The price was too steep for the two of them so we agreed to split it four ways. We headed back with them and booked. The fee included transport which was thankfully a jeep, as well as cave entrance fee and boat hire. As the cave was a four-hour drive away I didn’t really fancy travelling by tuk-tuk!
We awoke early the next morning and made our way to the guesthouse. The journey to the cave was horrendous. After being thrown in all directions and plunging into potholes, I could fully appreciate why everyone in Laos has either a 4×4 or moped! It didn’t help that our driver was a maniac who seemed to be under the illusion we were in some kind of Hollywood car chase. At one point we narrowly avoided a head-on collision with another driver after doing a blind overtake. As we sat in the ditch we had just veered into, I thanked my lucky stars that we were still alive. From this point onwards my only thought was, ‘This cave better be worth it’.
After arriving at the cave entrance and organising our boat, we made our way towards a long, wooden, motorised canoe. After clambering into a boat with Tim we sailed into the darkness.
Kong Lor cave is 7.5 kilometres in length and at its most cavernous reaches 100 metres. The journey through the cave was a mixture of travelling by boat and on foot, something that Tim struggled with as he has limited feeling in his feet. We stumbled our way through shallow and deep water alike until we reached raised platforms where we were able to scramble upwards. This higher ground gave way to a path that curled around stalagmites. Tim and I skated our way around the route, sliding in the wet footprints left by those who had gone before us.
The whole way through the cave I was in awe, albeit a tad unnerved with just a headlamp in the pitch black. Every time I saw a flicker of light I flinched, I had heard myths that fist-sized spiders inhabited the cave and I was nervous that one might find its way on to my head. During our cave exploration, I felt like I had been transported into a dark fantasy land; Gollum wouldn’t have looked out of place sitting on a rock. The only thing that broke the silence was the occasional flapping of the bats as they ruffled their wings above us.
Sunshine started to creep into the cave mouth and in a matter of seconds, we were plunged back into daylight, though brighter than it had ever appeared before. We stopped for snacks in a small rural village the other side of the cave whilst we summoned up the courage to brave the dark back to our starting point.
It is crazy to think that a cave as tall as a cathedral can exist inside a mountain and be practically invisible from the outside. Despite being lucky enough to explore the mighty Kong Lor Cave I feel like I merely scratched the surface of its mystery. For me, the eerie black cavern is a storyteller in its own right, working alongside your imagination to spill its secrets.
Have you visited Kong Lor Cave? What did you think?
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