The ultimate guide to The Loop
The loop is a famous 500 kilometers circuit located in the central province of Khammouane, Laos. It is commonly done in a scooter or motorbike, but there is people who make it on a bike as well. The usual duration is between 3 to 5 days in which you can admire the natural beauty of this country by visiting lakes, waterfalls, caves and villages all along the way.
The usual starting point is the village of Thakhek a small town with a vibrating night market (where you can find the best noodle soup in Laos), there in not much to do there, nor options to sleep but we do recommend to stay at the Thakhek Travel Lodge, where you can meet people that are about to go on the same adventure, renting a scooter is easy here on the shop of the lady at the corner. there is also a nice advice notebook with the previous experiences from other travelers, we took time to make a super cool guide, if you see it tell us your comments and if you found it useful !
We woke up early in the morning to start the loop straight away. On the first day we drove all the way to konglor cave, we decided to make the circuit clockwise, like that we had to drive the long and tedious part at the beginning, “eat the frog first” right ? It was a very smart decision because it was a very rainy day so we would have not enjoyed all the caves and lagoons localized on the way, not with that weather.
We drove straight from Thakhek for one and a half hours until we reached the deviation to take the road number 8 and stopped there in the village of Vieng Kham to have a rest from scooter and the rain, we grabbed a warm noodle soup and a coffee, then took the road again to finish the driving of the day. At this point, 40 kilometers away from the cave, we started to notice the change in the landscape, sharp mountains started to appear very close to us.
Be sure to take time to stop and take pictures. We continued through the mountains to Nahin, then, we took the right to get to Konglor village, this part of the road, referring to the last 8 kilometers, is the worst part of the whole circuit, the road condition is very deteriorated, full of holes and local traffic, this made us slow the speed considerably.
We reached the Village by 16:30 which was to late to make the tour, so we planned to go visit the cave next morning, we looked for a place to stay the closest to the entrance of the park. we found a basic “eco-lodge” not so far who offered us a good price (50,000 Kip). During the night we went out walking and had an encounter with giant geckos and thousands of other insects.
The day before we had talked to a guy who seemed to be in charge and he told us the park opened at 7:30 am, so we decided to be ready by that time, had a simple early breakfast and started to walk to Konglor cave that was 1.5 kilometers away from our lodge.
Strolling there we saw a sign and some cues that indicated that New Zealand had help with the organization of the tour, not that this is very important, but was fun for us since we met in NZ and spent so many good times in that country.
Yes, confirmed NZ took part and help Laos organize the expedition, which was nice to see and experience again, the order, rules, concern for safety, all very clean and very well assembled. We paid 120,000 Kip ($ 14.5) for the both of us.
All the things that start with an impression like that must be good ! And yes ! It was a very nice experience in the cave : a 7 km tour underground through the guts of the mountain completely in the dark, just a provided head lamp to light the way you look. There is a small stop at the middle where you walk and can appreciate big rock formations like stalactites and stalagmites. At the other side of the cave there are some shops to buy food or drinks, also you can find souvenirs.To finish the experience you go back the same way through the dark insides of the mountain again. We enjoyed it a lot.
After, we went back to the lodge and had a shower, grabbed our backpacks and checked out to continue the way of the loop. Our next destination was “cool springs” which is located 90 km away from Konglor, got onto the scooter and started to drive there. The road is amazing, the nature, the hills, the views, this part we liked a lot. Note that before getting to the cool springs there is not much at all, a couple little villages so be sure to buy your beers and supplies before getting there.
The place is a beautiful turquoise water pond where you can swim, jump and chill to cool off from the hard sun of Laos. We chilled there, had a beer and a fruit salad to replenish the liquids. That afternoon we drove to Thalang where we had a very good recommendation of hostel to sleep : Sabaidee Guest House. A very nice place full of backpacker doing the loop as well, the ambiance is cool and it is a very convenient place to meet people. There are some views from the lake and the food is tasty, no other thing that also recommend this place to stay.
We had a good night sleep and after taking our breakfast, we started driving for the last day and the final part of the loop, we had 120 km, several caves and lakes before arriving back to Thakhek. Our first stop of the day was in Green Climbers Home, a hostel focused on outdoor activities like trekking and kayaking but the main thing to do there is climb in the mountains around. We had lunch and wanted to climb but just had a couple hours to make it back to return the scooter. If you don’t come here with all the gear, it’s expensive to rent, so at the end we did not climb. 300 meters from there is Tham Sa Pha In, a really cool cave in which you can swim inside.Watch out for stuck not running water it may not be the best idea to swim in still water.
A few kilometers from there we went to Xien Liab cave, a huge cave hidden in the jungle behind a school. As soon as we arrived to the school, where you need to park the scooter, all the kids came out to greet us and to charge us the fee for “looking after our motorbike” 5 000 Kip will make it. The cave is pretty big, we didn’t stay much time but it is impressive and very peaceful, with the river sound crossing in the middle of the cave.
We took back our scooter from the school and drove back to Thakhek, we finished very tired and had a shower in the guest house were our backpacks were stored, we took some time to write and create our guide for the loop in the previous mentioned advice notebook, be sure to check it out!
Tips for the loop
Do the circuit clockwise, you will find less people doing it this way, and you tackle the hard part first.
Don’t worry about petrol, there are plenty of stations or people selling gasoline along the way (maybe to much).
Bring clothes for the rain! specially if you are there between may and september.
Be sure to stop at the view points, it is worth it!
Say hello to everyone you cross: Sabaidee!
There is plenty of places to buy beer, no worries about that. BeerLao
Try to eat in the big villages the small ones can be dodgy for the food and the taste is not the best.
Enjoy the sunsets, the views are amazing!
Bring a swimsuit
Look for the giant geckos at night, they are beautiful.
Take with you sunscreen and insect repellent, you will find plenty of both.
Don’t drive during the night, you have a lot of hours of light to get to your destinations safe.
We hope you can find this article useful if you want to make the loop yourself.