LAOS 2024: KHAMMOUANE UPDATE – PART 4

Further caving adventures: Just 10 km up the road from Kong Lor (back towards Na Hin) is another large river cave. NAM NONE CAVE isn’t a standard stop on the Thakhek Loop. Most loopers fly right past it, even though it’s massive entrance is visible from Kong Lor Road. The turn off is at Nam None Village. However, apart from a small blue sign, there’s very little to indicate there’s large cave entrance along the Karst cliff line. There’s no infrastructure for tourism here and the local guides speak no English.

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The down stream entrance to Nam None Cave.

Nam None Cave Tour: The best way of making a trip into this massive natural tunnel, is on an organised outing with GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS from their adventure base at the ROCK VIEWPOINT. Taking a trip into this cave is a challenging undertaking. There’s a combination of trekking, swimming, and climbing to go four to five km into the cave. The internal volume is bigger than Kong Lor Cave and rumors are it’s over 16 km long. The guides at Nam None Village have never been right through it, and nobody actually knows how long it is. The standard tour (the one I did) takes you 4.4 km into the cave and involves a good deal of wading and swimming. It’s a great adventure but, in the interests of safety, it needs to be done with experienced and knowledgeable local guides.

NAM NONE CAVE VIDEO

Deep inside Nam None Cave with experienced and knowledgable guides.

Na Hin Village: Once you come off the above-mentioned mountainous section, this is the turn-off point down to Kong Lor Cave. Most loopers tend to ride through Na Hin in their enthusiasm to get down to Kong Lor. If you decide to stay overnight a good accommodation choice is the SANHAK GUESTHOUSE.

Mid morning on the main street of Na Hin Village.

The Road From Na Hin to Thalang: This section of the Thakhek Loop Tour, which runs along Hwy’s 8 and 1E, has several interesting attractions. The most popular being the COLD SPRINGS and DRAGON CAVE, on Hwy 8, and the SANDSTONE BUDDHA CARVINGS, on Hwy 1E. Unfortunately, the 15 km section of mountainous road, between Na Hin and Ta Bak, was blocked for four months after a massive landslide during the wet season. Thankfully this section is now cleared, albeit with mounds of dirt and debris piled along the road in many places. Loopers should ride with care when using this section of the road.

The Sandstone Buddha carvings on Hwy 1E, on the Thakhek Loop.

The Bomb Boats: An interesting attraction, worth a few minutes of your time is on the Namkading River, next to Ta Bak Village. Pull over at the western end of the bridge and, below on the river, you’ll see the BOMB BOATS. According to informed sources these boats are actually constructed from auxiliary fuel tanks, from US Air-force planes, which were dropped after the fuel was used. They fuel tanks are much longer than the cluster bomb casings that are often seen in this area of Laos.

The Bomb Boats at the base of the Namkading River Bridge.

Karst Landscape: The terrain in Khammouane Province is significantly Karst (sedimentary limestone) and as such, has plenty of caves for exploration. A lot of the Karst on the loop circuit is in the shape of high jagged peaks, with dramatic vertical cliff faces. A good example of this is near the town of LAK SAO, where the road runs parallel to a dramatic cliff line for a few km.

This is the typical Karst landscape along Hwy # 8.

The Nakai Plateau: Lak Sao is where you turn off Hwy # 8 and head down to Thalang. The road eventually rises up onto the Nakai Plateau which features a huge water filled catchment, created by the building of the NAM THUEN DAM. Approximately 13 km north of Thalang Village is a popular stop for loopers known as the FLOODED FOREST VIEWPOINT. The road is elevated above the surrounding lake area which is filled with dead trees.

The Flooded Forest Viewpoint, approximately 13 km north of Thalang, on Hwy 1E.

Thalang (Donchalern Village): The picturesque village of Thalang is normally the first stop for people doing the THAKHEK LOOP TRIP (coming up from Thakhek). It sits on the edge of a large body of water (a lake) which was created when the Nam Thuen Dam was built. You’ll know you’re there because there’s a long bridge across the Nam Thuen River. There are two guesthouses in Thalang which are popular with Loopers: the SABAIDEE GUESTHOUSE and the POSY THALANG GUESTHOUSE. Most loopers will overnight in Thalang and do one of the highlights of a trip across the Nakai Plateau; THE SUNRISE TOUR. The sunrise tour is run by the guesthouses and takes you on a one hour loop out through the drowned world, just as the sun is pushing above the horizon. Additionally, the Posy Thalang Guesthouse is now offering 2 – 3 day hiking tours into the NAKAI NAM THUEN NATIONAL PARK, on the Eastern side of the dam.

The View from the Posey Thalang Guesthouse restaurant.

Safe travels,

Mega.

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