Monday 25th January
After some faffing about we learned that the songthaew to the Konglor caves left at 12. We then proceeded to make two mistakes:
1) we decided to have lunch when we arrived at the caves
2) we didn’t buy a jumper before leaving
It was still bloomin’ cold, and all we had were clothes suitable for the tropics. But we did our best: Eric was wearing a lot of tops and I was wrapped in two towels.
We turned up at 11.55 and saw a stall selling jumpers and hoodies. We said, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to…” and then it was too late, we had to get onto the open air songthaew (100,000 kip for 2 people to go there and back). Brr!
The journey was quite amusing and also a bit infuriating. It was forty minutes before we got going, as many odds and ends were loaded onto the vehicle, including laminated boards, bags of lettuce and a crate of ducklings. We then waited at a petrol station for another two buses to arrive and drop off more passengers, some local Laos people and some more farangs, also here to see the caves.
Ten minutes into the drive a pothole and a corner sent the enormous laminated boards flying off of the roof and into the road. Luckily there were no vehicles or people behind when it happened. The boards, now quite damaged, were put back onto the roof, and this time two girls handed over their backpacks (looking rather worried), which were used as weights to secure them. I felt sorry for those girls. Thankfully everything stayed on the roof after this point.
The road to the caves is really bad in parts, and by the time we arrived the relatively short journey had taken over 2 hours. We were pretty cold and feeling a bit grumpy about the whole thing to be honest.
Entrance to the park is 2000 kip, and then we paid a further 120,000 kip to be taken around the cave by boat (which is the only way to see it).
You put your things in a locker and are given a life jacket (mmm, so nice and warm!) a pair of flip flops and a head torch, and then are led away by your cap’n. There’s a maximum of 3 to a boat.
FYI, here’s a top down map of the caves. As you can see the river runs right through them.
The cave entrance.
As soon as we entered the cave we had a lovely blast of warm air. Warm at last! This also fogged up the camera lens right away.
We got into our boat and set off. This was a truly magical moment. Swallowed up by the warm air and the darkness, I could see via two beams of light the smooth expanse of dark water that we moved through and the cavern above us, rising and falling, dappled and sheer. On and on we went into the mountain. The roof of the cavern reached over 90 metres at some points – that’s taller than a cathedral. And it’s all dark, except for the light of your torches. It felt very surreal. (I tried to take a photo but it wasn’t happening.)
After a couple of kilometres we reached a “beach” area, where we walked through the sand to climb some stairs and take a look at some incredible stalactites and stalagmites. I hope I don’t sound like a pompous arse here, but they kind of reminded me of the Sagrada Familia’s towers in Barcelona.
Only blurry, foggy pictures unfortunately.
We continued by boat, passing odd-shaped rocks and more lonely cave beaches. At one shallow point the captains worked together to shift the boats over the rocks. The camera, which can’t handle the dark, went a bit arty.
We came out the other end of the 7 kilometre trail.
We stopped off at a place which sold food, but… we’d left our wallet in the locker. Oh well. I had a little wander around instead, while Eric watched the chickens.
Then back through the caves we went, soaking up the atmosphere (we saw some bats too).
By the time the songthaew had taken us back to Na Hin, it was 5.30, we were really cold, and had only eaten 6 Oreos each all day. We were feeling a bit rough!
I too was looking rather fashion forward.
We were cold, tired and hungry (mainly due to some poor decisions) but were the Konglor Caves worth it? Yes! One of the highlights of our trip.