Vientiane and Kong Lor

More epic bus journeys to Vientiane and Kong Lor.

We read so much about Vientiane being one of the least attractive capitals in SE Asia. Not so. We find Vientiane a lively place to visit.

The monastery next door

This is the rest area of our hotel.


We visit the Laos Military Museum, but it’s closed because of a national holiday.

Maria is inspired by the heroes of the people’s struggle

A MIG jet fighter – From Russia , with Love.

I’m a lover, not a fighter.

We visit the Gate of Victory. There is a possibly apocryphal story about this concrete monstrosity. It goes something like:

‘The monument was built using American funds and cement actually intended to build a new airport. The Royal Laotian Government instead built the monument, which earned it the nickname of the “vertical runway”‘


The Vertical Runway

Still, you get a great view from the top.

Les Champs Elysées, Asian-style

The next day, we make our way to Kong Lo cave.  We get a tuk-tuk to the bus station, catch a bus at 10:00 AM that – in theory – arrives in Kong Lo village in five hours. Of course, after seven hours, we are dropped off at a bridge too narrow for the bus to go through and left to take another tuk-tuk an additional 40 kilometers to Kong Lo village, where we arrive in the dark. Such is travel in Laos.

We stay at the delightful Chantha House hotel.

Breakfast at the Chantha House

Kong Lo village in the daylight is breathtaking. The aforementioned bridge means that life beyond it goes back to a pre-industrial idyll. No noisy trucks or construction debris everywhere. It’s quiet. So quiet, the friggin’ roosters wake me up well before dawn. Surrounded by mountains.

We’re here to visit the Kong Lo cave (various spellings – to repeat, transliteration of Asian place names is very free-and-easy).

A Lao silo

Actually, I think this is a primitive kind of tobacco kiln. We asked our hotel guy what were the small green shoots that people were planting in the surrounding fields and were told ‘tobacco’.

On the way to the cave. The Kong Lo cave features a river running over seven kilometres under the mountains. You travel through in a narrow motorized longboat and pray that the boatman remembers his twists and turns correctly.

Time for a rest

This is the mouth of the cave on the Kong Lo side.

Inside the entrance, you board one of these narrow longboats.

Inside the cave – at one point, we are let off the boat to walk a few hundred metres along a path. When you turn your headlamp off, it’s really dark. We’re talkin’ Stygian darkness here.

StalCtites from the Ceiling, stalaGmites from the Ground

…and seven KMs later, out the other side.

Buffalo crossing

This side of the cave is even more untouched.

Approaching the Ban Natane landing

The nearest village is Ban Natane, two kilometres away. We start down the road to stretch our legs…

The road to Ban Natane

…for about a kilometre…

The road to Ban Natane

…and back again.

Back down the river to the Ban Natane entrance.

Hills on the Ban Natane side

Approaching the Ban Natane mouth of the cave.

At last, back safe on the Kong Lo side.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Of course Maria, being a water baby, must take a dip in the Hin Bun river.

Hot day, cool river

We thought getting to Kong Lo village was a challenge. To leave and go south – our plan – means sitting in the back of a crammed tuk-tuk for a gruelling five hours to Tha Khaek, then catching a (thankfully full-sized) bus for the seven-hour trip to Pakse.

As I’m fond of saying to Maria, ‘Gee, I wouldn’t want to be doing this if we were old’.

Sight or Insight of the Day – Vientiane and Kong Lor

Remember the dog we called the cutest dog in Myanmar? This guy is a contender for the cutest dog in Laos.

You can call me Mr. Scruffs