A Hidden Cave, Thakhek, Laos
Near Thakhek, Loas
The area around Thakhek, Laos, is notorious for it's limestone karst mountains and beautiful caves. There is the Buddha Cave; a small cave halfway up a cliff face that was full of more than 200 Buddha statues when it was discovered just a few years ago. There is Konglor Cave; 7km long with a river flowing all the way through it and boats available to take tourists on tour. However, my favourite cave in the area is hidden away, discovered purely by accident on a bicycle tour and completely captivating.
The cave is situated approximately 12km from the town of Thakhek. I hired a bicycle and headed north out of town. The road wove in enormous arcs around the infamous limestone karsts, raw pieces of rock protruding from the otherwise flat ground in perfect bulges.
A river meandered next to the road and I saw local Laotian kids jumping in from the riverbanks. They leapt and waved their arms in the air as they fell into the water below. Their laughter carried on the wind and infectiously made me smile. An ancient kind of tractor chugged past me, barely faster than my bicycle but laden with vegetables and people. Small houses, cobbled together from wood and reed, formed a village lining the sides of the road.
Look for the Sign
A little further along, I noticed a small wooden sign on the side of the road indicating a cave, with an arrow pointing down a small dirt track. Intrigued, I followed it. I arrived in a small area cleared for parking and locked my bicycle to a tree nearby.
Large stones formed a small path up the slope. It led to an opening in the side of the karst mountain before me. I climbed up into the gaping mouth and was greeted what seemed to be a small cave. Prayer ribbons and flags decorated the ceiling in amongst the stalactites. To one side, the ground fell away deeper into the cave. I could make out a small path into the darkness, decorated by a line of yellow, blue and red flags. At first I hesitated, but then scrambled down inside the dim light over the steep and uneven rocks underfoot.
How glad I am that I went that little bit further!
The cave narrowed to a thin corridor of space between the rocks, but still I walked further. Light poured in from the other end and I was greeted by one of the most magical views of my life.
The Perfect Mirror
Water, turquoise in colour and framed by blackness, dazzled my eyes. The white limestone walls were reflected in a perfect mirror below. Small ripples echoed over the surface around rocks that broke free of the lake. Golden sunlight tinged with pink poured in from a hole in the roof, illuminated the space and bounced from the jagged rocks around.
It was completely silent.
I sat, perched on a rock at the water's edge, for more than an hour. I was utterly lost in the magic of the space I beheld and was held in, totally captivated by nature's own sculpture and my luck at finding such an undiscovered beauty.
Written by: Laura Ricketts
Laura loves the wild places of the world and is always looking for journeys that will take her to the remote corners of the globe. She enjoys traveling slowly, taking the time to explore a place before moving on to the next. When she is not writing, she likes to cycle, rock climb and camp on beautiful beaches. Follow her at: www.wanderlustforwildplaces.com
All Photo Credits: Laura Ricketts