Saturday, 22 February 2014

Khammouane Province Laos

Khammouane Province  is Located about 250 kilometres south of the Capital Vientiane it is made up of 10 districts and is  home to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, The Limestone Forest, Konglor Cave and City of Thakhet plus many more attractions which are listed below. I have been based at the Sainamhai Resort whilst I have been exploring the area and will update this page as I learn more.

Most people come to do the Thakhet Loop which is basically 3 left turns after leaving Thakhet, one heads along Route 12 and turns left onto the 1E through the flooded area of Nam Thuen 2 power station, then it's into Lak Sao and another left turn onto Route 8, finally another left back onto route 13 South and on the way back to Thakhet. Some of it is unpaved other parts are difficult and dusty, the rest is Tarmac and easily done on scooters, many have done this on Bicycles. Most of the loop can be seen on the map above.

Over View of khammouane Province, between route 8 and Route 12



Getting around khammouane. Motorcycle hire is available in Thakhet and Nahin, Buses and  song tails are plentiful, it really is an easy place to get around. Ensure your rental equipment is safe and road worthy, wear proper clothing whilst riding, I have seen many bashed up people in the last few months, flip flops and shorts do not protect you, medical care can be some distance from you at all times....Lock your bike when not being used. Thief's are operating in Thakhet, rooms are even being burgled whilst guest sleep, I know of one case of rape.....BEWARE.

Mad Monkey Bike Rental. His bikes are well maintained and offers a breakdown/help service He can be found in the square by the river Mekong. Contact: dcn66@hotmail.de




Map Of Thakhet


When I arrived in Khammouane  I decided to go have a good look around to see what else is out there apart from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, if your into the outdoors activities whether it be motorcycles,mountain bikes, boating, walking or driving there is a lot to see and do as I have found out. All my rides, walks and drives have been from the Sainmhai Resort which is truly a jewel of a place situated on the banks of the Nam Hai River near Ban Nahin, a family owned business established 7 years ago by Mr Vongsamay Check it out on trip advisor. Sainamhai Resort

The Sainamhai Resort Web Site


Mr & Mrs Vongsamay. Pillars of there community, supporting the local weaving industry along with many other projects The  will make you feel most welcome.


Villagers products for sale.


Markets have been found to sell products throughout Laos.

The Sanamhai Resort....Beautiful.

Nice view of the river.

Happy diners, excellent food.

Happy Birthday Mrs Vongs.

The Grand Palace.

Both Couples married on the same dates.

 Mr koopmans  from Holland but lives in Chaing Mai provided all the maps. Green triangle Mapping.

Sunset over the resort.

Nice Bungalows air conditioned 130,000 kip a night.

The River Nam Hai.

View of the Fog rolling down the mountains in the morning.

There is a tourist information center in Ban Nahin  which is situated 150 meters west of the water falls on Route 8, a little outdated. It does have some information on the area and a glass of cold water for the hot traveller.

Look out for the sign.

Tourist advice centre

Ban Nahin

Tat Namsanam Falls. Is about about a 3 kilometre walk up to the falls 500 meters away from Ban Nahin which is on route 8, kilometre mark 75.

As you leave Ban Nahin and head west within 1 minute you arrive at Tat Namsanam water falls.

Route From The Sainamhai Resort  Ban Namsanam to Tat  Namsanam Water falls, then west route 8.

Sign on Route 8

It will cost you about 50,000 kip to go up with a guide which I recommend as its a real jungle climb up to the falls, over rocks and trees you will get up to about 350 meters, the signs are not so good and it's easy to take the wrong trail, it's also very hot so plenty of water is required, once at the falls you can climb even further if you wish.....

Entrance to the falls.

Its a nice place to have some lunch and a dip in the water and will certainly give your legs a work out,some of the trees are huge and it's teaming with bird, butterflies and such, worth a look if you enjoy a walk.

A rocky climb

Huge trees.

Make shift ladder.

Dead unfortunately.

The Falls.

Infinity pool?

Signs can be hard to spot


The Limestone Forest is next along route 8, you can miss it there is a huge sign The Sala View point. The Limestone forest was formed a long time ago and is a stunning panorama of jagged limestone mountains, there is a view point at the top and it's another great place to sit and relax, the sunset on the viewpoint can be rather spectacular. a must stop on your travels..

The limestone forest, can you spot the rubber duck?

Wow.

Map of the area showing the Forest.

Unknown to most people there is a cave under the Forest Khoun Keo Cave discovered in 2012 by a local farmer, it is not open to the public as yet but you can organise a visit through the Sainamhai resort. I have visited the cave and can tell you it's huge, like a cathedral inside with many river channels and tunnels inside, the rock formations are amazing. The cave is relativity  un-mapped, we walked around inside for 2 hrs climbing up to see higher passages and checking out water ways, fish and turtles have been seen as well as some rather large spiders. This cave makes the others look very small and in time I'm sure will become a big attraction.

Huge formations.

Strange looking things.

Made over many years.

Stunning

Magnificent.

The Ceiling was 30 meters high in places.

The floor was amazing.

More Sculptures.

Mrs Vongs entering the cave.

Konglor Cave. This one has to be the most visited place in the area, it's open from 8am and See's a steady stream of people all day long, set in a small forest it's a nice place to relax, swim,feed the fish and of course make the trip through the Cave by boat. You buy your ticket once inside the complex, food and refreshments are available as well.

Map of Konglor.

Welcome

Prices.

Nice area,swimming allowed.

No swimming allowed.

Feed the fish.

Cave entrance.

The boats.

Worth a visit....

The road down to Konglor is stunning, mountain ranges and small villages all the way, lots of trails and track to go of exploring if you wish, it's easy to spend the whole day at Konglor.

Mountains all the way down to Konglor.

Wow.

Many abandoned villages on the way

Happy Children

More Caves on the way down to konglor


More Mountains and new irrigation system, villages are growing a lot of Tobacco in this region.

Staying in the Khammouane central area there are a few other nice things to see that people just don't know about, here's a few before we get back on the Loop.

Boat trip to Ancient Temple Katour Banna & Cave
Great Views on the River Hinbourn, this river trip is exclusive to Sainamhai



Way point 21 is the Temple, by road it's of route 13
. This is a place that people no very little about, leaving the Sainamhai Resort early its a 30 kilometre cruise down the Nam Hai and Hinbourn river. The boats are moored and the last part is done on foot, through a cave and then onto the temple grounds, picnic lunch and return by boat will see you out all day..a beautiful day out. Prices from $50 contact the Sainamhai Resort for further details. The Temple is open to the public and is also reachable by Motorcycle or Car, the Villagers will look after you belongings and should provide guides, you have to ask, the cave is vast with some deep water, torches are required.

The walk to the cave is about 3ks, nice walk

Cave entrance is large, deep water in places, other parts have sandbags under the water to follow, amazing walk through, take a torch and some decent foot wear.

The exit gets bigger as you climb up to it.
Ancient Temple some 400 years old, it's foundations plundered for the riches buried beneath 

Restoration seems to be taking place.

Lady of the lake in the Temple grounds.

Fantastic scenery on the river Hinbourn.


Sainamhai Resorts Back Yard. There are countless trails around the resort whether on foot,bicycle,motorbike or 4x4 you can soon find yourself in some beautiful surroundings, it's possible to enter the Limestone forest from these trails.A whole lot of adventure is very close by.

Wide open spaces.

Nobody around but me.

Great place to Mountain bike.

Plenty to discover.

Easy trails to ride.

Dusk over Khammouane

Mountains all around.

I wanted to climb this one...

Not an easy climb, trail all the way to the top.

Great view of Ban Namsanam


Great riding around here

The Limestone forest on ground level.

Peaceful.

It's an explosion of great viewing.

Mythical Laos.

Getting up close.


More inside the Limestone forest.
Back onto to the Tarmac and heading south towards Thakhet.......

Kong Leng Lake.

Sign on Route 13


Map showing lake of route 13.

This is a great place to visit, I camped overnight here, the road to it is rough in sections but what you find when you arrive is well wort the trip....the locals arrived in spades to bathe, swimming is allowed.

I was not expecting this

Wow.

Beautiful Colours.

Crystal Blue water.

Looks inviting.

fantastic.


Friendly Local wan


Sunset, nothing in this view had changed for 50 years at least.


Sunrise.


Morning Coffee for me.

Fetching water to tend to her garden

I cant remember the last time I slept that well....a must visit with an over night stay was only 5000kip.

Moving on from here away from Thakhet and out onto Route 12 these is a host of caves to see, heading east on 12...

Map of Caves.

Pha Chan Cave, no more signs after this one?


Budda Cave. This is another great day out but the road is very bad so get ready for a bumpy ride. It's very well organised and well thought about, you can even take a trip through the cave on a boat.

Picnic area with lots of local things for sale

Information about boat trip

6000 Kip to enter.

View looking down from the cave.

Small entrance.

River tunnel

Pricing.

Nang Aen Cave. Not visited yet.




Pha In Cave. Looks like another great place to visit...worth a look as always.

Sign on Route 12

Cave entrance.

The Falan. This is a great area for relaxing, swimming and having a good time, I went of exploring and found some beautiful spots.

Many day trippers enjoying the spot


Children enjoying the water.

Nice lakes all around.

Local lady fishing.

A very nice spot.

I carried on exploring, beautiful area.

Nice trails

Paddy Fields in bloom.



Tam Phanang Cave.  

This is another Cave that is seldom visited, we found it by luck as the villagers didn't want to go there as there was no electricity. Situated 8 Kilometers south of Mahaxai it was home to some 2000 people in the early 70's to the end of the war.

Dirt trail leads to the cave of route12.

Cave entrance

Beautiful 

Amazing sculptures made over many years. 

Still used today by the locals for worship.

A big cave with a large pool in it, I went some 300 meters into it, it goes further.


Well worth a visit.


Mangkone Cave. 

 This Cave is over by the Vietnam border and not easy to get to and not accessible from on a tour bus, lots of mud and bad roads, there is a guest house in the village for over night stays. The cave is huge and set in a beautiful area, I'm sure this would have been used in the war, I found a lot of war scrap in the village.

Not easy to get to but worth the trip.

Welcome.

Lots of big fish in the lake.

Ladders up to the cave entrance.

Entrance to Cave.

A difficult climb in some areas.

The boats about to depart into the 2 kilometer river tunnel



After all the fun of of the caves you can keep going East to the Vietnam border where you will find the Mu Gai pass at the border with Vietnam, the start of The Ho Chi Minh Trail proper, most take the left through the flooded area back up to Lak Sao and onto route 8...The Thakhet loop is done.


Mu Gai  Pass looking toward Vietnam.

Flooded area.

Nice place.

The road to Lak Sao

Fuel cells made into boats along route 8

The Ho Chi Minh Trail. This is the reason I came to Laos in the first place, I have spent 18 months riding the trail and still have much to see and do, if you want to visit the trail get in touch with The Sainamhai resort who can organise the Tours  it's not easy and a lot of it only accessible on Motorcycles, easier section can be done on foot,bicycles or 4x4's. The History of the Trail is immense said to be one of the great engineering projects of the last century....Contact the Sainamhai Resort for tour details.

Map showing the Trail. Dong Museum 


Xe Banfai Ford

Cluster Bomb casings.

War Scrap at Ban Laboy

Original Cobblestones toward the Ban Kari Pass

Overview of Ban Laboy and Ban Kari Pass

War Scrap
Last updated on March 15th 2014.