I woke up early and ready as ever to visit Kong Lor using this cave as a replacement for missed opportunity at Xe Bang Fai. I fully expected to pay the entire boat fee figuring I would not find any others to journey with me into the darkness of the cave of the necessary motorized canoe boat but in fact I was able to share this adventure with two French. The motorized boat is operated by a local villager who took us through the cave. The entire cave is pitch black in every sense of the word besides our own borrowed headlamps so the experience was not killed by any over added illumination. I must say the cave did not have the most beautiful cave features such as stalactites, stalagmites, and others that my limited caving experiences couldn’t define (with the exception of our own self-guided walk through and along wet crystallizing stalactites and columns) but I guess my impressions need to be put into perspective whenever comparing caves to that of Paradise Cave in Vietnam. What made the cave most special and memorable was how in various moments the cave’s heights rose up higher and higher to reaches my headlamp could not quite grasp. I can fully believe the astronomical estimates of 50 meter caverns within this 7.5 km length cave. After all these years of the river water cutting through and still chipping away easily noticed by the rare spring waterfall with no guesstimated spout, the cave stands tall and wide. With only the one walk along the garden of stalactites and the need to get out of the boat and progress forth from its embedded shallow waters, I stood within that boat expanding my imagination as to how far the depths may lay, how remarkable of a discovery this might have been upon first sight, and enjoying this rare moment despite my unfortunate shortcomings in the realm of caves and take this for what it is a cave: a cave in the unrequited darkness holding secrets only my spare light could expose. We reached the other side of the cave which had a wonderfully miraculous gaping mouth opening out into the natural welcoming light after much time with its unmistakeable squiggly, jagged teeth of their own accord enveloping the circumference of the cave’s other opening. After a short respite, we continued on back to where we came from still peering out closely with our fast moving yet inquisitively explorative torches/flashlights into the black holes of the expansive space that may either lead to nothing at all or further worlds yet to be imagined. I enjoyed my time in Kong Lor Cave but I can’t say my thoughts were not drifting off to Xe Bang Fai. I couldn’t help it. I stood so close literally at the foot of the cave knocking at its doorsteps yet could not gain passage. Disappointments such as these don’t wash over easily but I need to appreciate the worthwhile moments that staring right at me while I am there in that very instance otherwise life and its treasures will sweep past me without a care or concern. The ride back to Thakhek was no bore either, another adventure in itself. At first I had been told that the songthaew came through at one o’clock and would only go to the next road where I would need to find the next ride to keep my journey to Thakhek from reaching a standstill. I have been through far too much to let such small, petty things worry my mind and spirit. Soon enough, I got reports that the truck wouldn’t be leaving until two which was an inconvenience but I rolled with it like any other. Then after that the locals came into a disagreement over when in fact it would leave before coming to some conclusion on the matter. I asked everyone around because to be frank I can’t trust a soul out here just my own intuition which has grown into the strong willed backbone of my survival and existence. Following my own intuition has brought far greater good as I have seen it test the trials of time and my own expeditions. Eventually I did get onto that songthaew with a couple of Westerners as well as locals and took that one all the way back to Thakhek over bone rattling bumps and angst anticipation to remove myself from such a back breaking cage. Back in Thakhek I ran into the French once again for a much needed chat to bring some sanity to the usual nonsensical rehearsed conversation I hear time and again before prepping myself for one last sleep filled night in Thakhek. Tomorrow I would be leaving Laos to cross the border into Thailand and hopefully gain continued passage to Bangkok. I had no plans to legitimately visit Bangkok but rather use it as a stopover to rest up and eat some Western food before flying out to Delhi and begin the next stage of my journey that would conclude my time in Southeast Asia.
Now in Laos Day 210: Kong Lor Cave