Past rice fields, through small villages, backed by lush, jungle-covered karst peaks. It’s rural Laos and we are on the way to Kong Lor Cave, one of the longest River Caves in the world. Seven and a half kilometers of river, far beneath the earth’s surface. Out here it’s all about the journey and the destination. Take a peek into rural Laos, a place of kindness, a place of beauty, a place that in some ways, time forgot. Let’s go visit Tham Kong Lor (Kong Lor Cave)
The drive to Kong Lor Cave
Water Buffalo Greet us in the town of Ban Nahin, 40 kilometers from Kong Lor. “It’s like the Lion King” Mika remarked yesterday when we saw a heard of water buffalo going into a water hole. I loved the reference and think about it every time I see them now. Then I break into singing “Circle of Life”. Seriously.
Quintessential countryside in Laos; karst peaks, jungle, rice fields and traditional stilt houses…with satellite dishes.
A woman fishing for small fish in the rice field run-off water. She was kind and smiled at me, allowing me to shoot pictures. I was so curious about what she was doing. I just had to try it for myself. And so…
The mud is warm on my toes. She shows me how to fish with this net contraption. Place it underwater for 15–20 seconds then lift it up and pick out the tiny fish (they’re only about 2 inches long). And so this wonderful Laotian woman taught this Falang how to fish like a local. Look at us both smiling! Picture by Mika.
The drive to Kong Lor is a destination in and of itself!
Kong Lor Village, where bountiful rice fields abut karst peaks pocked with caves.
“Saibadee”! It’s how the Laotians greet people, and it’s something I never grow tired of hearing from the children of Laos as I drive by on my motorcycle. And similar to Nepali kids in the Himalayas they press their hands together and bow slightly. It makes this Falang (foreigner) feel quite welcome in this beautiful country.
Sometimes the clothing isn’t always traditional, but the draft animals are. Reminds me: in China, I saw a man with a “Chicago BALLS” t‑shirt. Bummer of a translation.
Kong Lor Cave
After 40 kilometers of beautiful rural countryside (and a bit bumpy at the end) we’ve arrived at Kong Lor Cave. Let’s take a peek inside.
The mouth of the cave, like most caves, is best appreciated from the inside looking out. That little person is me. I set up my camera on a tripod and my buddy Kross pushed the button once I ran over there.
The long wooden boats we are about to get into.
About 5 minutes into the cave we stop at the only place with lights. A short section with illuminated cave formations.
Inside the cave, this is the only real place we can stop, and therefore the only place to set up the tripod and get a decent picture. Here Mika illuminates the cave with her headlamp.
The second picture is dry season and Kross lights up the cave this time. It might not be super obvious at first but the water is lower. Look at the second boat in picture left. You can see the river bottom. Look at the features on the back wall. Wet season vs dry season in Kong Lor Cave.
Ban Natane: On the other side of Kong Lor Cave
After emerging back into the sunlight 7.5 kilometers through the cave we arrive at a few even more remote villages starting with Ban Natane. Here, we rented bicycles and rode through the countryside for about an hour, but I wish it was longer.
Leaving Kong Lor
Back through the cave we start the drive back to Ban Nahin, but it’s quite delayed. There are just so many beautiful places to stop and take pictures. This is not a country you race through. Slow down to the pace of Laotian life.
Late afternoon light on the lush fields of rice surrounding Kong Lor Village.
I can’t get of enough of the beautiful countryside in Laos, especially late in the day when the shadows are long and the brilliant blue skies began to change hues toward violet.
Show me a rice field in Laos and I’ll show you a traditional hut on stilts. It’s a place to relax during the heat of the day and a point of gathering while working in the fields.
The cows slowly come home from grazing all day and the sun sets over the rice fields and villages as we drive back to Nahin Village.
Goodbye Kong Lor!