Vientiene to Tham Kong Lo cave - in quickest possible time
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Mar 30, 2012 3:40 PM Last Post By: StillWithUs
May 2, 2009 12:57 PM
Vientiene to Tham Kong Lo cave - in quickest possible timeHello,
I would love to go to the Tham Kong Lo cave but I'm worried its going to take too much time out of my trip. I will be leaving from Vientiene and would need to return to Vientiene for onward transport. I need to do this trip in the shortest possible time, so what are the options? Is it possible to do the trip in 2 days if I leave early in the morning and return late at night on the next day? I am happy to spend a bit of money if it saves lots of time.
May 2, 2009 2:24 PM
1Day to get there.
Day to do the trip
Day to get back.
You might be able to consolidate the river trip and getting back the same day, but sawngtheaw/bus connections are not the most reliable and you'd get back mightly late.
I'd much reommend doing a homestay in Kong Lo, the little town at the exit of the cave. Pleasant, still very authentic. You can get from Kong Lo to Vientiane in a long day no problem, but you'll want to start first thing in the morning.
May 2, 2009 4:36 PM
2thanks for the reply. please can you provide more information on the boat. Does it go from Tham Kong lo to Vientiene? Is it a regular departure or does it depend on numbers? What does it cost?
Would it be too optimistic to leave Vientiene early on day one, visit the caves on day one, homestay at night and travel back day 2? Things that may influence your answers are I will be doing this mid-june (rains?) and 3 days before my return flight from Bangkok (if I get majorly delayed, possibly miss my flight)
May 3, 2009 1:39 AM
May 3, 2009 7:58 AM
4I think your best bet if you're eally determined and don't mind paying for it, is to contact one of those adventure travel agencies, such as Green Discovery, or a larger travel agency such as Deithelm or Exotissiomo, and they can set up your trip to Tham Kong Lo for you, but it will be expensive--certainly far more expensive than if you had the time to do it yourself. You might be able to do it for less by finding just a car/driver from a hotel or travel agency in Vientiane. It'll probably take at least 4 hours to drive one way, especially were you to leave in the early morning hours. I'll probably entail a roundtrip though you could also continue on the Thakhek and cross back into Thailand via ferry to Nakhon Phanom but it sounds like you've already booked a RT flight back from VTE. Green Discovery also has an office in Thakaek just a block from the town square.
It'd be very difficult to do on your own with just 2 days.
May 3, 2009 2:11 PM
May 3, 2009 2:54 PM
May 3, 2009 5:34 PM
May 4, 2009 1:08 AM
8Thanks for all the replies guys but I think I'm going to have to give this a miss because it just doesn't seem worth using 3 days of my time in Laos to see the caves for 2 hours, considering I only have about 12 days.
By the way, I e-mailed Green Discovery and they quoted $422 for 2 people, which is absolutely ridiculous!!
May 4, 2009 1:49 AM
May 4, 2009 9:00 AM
10Bus from Vte to the intersection with Hwy 8 (an hour or so past Paksan, and hour before Thakaek). Is a common stop.
Sawngtheaw will leave before very long to Ban Na Hin (takes about an hour). Easy half-day trip Vte to Ban Na Hin.
We stayed in Ban Na Hin for a couple days. There is Lao Tourist office there that is ok and we got good info there for a couple beautiful waterfall walks and info about getting transport to cave. No need for a guide at all (until you enter the cave, of course!). There are 3-4 guesthouses in Ban Na Hin; the sawngtheaw will drop you off whereever he gets the most payback!)
Vehicles for Kong Lo leave in the morning, and probably several other times a day as well. Driver will make sure you get to the spot where you will be met for the boat ride up the river thru a mountain (and back again). Homestay can be arranged right in Kong Lo, either when you arive or 4 hours later when you return. (Again, no need to pre-arrange). Bus leaves Kong Lo to Ban Na Hin at dawn (and there's another a couple hours later, we were told; should be able to easily get back to Vte that same day.
All transport is cheap, but not bottom line cheap. (perhaps r/t $40 total transport cost, $20 boat/$15 homestay (includes big dinner); $8 for the night at Ban Na Hin, and another $15 for all food save Beer Lao.
I would highly recommend the trip. The cave is only one part of the adventure (we walked in the grotto for an hour at the mid-way point - spent about 3.5 hour in the cave). It is the most other-worldly place I think I have ever been. Especially because it is still "off the main tourist grid."
Kong Lo is very sweet and interesting, and well worth the home-stay opportunity. .
But the trip is a 2-nighter (one in Ban Na Hin, the next in Kong Lo).
May 8, 2009 7:58 PM
11Following detailed info on how to do this (absolutely no need to book a tour or bother tourist offices !!):
1. From Vientiane
From Talat Sao (Morning Market) take city bus #2 for 2,000.00 Kip or a collectivo songthaew
5,000.00 Kip to the Southern bus terminal
From the Southern bus terminal (Lak Gao or Km. 9) to Nam Hin (aka Khoun Kham on some maps)
50,000.00 Kip, approx. 5 hrs. Final destination of bus usually Lak Xao.
2. From Thakhaek
From Sooksomboon Market songthaew dep. 0730 hrs to Nam Hin (and on to Lak Xao), 50,000.00 Kip,
From Nam Hin it is 45 km on a good surfaced road , 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, with songthaew, 25,000.00 Kip to Konglor Caves. 1 km from cave is a signed out home stay, 9 km from cave is the Auberge Sala Hinboun.
The Sala has special boat trips to the cave, or you can simply go to the cave and get your 100,000.00 Kip return ticket at the boat landing, no haggling.
Can it be done in a day? Maybe. But, once you are off the main Route # 13 in Laos, and in mountainous regions, you should always expect delays, especially on the rainy season. Apart from the standard Pakxe-Vientiane - Vang Falang-Luang Prabang itinerary, Laos does not lend itself to flash packing.
May 9, 2009 12:21 AM
12#11: Vang Falang
lol! as a Lao friend once said, Luang Prabang = Luang Falang. & don't forget Si Phan Falang ;)
May 16, 2009 3:55 AM
13Car with driver from Vientiane will get you to Khonglor by mid day. Visit cave afternoon. Homestay in Khonglor, just ask for homestay and you will be set up. (or go to the little guesthouse if you wish you own room with bath; head for the river going straight into the village, then head right along the river towards the school until you see a local house with a large bamboo hut in the garden. That's the gh with two rooms in the one storey bamboo house.).
Next morning take a boat downriver to Sala Hinboun, a mid range guesthouse about 2hrs down the river (there is another guesthouse with wooden bungalows nearby now, bit cheaper than Sala Hinboun, nice wooden bungalows along river with bath and hot shower). The river trips and the stunning scenery are exceptional, Khonglor/hinboun is way more than 'just a cave for two hours'. Return after lunch in Sala Hiboun to Vientiane.
No probs to do it with car and driver in two days, all roads sealed so no probs because of rain. A bit of a rush job but doable in two days. Leave at sunrise on day one, come back at sunset day 2.
(with public transport you will likely miss the last songtheaw from Nahin to Khonglor and likely wouldn't get there before 2-3pm in anycase, so 3 days needed).
Personally I would try to allocate 3-4 days out of the 12 you got and cut time elsewhere...the Hinboun/khonglor area is worth it.
Mar 30, 2012 1:30 AM
14I agree with some of the above-mentioned posts. Unless you're really short on time & have lots of extra pocket money, you don't need to take a guided trip through an agency in Vientiane...
We just visited Kong Lo Cave a couple weeks back one a 1-month trip through Laos from north to south, and it was a great nonstop-adventure most of the way through, although the main tourist trap spots (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Si Phan Don) could get a bit Spring-Break-y or overkill with hoards of other tourists distracting your from actually experiencing Laos countryside / people... Kong Lo we found to be somewhat of an exception, as the tiny town didn't actually have that many other foreigners around (still present, but not more than a dozen while we were there)...
In Vientiane, there were numerous travel agencies advertising bus tickets straight to Kong Lo (which we later found out might've been the best bet), but we decided to try to make it there 'on our own'.
Here's what we did:
- Got up absurdly early and walked to the Talat Sao (morning market) from our guesthouse to catch the earliest city bus to the Southern Bus Station (Dong Dok) @ 6:30 am, payed a couple thousand kip per person.
- From the Southern Bus Station we got on the 7am bus headed to Lak Sao, payed 70,000 kip to hop off @ Ban Na Hin. (~5 hrs)
- We arrived in Ban Na Hin around noon, where there were plenty of guest houses to stay, but we wanted to push on, hoping to catch an early afternoon sawngthaew truck to Kong Lo, but ended up waiting around that dusty town for hours.
- Around 4pm, the sawngthaew driver was finally ready to depart, and we drove through a scenic sort of valley between fields of green leading to jagged karst ridgelines, and arrived in Kong Lo about an hour later (fixed price of 25 kip per person).
- The driver sorted us out easily at a homestay (his own home), for some basic accommodation for the night (a curtained off portion of their open-aired living room, with some mattresses & blankets), a shared outhouse, and dinner & breakfast included (50 kip per person, per night).
There seemed to be plenty of families willing to put visitors up for homestays in town. The family we stayed with was nice enough, but it was not the most interactive homestay I've ever experienced (perhaps because their English skills were about as limited as my Lao language skills). But there was a nice river nearby which is great for a refreshing dip with the kiddos during the warm days.
We only stayed one night in Kong Lo (not much else to offer apart from the cave trip & wandering around). The cave itself is a couple kilometers away from the town, at the far end of a greenish lagoon. Starting from about 8-9 am, a couple of boat men from the cluster waiting around will take you into the cave via small motorboat (120,000 / 150,999 kip per 2-3 people includes entrance + boat fee), including a small walk about halfway into the 7.5 km dark waterway. With a short stop on the other side of the cave entrance, we were back within about an hour.
Bring your own headlamp / torch if you have one, but if not they can lend you one for the journey.
Be sure that the boatmen turn on the lights for you when you walk around inside the cave!!! (our boat guys didn't, the stalagmites/tites were still pretty impressive, but i think they would've been much moreso had the lights been on to illuminate everything).
Back in town we caught another sawngthaew to Ban Na Hin & onto the highway junction town (Vieng Kham?) for another 25,000 kip per person. There we waited until evening to catch one of the many overnighter buses onto Pakse. There were plenty of friendly roadside restaurants, but few spoke English, and most of them seemed to offer different advice / times for buses passing through onto Pakse. A little concerned that we might miss the last bus, we hopped onto a VIP bus around 6:30 pm, payed about 110,000 kip per person and arrived in Pakse confused & exhausted around 5am the next morning.
Perhaps it wasn't the smoothest sidetrip, and perhaps it might've been nice to have stayed around Ban Kong Lo for another night or two, but it was certainly an experience to remember!
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