LAOS 2024: KHAMMOUANE UPDATE – PART 3

What’s happening on the Thakhek Loop: This motorbike tour through Khammouane Province has been a favourite of Laos adventurers for quite a few years. The highlight attraction continues to be KONG LOR CAVE and the ROCK VIEWPOINT zip-line circuit which, over the past four years, has gained plenty of traction with loopers. Other favoured stops are the COLD SPRINGS (aka Cool Pool), along hwy # 8, and Cave Alley, along Hwy # 12.

Download your FREE interactive travel guide for the Thakhek Loop: HERE

The Cold Springs (aka Cool Pool) is a popular stop on the Thakhek Loop.

The loop circuit: The loop, which starts and ends in THAKHEK, normally goes in a counterclockwise direction: east along Hwy # 12; north on Hwy # 1E; west on Hwy # 8; then a 42 km detour down to Kong Lor Cave, on a dead-end road. After this the option of getting back to Thakhek gets a bit clouded. A lot of loopers, through advice from motorbike rental agencies in Thakhek, return the way they came (back on Hwy’s 8,1E, and 12). For the really adventurous, there’s the option of taking your motorbikes through Kong Lor Cave and riding the 52 km of dirt road back up to the NAKAI PLATEAU (hwy # 1E). Many loopers get told to avoid Hwy # 13 (the main route to Vientiane) due to the amount of heavy truck traffic and also because “there’s nothing to see.” The advice about truck traffic is quite correct but being told there’s nothing to see is plainly wrong.

An overview of the catchment area of the Nakai Plateau.

Getting off the beaten track: There is, in fact, a fantastic full day adventure just a few km down the road from the junction of Hwy # 8 and Hwy # 13. The SECRET VILLAGE, and THAM HUEP CAVE, are hidden gems which most loopers miss but need not, because the locations are clearly indicated on Google maps. There’s a couple of remote villages on the far side of a 300 meter high karst peak, and the only way of getting there is going through a one km long river cave. Note: The best way of seeing this attraction is to do a tour with GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS, from the ROCK VIEWPOINT. They can provide transport and an experienced, English speaking guide. The local guides at the village, at the start point, don’t speak English.

The down stream entrance to Tham Huep Cave.

Doing the tour: The start point for this tour is a village, next to a river, at the end of 30 km of dirt road which branches off Hwy # 13. If you’re making the tour with Green Discovery, they’ll organise the local guide and boat driver, once you arrive at the village. The first activity is a short river crossing followed by a two km trek to the cave entrance. The official name for this cave is Tham Huep and its approximately one km in length. This cave is a river passage which, in the dry season, the water level is low enough to pass through. Having said that, there’s still some thigh deep wading which needs to be done in the first two thirds of the cave. The local guides have installed white sandbags along the riverbed, as a safe trail to follow, as you’re working through the water filled areas. The back end of the cave rises into a dry section to the upstream entrance.

My tour guides at the start point for the secret village tour.

The Temple Village: After exiting Tham Huep Cave it’s a one km walk to the first village, simply known as the Temple Village. The only thing of note here is the large golden Buddha, which is on the temple grounds. The village is enshrouded in tree growth which, after four km of hiking, is a welcome relief. There’s a seating area in a shady spot which the guides will use for the lunch break.

The Golden Buddha at the Temple Village.

The Secret Village: This is a further 1.4 km past the Temple Village and, to be honest, it’s not as picturesque. Where the Temple Village has lots of trees providing a shady respite, the Secret Village is fully exposed to the sun. According to some of the villagers there, many of the trees were cut down as part of the development of the area. The 1.4 km hike is quite taxing simply because for much of it, you’re fully exposed to the midday day heat. For anyone considering doing the tour, pack a hat and sunblock. The most interesting aspect of the Secret Village is the resident Water Buffaloes. They are quite friendly fellows.

These Water Buffalos are friendly fellows.

Conclusion: The tour to the Secret Village, and the walk through Tham Huep Cave, is an excellent days outing and doing it with Green Discovery Laos is highly recommended. The total distance to walk is about 10 – 11 km but most of it is flat going and not difficult.

THE SECRET VILLAGE ADVENTURE VIDEO

Safe travels,

Mega.

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