I hit the road early on the public bus which took about 2 hrs to get to Vang Kham where I was dropped on the side of the road. From here it was still another 60km west. As I was walking down the road I ran into a Dutch couple with two small girls who were heading the in the same direction so I waited with them. 30 mins later a Jumbo (small open style bus, large Tuk-tuk) rocked up that was heading in our direction. We all piled in with the locals and it was pretty packed, just before we were about to head off another group of foreigners got off a bus who were also looking to head to the cave. We squeezed them in and we were on our way.
I ended up spending almost the rest of my time in Laos with the crew who had just gotten off the bus. Four young Australians, a was Frenchman and Swiss girl. It was pretty scenic ride and once we were there the aussie boys ended up negotiating a good price for the ride. After some lunch we headed down to where the tours ran from. Between us we had two boats of 2 and a boat of 3. We walked down towards the small lake which was dominated by the limestone mountains above. The river flowed from within the mountain and that is where we were heading.
We walked in through the side of the cave into a cavern next to where the river flowed. After about 50m we couldn’t see a thing. We bordered the boats and headed off into the dark depths of the cave.
The cave was absolutely massive. The roof of the cave at times reaches 100m from the water, it seems like the mountain is almost be hollow. After about 10 mins we pulled up and from here we went on foot for about 20mins. Through this part of the cave there were plenty of stalactites and stalagmites and other cave formations. They had blue, orange and green lights projecting up onto the walls and features. At one point there were stairs that went down for a few flights and then into the water – This section reminded me of the dwarf mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings and I was waiting for my Elvish sword to turn blue when the Orks were approaching or to catch a glimpse of Gollum scaling the side of the walls.
We then boarded the boats again to go deeper into the cave. The cave was rarely less than 10m’s wide and always extremely high. Given it is the dry season at times we ran aground and we would have to get out and push the boat along. After about 20 mins there was some light in the distance, the cave then opened up and we had come through to the other side of the mountain. It was then a 40min boat ride back through the cave.
Now we had to get back… After talking to the few people that we could find around the small restaurant and some heavy negotiating by the boys we managed to get a minivan ride back to the main road from where we could then hail a bus on its way to Vientiane. About 15mins after getting to the highway a bus turned the corner, we hailed it, jumped on, and we got into Vientiane at about midnight. Getting in so late wasn’t necessarily the best thing as all the guesthouses seemed to be full and it wasn’t until about 2.30am that we finally found somewhere and got to bed. I spent the next day exploring the capital, Vientiane.