Konglor Cave, underground river adventure!

Our crazy road trip around Thailand and Laos on a tricycle (saleng).
  • Saleng expedition #48
  • Na hin
  • 86 km / 53 miles
To be honest, the Thekhek Loop wasn't planned in our trip and neither was visiting the Konglor Cave even though they are both marked as highlights of Laos. At the Konglor Cave in Khammouane a go and return 7,5 KM / 5 miles motorized boat (sort of kayak) underground river tour is on offer. In between the rides there is a break on the other side of the mountain close to visit a local village. Package tours with transportation, food and an English speaking guide are offered with prices over 100 dollars, depending on your pick-up location of course. After seeing many caves and doing many organized package tours I'm very skeptic about spending more money and time than necessary. The tight schedules, cramped minivans, pick-up/drop-off time waste, other tourists that slow me down or speed me up during my trip, too long or short explanations from a guide and all the commission stops in between for double or higher prices are just not worth it for me. The more I travel the less I enjoy those kind of trips. If you visit a natural wonder but tourism has taken it's not that 'natural' anymore and looses my interest. That is why I skipped the St Paul's Subterranean River National Park in The Philippines. It was impossible to organize the trip for a fair price yourself, offering only day-trips of waiting and queuing while the actual underground river cruise takes about one hour only. This time things worked out the other way!

Driving from Na Hin to the Konglor cave.

Na Hin to the Konglor cave.

We had our own transportation/the saleng, waited for some sort of good weather (I bought gloves!), had breakfast at our own pace in Na Hin, worked online for a while and just drove to Khammouane. Easy! Ok, it was 43 KM / 27 miles one way over dirt roads with a bit of rain but the views are quite scenic. It took us about 1,5 hour to get there. You just drive through town until you see the entrance gate. We paid 9.000 KIP to enter with two persons and the saleng.

Finding our guide in the Konglor cave.

We had to wake up a guide and pay for a guided boat tour, 120.000 KIP. Two headlights, flip-flops, a locker and life-jackets were included. There were no other tourists, probably because of the cold weather the past few days. The guide (no English) signaled us to follow him, he walked down the stairs and over the bamboo bridge while we were taking pictures of the beautiful lake in front. As soon as we turned around we lost him. Having no clue where to go, other than just entering the cave without guide, we followed the water and encountered some other tourists on their return. Our guide was waiting for us at the far end of the beginning of the cave, in the dark :)

The Konglor cave adventure!

As soon as we took off with the boat, it went pitch black. Since the weather was bad for the last few days the temperature change wasn't noticeable. The little headlights gave a small beam, not enough to see the beauty of the cave. It was more like being in a haunted house than a natural wonder. SCARY! Further and further down the cave we went without any visual reference. At a certain point the guide pulled the boat to the side telling us to get "off". Hmmmmm. Luckily he went out of the boat as well, he turned on 'lights'. Powered with electricity the light lit up a beautiful part of the cave with a walking path right through it. When we started walked over the path and taking pictures we lost our our guide out of sight (again)... He switched of a part of the lights and we heard the engine of the boat running again. Hoping that he would pick us up on the other side we continued walking towards the light. With all the echoeing in the cave we had no idea if our guide was going in our direction, but yes - he was! He arrived from the other side, picked us up and turned off the other part of the lights - completely dark again!
After about one hour we saw daylight again! Yeah! Time to see the local village!

The village on the other side of the Konglor cave.

While climbing up we saw 'the village', looking like a festival area on a rainy day. Some stalls to buy junk food and drinks, some wet tables and chairs with plastic covers above, a point to buy original souvenirs and a how they make them - weaving. The people were lovely and the woven products were amazing, but it had nothing to do with a local village, it was commercial. I hope this was just a rainy day experience and the real village lays behind this 'front-show'.

After 10 minutes it was time to go back through the cave. We saw the same thing: Nothing! It was completely dark again! Still the experience is amazing, don't get me wrong! It's a good thing the whole cave is not lit permanently and I did NOT miss a guide explaining all about the formation of stalactites and stalagmites. It's beautiful and it's not crowded, we encountered two other boats and about ten tourists in total - perfect! Actually it was comfortable seeing other lights/another boat in the cave knowing we were (probably) going in the right direction.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset while driving home with the saleng.

Some tips:
  • Bringing a proper torch if you want to see something, even thought it takes a bit of the thrill out of the adventure;
  • Make sure you can roll your trousers up to your knees (if you don't wear shorts) since you need to walk to your kayak through the water here and there;
  • Have lunch before you go, in town there are many guest houses and a few restaurants offering Lao food.

This is part 2 of the Thakhek Loop with saleng.

Click here part 1 of the Thakhek Loop with saleng!

Click here part 3 of the Thakhek Loop with saleng!

To be continued, stay tuned!

  • 4420 km / 2746 miles done total
  • 1580 km / 982 miles to go
  • 68 days done
  • 24 days to go
  • 34 provinces crossed
  • 11 provinces to go

Phuket - Phang Nga - Ranong - Chumphon - Prachuap Khiri Khan - Phetchaburi - Ratchaburi - Kanchanaburi - Suphanburi - Ayutthaya - Lopburi - Singburi - Chainat - Uthai Thani - Nakhon Sawan - Phichit - Phitsanulok - Sukhothai - Uttaradit - Phrae - Lampang - Lamphun - Chiang Mai - Mae Hong Son - Chiang Rai - Bokeo - Luang Namtha - Udomxai - Luang Prabang - Vientiane (khwaeng) - Vientiane (prefecture) - Kamphaeng Nakhon Wieng Chan - Bolikhamsai - Khammuan - Nakhon Phanom - Mukdahan - Kalasin - Roi Et - Maha Sarakham - Buriram - Nakhon Ratchasima - Nakhon Nayok - Pathum Thani - Nonthaburi - Bangkok

Saleng expedition, intro
Phuket Town to Laem Phrao, and we're off! (Saleng 1)
Laem Phrao to Khao Lak, the Dutch bobsled team! (Saleng 2)
Khao Lak to Praphat, thumbs up! (Saleng 3)
Praphat to Ko Phayam, saleng on board! (Saleng 4)
Ko Phayam, time to relax! (Saleng 5)
Ko Phayam to Ranong, hot springs & Loy Krathong! (Saleng 6)
Ranong to Thung Wua Laen (Chumphon), coast to coast! (Saleng 7)
Thung Wua Laen (Chumphon) to Bang Boet Bay, scenic route! (Saleng 8)
Bang Boet Bay to Thap Sakae, we have a problem! (Saleng 9)
Thap Sakae to Prachuap Khiri Khan, aircrafts crossing! (Saleng 10)
Prachuap Khiri Khan to Hua Hin, snakes and dead end roads! (Saleng 11)
Hua Hin, we need business cards! (Saleng 12)
Hua Hin to Petchaburi, visiting a tropical vine yard! (Saleng 13)
Petchaburi, amazing cave temple and aggressive monkeys! (Saleng 14)
Petchaburi to Kanchanaburi, discovering the walking directions of Google Maps! (Saleng 15)
Kanchanaburi, King's Day & Light & Sound Festival 2015 (Bridge over the river Kwae)! (Saleng 16)
Kanchanaburi, Bridge Over The River Kwae! (Saleng 17)
Kanchanaburi to Ayutthaya, being the attraction and escort service! (Saleng 18)
Ayutthaya, writing Thai and some cultural differences! (Saleng 19)
Ayutthaya, ruins, strange tuk-tuks and Christmas time! (Saleng 20)
Ayutthaya to Lopburi, going Dutch! (Saleng 21)
Lopburi, bikers in monkey town! (Saleng 22)
Lopburi to Pho Prathap Chang, why didn't we get a car? (Saleng 23)
Pho Prathap Chang to Sukhothai, HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY Birthday! (Saleng 24)
Sukhothai, saleng at UNESCO World Heritage site! (Saleng 25)
Sukhothai to Phrae, we're not the slowest! (Saleng 26)
Phrae, think big! (Saleng 27)
Phrae to Lampang, 2000 km done! (Saleng 28)
Lampang, ladies not allowed! (Saleng 29)
Lampang to San Kamphaeng, visiting an elephant hospital! (Saleng 30)
San Kamphaeng to Chiang Mai, we made it before Christmas! (Saleng 31)
Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son, Christmas time in the tropics! (Saleng 32)
Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son loop with saleng! (Saleng 33)
Muay Thai in Chiang Mai! (Saleng 34)
Countdown party 2016 in Chiang Rai! (Saleng 35)
Saleng to Mae Salong, the little engine that could! (Saleng 36)
Mae Salong to Chiang Khong, opium at the Golden Triangle! (Saleng 37)
Border crossing with saleng, we're in Laos! (Saleng 38)
Luang Namtha outdoor adventures! (Saleng 39)
It's too cold in the tropics! (Saleng 40)
Off the beaten track! (Saleng 41)
Relaxing in Luang Prabang! (Saleng 42)
Peak performance: Saleng at 1900 meters /6233 feet! (Saleng 43)
Tubing in Vang Vieng! (44)
Eating dust while reaching 4000 KM / 2485 miles! (Saleng 45)
Fixing the bike, one more time! (Saleng 46)
Reaching base camp, Thakhek loop with extreme cold weather! (Saleng 47)
Konglor Cave, underground river adventure! (Saleng 48)
Finishing the Thakhek Loop with the saleng! (Saleng 49)
Relaxing in Thakhek! (Saleng 50)
Border crossing with an unidentified object! (Saleng 51)
Farang in Isaan! (Saleng 52)
Reaching 5000 KM / 3107 miles around Roi Et! (Saleng 53)
Tree hugging and Khmer temples in Phimai! (Saleng 54)
Tasting new latitude wines in Khao Yai! (Saleng 55)
Cruising through Khao Yai National Park with the saleng! (Saleng 56)
We made it to Bangkok! The final chapter! (Saleng 57)
SOLD the saleng! (Saleng 58)

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