Scared of the dark? Then this cave in central Laos isn't for you. For those who relish unique experiences, an 8km ride through Kong Lo cave should be a high note. Difficult to get to and way off the beaten track, Kong Lo is a good place to escape for a day—just plan several days for getting in and out.
See and Do and Activities
The main sight is the cave itself. Its gaping mouth of blackness meets the still turquoise water and gives you enough time to consider whether you REALLY want to take that boat ride or whether hanging out with the local kids and jumping off the rocks is enough.
To be honest, the thought of the ride is much scarier than the ride itself, unless you're seriously claustrophobic that is. For 8km, the two boatmen will putter the boat upstream, stopping at first in order for you to have a walk through the stalagmites and stalactites and further along because the boat simply can't make it with people in it (we went in dry season). It's quite a sight watching the guides take off the engine and hoist the boat up small rapids, but it only really sinks in when you see local families doing the same.
After all, what's entertainment for us is a way of life for them. At the other end of the tunnel lies a village only accessible through the river going through the limestone. You'll see whole families with bags of rice and who knows what else taking the same ride you are. Except they're commuting.
Once you emerge from the other side, you can take a walk to the village (2km) and arrange a homestay or turn around and go back through the cave. We did the latter as we were low on time, but we heard good things about the homestays.
Overall, Kong Lo cave was a unique experience that was worth it despite the somewhat steep cost. That said, don't expect to be blown away by the cave itself. It's not that active and the formations you'll see are nothing special.
Boats cost 110,000K and can be split between three people. Entry to the area costs 7000K for two people and motorbike, and some people do come simply to swim.
There are several guesthouses in Ban Kang Lo, a village 1km from the cave. Otherwise you can stay in Ban Na Hin, about 45km away and closer to the main road. That's what we did. There are plenty of guesthouses and a decent amount of travelers, which makes staying here a bit more social. We stayed at Loso Guesthouse. For 60,000K per night, we had an air conditioned room. It was a great deal.
There's not much on TripAdvisor for Ban Na Hin hotels, but you can browse the few places that do exist.
Eat and Drink and Drink
The worst thing about Na Hin was that there was basically one restaurant. After Sam Neau, this was doubly depressing. We had a bunch of non memorable meals there and some VERY memorable karaoke. You'll find it on the main drag decorated with Christmas lights.
Kong Lo had some better looking restaurants, though we didn't have a chance to check any of them out.
There is a bus directly to the cave from Vientiane that leaves at 8am. Coming from Phonsovan was an experience. We took a VERY local bus to Paksan, which we were told was horrible, but in reality really wasn't. The newly paved road was among the better ones we experienced in Laos and the only trouble we ran into was when a truck became stuck in some dust and blocked the roadway for an hour. Fun times.
From Paksan, we took a pickup to Vieng Kham (25,000K) and from there, we took another one to Na Hin (25,000K). It was a long travel day and we were sort of surprised we made it.
There are daily pickups to the cave that cost 25,000K each way or you can rent a motorbike for 100,000K including gas. Price is locked. The views were worth the freedom of a motorbike.
And we happened to get hit by a Laos New Year tradition. Getting covered with water and baby powder.
To get away, we took a pickup to Tha Khaek (50,000K) and then a bus to Pakse (60,000K). Another long travel day. Like I said, this cave isn't the easiest to get to.
Another option some travelers take is a 4-day loop, leaving Tha Khaek on a motorbike and returning there. You'll see some nice waterfalls and countryside on the way.
More Kong Lo Cave
For more photos in and around Kong Lo Cave, check out our Kong Lo photo tour.
What would you think if your commute was through a cave? Let us know in the comments!