When I arrived in Vientiane with about 1 hour delay I was a bit better informed than last time and took the bus to the city instead of a cab (15000 instead of 57000 Kip). They have several stops so you don´t need to walk far to anywhere in the city center. I checked in, organized my bus and accommodation in Kong Lor for the next day, got some supplies and tried to get cash (took 8 ATMs until I finally got money this time!).
In the evening I met Hooman again. He was still in Vientiane waiting for a visa. We had dinner and a drink and he also helped me to open my laptop. I disconnected the battery and put it back together and my laptop was working again. Tada! The next morning I got picked up at 9 am and transferred to a really nice looking bus.
The last 35 km we had to take a tuktuk since the bridges were too small for buses. That took another hour. At 5:30 pm we finally arrived. I had met Andreas (Switzerland) and Edward (Malta) in the bus and we agreed on sharing a boat to explore the cave the next day. I checked into my room (no dorms there unfortunately) and when I just went downstairs Edward walked in asking for a room. He didn´t have a reservation and all the other places he tried so far where full already. So was the Chanta House. But the room was anyway too expensive for me alone and with two separate beds, so I offered him to stay in my room and we shared the costs. Win win for both of us. We walked around the village a bit and had dinner in a place called Eco Lodge or something like that. I slept very well. The next morning after breakfast Edward and I walked about 2 km to the River Spring Resort where Andreas stayed. That resort is owned by a Swiss and the prices are accordingly high. We had booked a boat trip to the Kong Lor cave from there. Since it was dry season the water level of the river was very low, but our driver was very skilled and he maneuvered the boat through all the shoals, around rocks and trees and water buffaloes very professionally.
We payed together 150000 Kip both ways. When we arrived at the cave we got another boat to go through the cave. It was another 130000 Kip and you can go with max 3 people. The Kong Lor Cave is a karst limestone cave in the Phu Hin Bun National Park. It is 7 km long and cited as one of Southeast Asia´s geological wonders. Most of the time it is pitch black in the cave and I was quite in awe how skilled and fast the boat drivers go through there with only a strong headlamp to show them the way.
Once we got off the boat for an area that was lighted to see some drip stones – the biggest I have ever seen!
And twice we had to get off the boat, once because it got too shallow and once for some rapids. Driving out of the cave was quite spectacular.
You can see the video on my youtube channel: https://youtu.be/9_l2saHknmw. At the other end we got dropped at some rather unremarkable area with lots of stands selling goods – a very touristy place and also not exactly inviting for a swim. There were some cute kitties though.
After a while we drove back,
had a swim in front of the cave
and took the boat back to the resort. There we had a drink and then walked back into the village together to have some lunch (in the resort the prices are way too high).
Once back to the hostel I had a short nap, a shower, packed my stuff and secured my pictures. I wrote my journal and worked on my blog and went to bed. The next morning we got picked up at 7:30 by a very full sorngtaaou for the first leg of the drive to Pakse.
We drove about 5 hours and it so full that I preferred standing in the back for about half the time.
We changed the sorngtaaou once at the place where we had to change from bus to sorngtaaou on our way to Kong Lor and that was also the only opportunity to quickly disappear behind some bushes.
In Thakhek I had to decide if I wanted to go to Savannaket or all the way to Pakse. Since there was just a bus leaving to Pakse for 60000 Kip (~6€), I decided to take that. I rather had one very long day of traveling than two days in a row with a bit shorter travel. I was really looking forward to a backrest, but I wasn´t lucky. The bus was completely overbooked and there were not enough seats for everyone. They put some plastic stools in the aisle and I had to sit on one of these. No chance to lean on anything and a very unstable setup too. The whole aisle was full with people on those stools plus people sitting and standing on the stairs and such.
After a couple of hours part of the crowd heading to another destination had to change bus and I finally had a chance to sit on a proper seat. The staff was not exactly great at communicating. They never said a word in English when they stopped, like if this is just another quick stop to let people in or out, for the driver to smoke or whatnot or if it was actually a proper break with time to get some food or going to the toilet. So I only had snacks all day until we finally arrived in Pakse at 7 pm. What a day! But you arrive somehow…
Kong Lor is really beautiful and relaxed. Another way to see it is to take a bus directly to Thakhek from Vientiane, rent a motorbike and do the 4 to 5 day motorbike loop there. You also pass Kong Lor on this loop and can stay there a night or two. I originally had intended to do that together with Hooman, but he couldn´t leave Vientiane due to his visa and I didn´t want to do the loop on my own. I really wanted to see Kong Lor though, so I decided to go there directly and skip the loop. It was a lot longer travel like that due to bad road conditions, but still worth it.