Tag Archives: Tha Khaek

Tha Khaek Loop, Laos – Day 4

The last day of my stay in Tha Khaek I have spent on seeing those things that I have skipped on the third day – namely the Khoun Kong Leng lake (‘Evening Gong Lake’) and one, not too fancy temple. Khoun Kong Leng lake is located on the southern edge of Phu Hin Bun NPA – almost one hour drive from Tha Khaek city. It takes one hour not because of the distance, but because of the road quality – which you can see on the photos. There are also virtually no signs that would point you in the right direction – but since I knew the location from guidebook, I found the place without problems. The lake is located next to limestone mountains. The emerald-green water flows from subterranean river that filters through the limestone, making the water crystal clear. The lake is about 21 m (70 ft) deep. The locals believe that lake has mystical powers and it is named after a legend that describes a gong sounding on the full moon each month. Swimming in the lake itself is not allowed – but it is possible in the stream that flows from the lake, apparently after getting permission from the locals. However, when I arrived in Ban Na Kheu (about 1 km from the lake), there was nobody there to even notice my presence. The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the lake as ‘stunningly beautiful’ but I would be more careful when choosing words – it is beautiful, indeed, but not jaw-dropping. And as it is not the most accessible place to get to, it can be easily omitted if you are not into it.

On the way back I have made a brief stop to take photos of local people. Laos is the most bombed country in the world (per capita) and even 40 years after the war ended, it is still taking its toll. There are still ongoing projects clearing the unexploded ordnance (UXO) – mostly land mines and other bombs. The elderly man that can be seen on the photo almost surely has lost his hand because of UXO. I cannot be 100% sure of it since the family didn’t speak any English – but knowing the facts this is the most likely scenario.

After seeing the lake I went towards Pha That Sikhottabong – on the way I have stopped briefly to see the ‘Great Wall’ – a kind of huge piece of stone wall, which used to have some sort of defending purpose in the past. Now it is mostly forgotten and hidden in the woods not far from the main road (but there is about 15 km of the walls preserved to this day). Pha That Sikhottabong is a stupa that sits on the grounds of a 19th century monastery of the same name. The stupa was raised in place of thâat (Buddhist reliquary) dated 6th to 10th century. It is considered one of the most important thâat in Laos and was first renovated in 16th century by king Setthathirat, when it got its general shape. Later it was restored in 1950s and further augmented in 1970s. It is a place of a major festival in February. The monastery itself, same as the stupa, didn’t really get into me – it’s just a standard monastery/temple in Asia. If someone happens to be here for the first time though, then you are more than welcome to visit the place – especially since it is located only 6 km from the city and very easily accessible.

From Tha Khaek (A) to Khoun Kong Leng (B)

Tha Khaek Loop, Laos – Day 3

Imagine a river disappearing inside a monolithic limestone mountain  and running 7 km through pitch-black, winding cave –  and you have a glimpse of what Kong Lo cave is (sometimes spelled as Kong Lor), truly one of the natural wonders of Laos. This cave-cum-tunnel is quite impressive – up to 100 m wide in some places and almost as high. Boat is naturally a mean of transportation for visiting the cave – a motorised canoe, to be exact. The canoe is operated by two guides (the entrance ticket was 20,000 kip, hiring a boat with guides 100,000 per boat for up to 4 people, so altogether I had to pay 120,000 kip – about 10 euros – as there was nobody around to share the boat with). To pass through the cave one have to spend almost an hour in the canoe (one-way).  I had to change the shoes for flip-flops, as it is not possible to make the journey without going in the water. In the main cavern there are some lights which enable us to get a better look for stalagmites and limestone formations. It pays to bring your own torch – I had my faithful head light with me. It is really a pity that the only light in the cave is only in the main cavern – if there were lights along the entire tunnel, it would definitely make it more attractive and the boat trip would be much more interesting. The visiting to the cave includes going all the way to the other side and a short walk to the local village – there we had a short break for a sip of water – and of course, going back. It all takes about 3 hours. The village itself looked just like any other village – the guide took me to his friend’s house, where they had a little chat about this and that – of course in local language – we had some boiled water and went back. On the photos you can see how locals live in the village.

On the way back to Tha Khaek I have made a stop at the sala viewpoint near Km 36. One should never miss that spot, as the scenery is indeed dramatic (the panoramic photo is just a fraction of how it really feels). I have arrived in Tha Khaek early evening, skipping some places that I was about to see the next day.

From Kong Lo cave (A) to Tha Khaek (B)

Tha Khaek Loop, Laos – Day 2

Ban Oudomsouk is rather large village located in not so high mountains of the Loop. Upon arrival I was welcomed with a nice, fresh and cool air. I stopped at one of the two (only two!) available guest houses, which was run by a German guy with his local wife. The guest house was in a quite picturesque location next to some sort of lake. Since I was travelling alone, I got myself quite comfortable bed in a dorm – which I had all to myself – the dorm, that is (the bed costed me 30,000 kip, which is about 3 euros as of that time). In the evening and at night it was nicely cold so that there was absolutely no need to even use a fan. The next morning I continued my journey right after breakfast. Because of many dams that were built on Laotian rivers (in order to produce electricity), on the way one can spot flooded trees – which is quite a sight on its own and also reminds us that together with the progress, there is always some sort of loss. The road goes through various villages and quite a large part behind Ban Tha Long (one of the other villages on the way) is unpaved. The typical view of the village can be seen on the photos below.

One of the more interesting places on the way was the town of Tha Bak. There wouldn’t be anything special about it if not the fact that this is the only place where one can see bomb boats. The name is somewhat misleading, since the boats were made out of huge missile-shaped drop tanks that carried fuel for jets that were operating here in the 1960s and ’70s. Empty tanks were sometimes dropped and those that didn’t receive too much damage during the hit were turned into boats.

The second day was completed upon arriving in Kong Lo village (or Kong Lor). From here the next morning I was about to see the main attraction on the Loop – the Kong Lo cave.

From Ban Oudomsouk (A) to Kong Lo cave (B)

Tha Khaek Loop, Laos – Day 1

Tha Khaek was my first stop in central Laos, on my way to the south. The city itself is rather small and there is nothing interesting in there. It is located at the Mekong river, just next to the Thai border. Most tourists come here to do the so-called “The Loop” (or Tha Khaek Loop). The Loop is, as you can imagine, a road that goes through the province in a round and comes back to the city. It can be done on a bicycle (a good one, MTB is a must) or on a motorbike (which is the most popular way). The recommended minimum is 3 days, but for most people 4 days would be more suitable, especially if one wants to visit the most important sight in the area – the magnificent Kong Lo cave (spelled sometimes as Kong Lor). Obviously it is possible to find travellers who did the whole thing in 1 day and others who took 5 days. I did the Loop in 4 days. I arrived in Tha Khaek in the evening, the next morning I rented out a motorbike (faithful semi-automatic Zongshen S, 100cc made in China which was an obvious copy of Honda Wave S, as you can see on the photos) and hit the road.  There are many caves located in the surroundings of Tha Khaek. Below you can find photos of the most popular ones, taken on the way to Ban Oudomsouk (Oudomsouk village) – my first overnight stop on the Tha Khaek Loop.

From Tha Khaek (A) to Ban Oudomsouk (B)