Visiting the Kong Lor Cave in Ban Kong Lor, Laos
Well it is much more as a cave, it is a river that cuts 7km long thru an mountain and goes to an valley only accessible by this river. Well once the river is in the valley the water has to go somewhere so this slogan is a bit not real. It is an bit long way to get there as Ban Kong Lor is in a valley surrounded by mountains and the only way out is going back or the river that goes into the cave.
The entrance of the all park where the cave is, is about 1km after the village. You will see an restaurant on your left hand and there is an entrance gate. Here you have to pay entrance fee for the park at 5000kip pp. Then you continue on an dusty sand track to the parking, where of course are again some small restaurants. And here is an ticket office where you pay for an boat (canoe) and 2 guides (max. 3 pax).
Be aware of the fact that the canoe is not waterproof so there is always a bit water in the canoe and your cloths will get a bit wet & dirty. Also you will have to get in & out of the canoe a few times and you will need to walk in the water then. So better wear an short trouser and slippers. At the ticket office you will get and life-jacket (handy because it will get cool in the cave) and you can rent slippers and/or and light (handy as the cave has no light) for 5000kip per item.
At the moment (November 2012) they are building an stone wall along the river and there is no easy & safe way to get down to the river to get into the canoe. You will have to climb down over the stones about 5m and then walk an stair for another 5m down. Then you will get into an canoe (walk in water) and get to the other side of the river.
Then you will have to walk about 200m to the entrance of the cave where you enter another canoe (there is an small rapid at the entrance of the cave). Then the journey into the mountain begins. And that is where my first disappointment did also begin, as there is NO light at this part of the cave. So you are sitting in you canoe and it is pitch dark. Without the lights of the guides and yourself you would not see anything. Not even your own hands. The river is at some places about 30m wide and the cave (or tunnel) is at some places about 20m high.
After a short canoe ride you have to get out of the canoe and walk over an path with stairs into the main cave with stalagmites. Here there should have been light, but "just today there was no electric". Yeah, right! Check that before leaving! You walk for about 500m and then you will have to get into your canoe again. Depending on how many people are in the boat and the water level you might have to get out of the boat 1 or 2 times to cross some small rapids.
The boat ride continues and after about 30min you can see day light again ....Thank God we made it! This is were the river exits the mountain and you go for about 10minutes thru a beautiful tropical jungle.
Then the canoe stops and at landing place where you can have a rest, drink something and if you are in the mood walk to another small village (about 1km). You could even stay here overnight at an "Home Stay". You have about 1hr to rest or explorer the area and then the canoe will bring you back where you came from .... same way via the cave. Well not exactly the same way, as on the way back you do not walk thru the main cave but take the river around it.
BTW There are about 6 guesthouses in the village and in the afternoon the bus from Vientiane arrives full with tourists looking for a place to sleep .... I am not sure if they all did find a place to sleep.
We did stay overnight in Ban Kong Lor at "Chanta Guesthouse & Restaurant". The village is actually an nice place and the mornings are very beautiful. Wake up early, very early! The visit here was part of a motorbike trip in Central Laos. For more about the cave see KhongLor