Being in Laos seems like such a long time ago. So much has happened since. I’m working on my photo album and all these memories come back. Like the time I took a bus to Kong Lor cave. It took me a day to get there and a day to get back, but it was so worth it! On the bus were a few couples and a group of French girls. I was the only solo traveller. When I finally arrived I knocked on some doors to find accommodation. The first one was too expensive and as I walked out the door some other people just arrived and one of these unpredictable things happened.
“O… is this one full? one of the guys asked. I explained that I was going to look for another place because this one was too expensive for me. “I’ll share with you if you want.” a girl said, standing in the back. And so I joined these three strangers on a search for a nice room. We found a perfect place: cheap rooms, killer views and clean. I shared a room with the American girl, and the two guys each got their own room. Suddenly I was part of a group and we all had dinner together in the guesthouse’s restaurant. The fresh spring rolls were divine and the Lao Lao, rice wine, was well… doing its job.
The next morning we all had breakfast and I went to the cave on the back of my new friend’s motorbike. Apart from the cave there is not much to do, but I’d found out I was probably not going to make it out of town that same day anyway. I had all the time in the world. Kong Lor was a pleasant town to be in. It really is as if time stands still there. Coming here was worth it, for the cave, the company and for the small town experience.
The cave is 7km long and you can only visit it per boat. It turned out each boat fits 3 people and we were now four. I saw a young couple approaching and we decided to share two boats together. We got a head torch and a life vest and followed our guides to the entrance. There, we saw many long, small motorboats, each with three simple wooden seats. Let the adventure begin!
Our boat was always first, leading into the darkness. Our captain zoomed past obstacles and avoided low water. His light was slightly stronger than ours and was constantly scanning the water ahead. It was pitch black inside and because of the dry season the water was very low. But our guy knew this cave well. After a few minutes we could get out. There was a short walk past stalactites and rock formation that were lit up in green, blue and red. But the really interesting part started when we got back into the boat.
You don’t really visit this cave for the rocks. You go for the excitement, like you go on a ride in an amusement park. It is an incredible experience. You enter a big, long, dark tunnel. We all have lights, but you barely see a thing. You can shine at the walls and ceilings of the cave, while you race over the water. The captain’s light creates shadows on the walls, but as soon as you see them, they disappear again. It’s like there are others in the cave, people who are walking without lights.
Our lights shine from left to right. The water’s surface is completely even, apart from where our boat goes. The rock walls reflect in the water and create an illusion. It is like there is no water and we are flying through the cave like Aladin. My magic carpet races further, avoiding rocks. The speed creates a wind that plays with my hair. Only the sound of our boat’s engine brings me back to reality. No ride can beat this optical illusion.
Because the water in the cave is so low, the locals have put sandbags inside, to create little dams that guide us further. Our boatman accelerates and we fly through another one. There is one place where we have to get out of the boat and walk a little bit. We can already see the end of the tunnel. When we get out we enter a big river, greenery on both sides, that leads to a small village. The villagers have created some bars and are selling their weaving souvenirs. After a short break we get back in the boat for the way home.
Within no time we are back in the blackness of the cave. For a second we all turn off our lights and I don’t even see the person in front of me. Up and down disappear until I snap my light back on. We race through the shadow play, like I’m in a science fiction movie on some different planet. Water drips down and I suddenly realise there is a massive mountain overhead. I’m in the middle of it. This tunnel took hundreds of years to form and is still changing. I see a tree trunk that looks like it is stutting something. It’s holding the weight of a mountain.
We fly again and I’m sad when we reach the lit up part. It means we’re almost out. Our boatman accelerates once again and we slow down so much, the rocks scraping against the bottom of the boat, that it seems we are not going to make it. But just before we stop, we hit deeper water and pick up speed again. Outside the sun is shining and we chill near the water. Everyone intended to leave Kong Lor that day, but we can’t. When our stomachs start rumbling we find a different restaurant and then book another night in the perfect guesthouse. Just my roommate makes it out that night. The boys and I go for some more food and Lao Lao. It gets better with every sip!