Incredible really is the word for the amazing Konglor Cave system, situated amongst the dramatic karst scenery of Hin Boun district in central Lao’s Khammouane Province.
Reminded of us of the spectacular scenery of northern Lao’s Vang Vieng but without all the tourists since mass tourism is fortunately yet to hit this remote part of the country.
Whilst the above-ground scenery is certainly something special and, as we may have mentioned before, we reckon the perfect backdrop for example for filming a Tolkien novel, the highlight of our two-day visit to the region was the fantastic Konglor Cave itself.
It’s primarily an underground river with several dry, chambers heading off to the sides, some of which can be explored during a trip up the river. The river is 7kms long during its underground section, flat and navigable for the entire length whereupon it eventually emerges into a picturesque hidden valley surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs.
Furthermore, the valley is actually inhabited with farms and several long-established villages – with the only practical way in and out being by said underground river!
We take around an hour to navigate the river by small motorized dugout canoes including a stop-off to check out the stalactites and stalagmites of the side chambers and then do a short hike through the picturesque valley to visit one of the villages. Being the only access route in the tunnel you’ll meet boats of locals off to market and even, on our last trip, in the middle of the tunnel, a Lao Beer delivery boat resupplying the village shop!
The valley landscapes are equally picturesque with their dramatic backdrops and we have never seen so many wild orchids as in the forest through which we hiked to reach the village. On our November visit, every branch of every tree was just laden with them – spectacular!
This exciting and highly unusual trip is part of our new Mekong Adventure, Vientiane to Phnom Penh, Lao and northern Cambodia tour for 2012.
The programme will include an overnight stay at the scenic riverside Sala Hin Boun Resort, a day’s exploration of the cave and valley before heading on to the nearby old French Mekong port of Thakaek for riverbank sundowners and our night’s accommodation.