Drift­ing through on a long wood­en boat into the gap­ing mouth, just before we are engulfed in dark­ness, light, shin­ing through at the oth­er end, lush green jun­gle. A huge open­ing, water drips from the ceil­ing as I swim on my back look­ing up at it. Tham Xieng Liap is a riv­er cave, and it’s August, the rainy sea­son, the riv­er runs high. The only way to access the cave is by boat.

The Cave:

Also called “Tham Xiang Liap” “Xian Liap” “Xieng Liab” and “Xiang Liab” (Try say­ing that ten times, fast), Xieng Liap Cave is just a short dri­ve from Thakhek and one of the first and must-see stops on the famous Thakhek Loop in Central/Southern Laos.

The cave isn’t very long but it has a high ceil­ing and is a refresh­ing place to swim on a hot day in both the dry & wet season.

Xiang Liap Cave

Xieng Liap Cave

Dur­ing the dry sea­son park near the school (down a dirt road on the right (South), just after the bridge) and walk through the for­est. The paths will split up. If you go to the left you will climb through a much small­er side entrance. This con­nects to the main part of the cave where you can swim or just enjoy the vast­ness of its large open­ing. Take the path on the right to enter the cave through its large, main entrance. If you’ve entered from the small side entrance, once inside, turn right and climb over the rocks to exit via the main entrance.

Xieng Liap can be vis­it­ed in both the wet and dry sea­sons. Dur­ing the wet sea­son hire a boat next to the bridge, to take you up the riv­er and through the cave. You can stop and swim in the cave (high­ly recommended).

The cave is not light, so bring a head­lamp if you have one. It is short so you can prob­a­bly man­age with­out a light if you enter and exit through the main entrance. If you go through the side entrance (path on the left) then you will need a light.

Xieng Liap Cave Thakhek Loop

Xieng Liap Cave Thakhek Loop

Get There:

If you’re dri­ving the Thakhek Loop it’s a quick easy stop on the first day. On Route 12, about 13–14 KM East of Thakhek, you will see a sign for the cave, just after the bridge, pull off on a dirt road (South. Right-hand side of the road if you’re com­ing from Thakhek). The cave is marked on Maps.me as “Entrance to Xieng Liap Cave”. If you see the sign for “The Falang” or “Green Climbers Home” then you’ve gone too far. There is a small school and a large place to park not far from the road. There might be a man charg­ing 5,000 kip (60 cents) to park, he might also try to charge 10,000 kip. I’m pret­ty sure there should­n’t be any fee, but 5,000 to park for peace of mind is rea­son­able. If you choose not to pay just park fur­ther from the school.

Xiang Liap Cave - Dry Season

Xieng Liap Cave — Dry Season

Fishing near the Cave:

There’s a small man-made lake next to the school where you might find locals fish­ing for their lunch.

Fisherman near Xiang Liap

Fish­er­man near Xieang Liap