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 in Ban Nahin

Water Buf­fa­lo in Ban Nahin

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.

Countryside in Laos, Kong Lor Cave

Coun­try­side in Laos, Kong Lor Cave

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…

Fishing in the rice fields

Fish­ing in the rice fields

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.

Driving to Kong Lor Cave

Dri­ving to Kong Lor Cave

The dri­ve to Kong Lor is a des­ti­na­tion in and of itself!

Kong Lor Village

Kong Lor Village

Kong Lor Vil­lage, where boun­ti­ful rice fields abut karst peaks pocked with caves.

Laotian girls in their school uniform, Kong Lor Village

Laot­ian girls in their school uni­form, Kong Lor Village

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.

Kong Lor Village Water Buffalo

Kong Lor Vil­lage Water Buffalo

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.

Kong Lor Cave, Thakhek Loop

Kong Lor Cave, Thakhek Loop

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.

Sampans at the start of Kong Lor Cave

Sam­pans at the start of Kong Lor Cave

The long wood­en boats we are about to get into.

Kong Lor Cave, Thakhek Loop

Kong Lor Cave

About 5 min­utes into the cave we stop at the only place with lights. A short sec­tion with illu­mi­nat­ed cave formations.

Inside Kong Lor Cave

Inside Kong Lor Cave

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.

Kong Lor Cave, Thakhek Loop

Kong Lor Cave, Dry Season

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.

Approaching the end of Kong Lor Cave

Approach­ing the end of Kong Lor Cave


Ban Natane: On the other side of Kong Lor Cave

Ban Natane and surrounding villages

Ban Natane and sur­round­ing villages

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.

Around Ban Natane, Kong Lor Cave

Around Ban Natane


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.

Kong Lor Village

Kong Lor Village

Late after­noon light on the lush fields of rice sur­round­ing Kong Lor Village.

Around Kong Lor Village

Around 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.

Stilt hut in the rice fields

Stilt hut in the rice fields

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.

Cows on the way back from Kong Lor

Cows on the way back from Kong Lor

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.

Sunset over Ban Nahin, Thakhek Loop

Sun­set over Ban Nahin

Good­bye Kong Lor!

A com­plete guide to Kong Lor Cave

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