Thakhek Loop

I Continue From Here – Pakse (The Bolaven Plateau Loop)

Backpacking Laos: Day 008 (14-Feb-2020) & Day 009 (15-Feb-2020), Day 010 (16-Feb,2020)

Thakhek Loop

I boarded a night bus to Vientiane. I had to get-off at Thakhek at around 1AM in the night. Thankfully, the driver woke me up when the stop arrived. As I got off the bus, there was a tuk-tuk that was offering travellers a ride to the town which is about 3 km from the highway, where buses stop. I boarded the tuk-tuk along with the others. Apart from the driver, there was a lady who told me that if I were to choose to stay at their guesthouse (KGB Guesthouse) this ride would be free. I agreed. 


Since there were no travellers in my room, I got a full room for myself. 


There are not many hostels in Thakhek. So, it is advisable to book one if it is a peak tourist season. You can rent a bike at Wang Wang bike rentals or Mad monkey motorcycle. You can also stay at Bike and Bed hostel. They rent bikes too. 


I took an early morning walk around the town. I saw a group of young Buddhist monks walk along a street chanting some prayers. Many stepped out of their homes to offer alms. 

I booked a semi-automatic bike for the trip at Wang Wang bike rentals that is located right below the guesthouse I was staying in. At the breakfast table, I met Ryan from Canada and a French-Spanish couple. We decided to ride together. 


At around 9AM, we tied our bags to the back of the bikes and set off on a 3-day bike loop around Thakhek. The hostel had given us a map which I barely saw. The French-Spanish couple seemed to have studied the route well, so Ryan and I just followed them.

As soon as we left the city limits, we were welcomed by the karsts. Hidden deep inside these karsts are caves. On the first day of this loop, we had several karsts on the map. 


We decided to visit one on the way - Pha Nya cave. What an incredible place this is. We went deep into the cave and got down to the pool. We sat by the still water for a while. Some travellers chose to swim in it. 

We chose to skip the other caves and headed directly to Song Sou Waterfall. The actual waterfall is far away in the jungle. Most travellers were assembled around the pool created half a mile from the main waterfall. I chose to trek all the way up there. The trail is not defined and you have to find your way up the rocks. It is difficult and slightly risky too. When I reached the waterfall, I was the only one there. I enjoyed a good shower under the waterfall. 

On my way back, I met a few other travellers trying to reach the waterfall. I directed them and headed back to my friends. 

Next, we drove to the village of Thalang. At Thalang, there are only two guesthouses – Phosy Thalang Guesthouse and Sabidee guesthouse. While Ryan chose to stay at Sabaidee, I stayed at Phosy. We decided to meet the next morning. The cottages at Phosy were full, so they offered us a stay at their other property in the village. I must say that this place is amazing. 

Here, I met Florian from France. We walked to the bridge to view the sunset. Back at the guesthouse, Flo and I were joined by a Vietnamese traveller whose name I now forget. I think he introduced himself as Don. Over a few drinks, we discussed a lot of things. It was one of the best moments of this trip. We laughed at the silliest of silliest things. Don had a lot of funny stories to share. He was bicycling from Vietnam to Laos. Flo, Don and I were heading in the opposite directions, so we all decided to meet again at Thakhek.


Next morning (15-Feb), I woke up early and decided ot take a walk. I went to Thalang lake and the view there was surreal. I watched a pleasant sunrise at the placid lake. The village of Thalang is undoubtedly my favourite place in Laos. I was joined by the dogs from our guesthouse. 


Our dormitory is situated in the village. Our neighbours were locals. They were busy repairing a boat. The kids seemed amused by my presence. I enjoyed watching them and interacting them through sign languages. 


Most guesthouses offer free breakfast. Flo and I ate at Phosy, by the bridge. When Ryan came by, we decided to leave and continue our loop. 

We drove to Dragon cave. The cave was empty. The cave formations are beautiful. 

The trail is such that you walk for about 1km and then head back the same way. But at the end, we saw some people try to find a different exit. They climbed up a path along the rocks and exited at the jungle. We assumed that the trail through the jungle would lead us back to the entrance. Among the group were a Belgian couple. I enjoyed speaking to them in French.

Apparently, this is a kilometre long trek through the jungle from the entrance to the rear end of the cave. 

Next stop – Cool pool. The drive to Cool pool is brilliant. This is a good picnic spot for locals. They come as family and cook food and stay all day. The turquoise water was welcoming. But I chose to sit and sketch. 

From here, we headed to Konglor. What an incredible ride this was. Most of the interior roads in Laos are not paved. Crossing a few wooden bridges seemed a bit risky but it was great fun. 


At Konglar, we booked a dorm bed at Phounsouk Guesthouse. The owner was super nice. The house was brand new and therefore very clean. It is located in the village, 2km from the cave. 


The setting at Konglar village is idyllic. There is the village and monastery on one side, Tobacco fields and hills on the other.  


Next day (Feb 16th), after breakfast, we rode to the Konglor caves. Here we had to book a boat ride. This was one of the longest boat rides through a cave that I have ever taken. It was about 7.5km long. The boatmen are skilled. Places were the water ran shallow, they helped each other by dragging the boat. Along the way, we stopped at various places to view the limestone formations. 


At the end of the cave is Natan village. We could have explored the village by foot or by a bicycle but we chose not to. We stayed there for a while and headed back. 


Once we reached the Guesthouse, we packed and left almost immediately. We took the highway back to Thakhek. On our way, we stopped at Limestone forest viewpoint and watched a few locals zip-line across the forest. 


Back at Thakhek, I met Flo and Don. We picked a good restaurant by the Mekong river and sat there chatting, rolling and drinking till late night. On the other side of Mekong river is Thailand. A few other French friends of Flo joined us. We stayed there till maybe 1 AM. 


Ryan and I took a late night bus to Vang Vieng. We had to change buses at Vientiane.


For all the details on this loop, please check out my guide  - Thakhek Loop