If the Pakse loop was all about waterfalls, the longer Thakhek one was a wonder for those who love caves. At the beginning of this second loop, my confidence on a scooter was reaching new levels. I had spent my first two days motorcycling without any issues, just a couple of messy slides in the mud. However – because life lessons hit you when you expect them the least – my three days chasing caves around Thakhek reminded me that my lucky star shouldn’t be taken for granted.
For this loop, we decided to start driving anti-clockwise in order to finish with the very anticipated Kong Lor caves. I jumped on my bike, excited as ever to find this feeling of freedom I had experienced a few days earlier. I grabbed a pink helmet again for good luck – how could have I known what was about to happen ? – and started driving like there’s no tomorrow.
On our first day, we stopped at Tham Xang – the Elephant cave – and Tham Fa Pha – the Buddha Cave – located at approximately 30 minutes driving from Thakhek. Although quite small in size, these two caves both have a lot of character especially due to their fancy ornaments.
In between the two caves, we decided to stop quickly for a nice swim in Tha Falang. If the road paths to the cave weren’t too difficult to drive with a scooter, the one to the swimming spot was an absolute mudfest. We ended up covered in mud and shaky from all the bumps and scary moments. Good times for a swim!
After another beautiful day in beautiful Laos, the troubles began when we finally hit the road again to find the famous Sabaidee Guesthouse in Tha Lang village. Because it’s not fun to learn from our mistakes, we had left quite late in the morning from the city and hadn’t checked the time much. After the caves and the swim sesh, we only had an hour left before the sunset and still another hour and a half to drive. The roads were safe and straights, we decided to drive a little faster and I ended up hitting a dog who was standing in the middle of the street. Shock – the scooter slid and I landed on my bum. We were both fine and unhurt – at least I think he was fine – and these things happen in South-East Asia, so I’ve heard.
We arrived at 6.30pm at the guesthouse after spending the last hour in the dark being hit by night bugs right in the face. We were received with beers and a warm camping fire. Everything felt right again; I was about to have a good night sleep and rest. Unlucky for me, a strange insomnia seized me and I woke up as tired as when I went to bed. But it was ok, I was only going to drive for a few hours, stop at the blue cool springs for a swim and finally have a good night sleep.
Was it the fatigue or the bad karma from hitting a dog? Who knows. But this day I crashed head and chin straight into the gravels when a car tried to overtake me in a tight corner. I stood up like a survivor with my bloody hands covered in dirt. We stopped at the first place I could wash my hands and buy some bandages. I could still drive but I didn’t go over 60kms an hour for the rest of the trip.
About an hour later, we found the gorgeous cool springs in which I could rest my sore and bruised body from the accident. We left our scooters near a homemade piece of wood bridge to cross the river and access the pools.
We were fresh, clean but exhausted and ready to go to bed early. We continued our journey towards the Kong Lor village to spend the night and do the caving the next day early. Unsurprisingly, the Kong Lor caves were as amazing as we expected them to be. We took a boat at around 11am and toured the place in about two hours. This 7.5kms long limestone cave was a wonder for the eyes. The lights, the reflections, the natural details of the stone was incredible.
It was about 2.30pm when we left the caves on our third and last day of the loop. We had a chilled 200kms of highway to go through before we could arrive back to Thakhek. What else could possibly happen? Not much, just a big cow throwing herself in front of my bike whom I avoided in extremis and a torrential amount of rain which made us stop for an hour. Once again, we drove back in the dark. Once again, we thought “next time, we’ll definitely leave earlier in the morning so we don’t have to rush”. There hasn’t been a next time since, the scooter days are over – for now.
Bonus photo: when you don’t have bandages and have to get back on the road, just wrap up your wounds with toilet paper and cleaning gloves!