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Overview

Discover the ancient caves of Khammouane Province, Laos full of myths and beliefs. Learn about the stories of survival of its surrounding communities during the Vietnam War. Explore dinosaur remains at a museum and camp in National Protected Areas.

Trip Highlights

Khammouane Caves Exploration

Discover ancient caves of Khammouane

Explore the mystical caves of Khammouane Provinces and learn about the communities beliefs.

Learn about the community’s livelihoods during the Vietnam War

Meet the survivors of the Vietnam War and learn about their lives during the tumultuous period.

Camp under the stars in the heart of nature

Spend overnights in Phou Hin Poun and Nam Theun National Protected Areas and spot endangered wildlife.

Itinerary

1

Vientiane Arrival

Vientiane Airport – Vientiane (4 km): 15 min

Welcome to the capital city of Laos! Be met by the guide and private car at the airport and transfer to the hotel for check-in.

Spend the rest of the day at leisure to explore Vientiane, whose name means ‘the city of sandal wood’.

Choose to end the day along the banks of the Mekong River. Stroll along the river, stop to enjoy a cold drink, or sample a snack from one of the many local food stalls. This area is very popular with locals who go to exercise in the park in the evenings. Take a browse through the evening market for souvenirs.

Overnight in Vientiane

2

Vientiane – Ban Kong Lor

Vientiane – Kong Lor Caves (290 km): 6 hours

This morning, be met by the driver and guide at 08:00 in Vientiane, to begin the journey south along route 13. This first leg of the journey takes around 3 hours and it is interesting to have a quick stop at Wat Prabath Phonsane (‘Temple of the Footprint of Buddha’).

Continue to Wat Sensoukarahm with its dazzling gold façade and then Wat Xieng Thong. This is Luang Prabang’s most revered temple, and for good reason! It is one of the oldest in town and is covered in ornate carvings and mosaics, unmatched by any other temple in the country.

Then, leave route 13 and enter the Phou Hin Poun NPA (National Protected Area). The scenery will become much more spectacular, featuring limestone karsts, forests and rice paddies. The journey from the main road to the destination will take approximately 2 hours.

On the way, stop to tuck in to a picnic lunch at a suitable spot. On arrival in the small town of Ban Kong Lor, check-in, freshen up and then enjoy the afternoon at leisure.

Dinner is also spent at leisure. A simple local restaurant called Kounmee, which is a 2-minute walk from Chantha House is recommended.

Overnight in Ban Kong Lor.

3

Ban Kong Lor

After breakfast, head out to discover Kong Lor cave. Be given life jackets and head torches before a short walk around to the main entrance of the cave. Upon entering the cave, board a long tail boat and be taken through the length of this spectacular cave along an underground section of the Hin Boun River - a length of 7.5km in darkness before seeing daylight again!

The river flows all year and reveals vast formations of stalactites and stalagmites, which can be explored partly on foot whilst inside the cave. In places the cave is up to 90m wide and 100m high. The cave is still used by local villagers as an access route to the region beyond (it is far quicker than climbing over the mountains which this cave cuts through!).

Once out on the other side, stop for refreshments and walk to local villages, enjoying the scenery and observing a simple way of life (discuss with the guide how to walk).

Return by boat, travelling downstream through the cave, to Ban Kong Lor.

Dinner is spent at leisure. A simple local restaurant called Kounmee, which is a 2-minute walk from Chantha House is recommended.

Overnight in Ban Kong Lor

4

Ban Kong Lor - Thalang - Camping

Nam Phao - Tha Lang (100 km): 2 hours Thalang Village - Camp site (by boat): 1.5 hours

After breakfast at the hotel, travel to Thalang, via Lak Sao. Upon arrival in Thalang, enjoy a freshly made lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Nam Theun reservoir.

After lunch, embark on a local long tail boat to go inside Nakai - Nam Theun National Protected Area (NPA). This NPA is the second largest protected area in the Lao PDR, covering approximately 3,445,000 hectares in the heart of the Greater Northern Annamites range in Khammouane and Bolikhamxay provinces of central Lao PDR. Nakai is a very important area for biodiversity in Southeast Asia and the world, home to many endemic species of the Annamites recently discovered by science, including the Saola.

The scenic boat trip is 1.5 hours through the reservoir, then into the NPA. With some luck, spot macaques, some bird species and hear the gibbons calling.

The campsite is on a beach by the river. Upon arrival, the local guides will set up tents and light a fire. Enjoy swimming in the river before tucking in to a the barbecue dinner by campfire.

Overnight in tents.

5

Camping - Thalang - Nong Ping

Thalang - Pak Phanang (100km) ~2 hours Pak Phanang - Nong Ping (boat) 1h 45 mins

Wake up to the sound of birds chirping. After breakfast, start a short trek through the jungle to a waterfall. The trek takes totally 2.5 hours. Return to the camp site and get back on the boat to go back to Thalang.

Upon reaching Thalang, freshen up and enjoy lunch before continuing by van to Pak PhaNang. Board a local long tail boat, cruise down the river to Nong Ping village, situated at the mouth of Xe Bang Fai cave.

Take a walk around Nong Ping village and learn about local life. Enjoy a dinner with the host family.

Overnight in a homestay.

6

Xe Bang Fai Cave - Lan Khang

Nong Ping - Pak Phanang (boat) 1h 45 minutes Pak Phanang - Lan Khang (25km) 40 minutes

After breakfast at the homestay, walk to the entrance of Xe Bang Fai Cave (750m), where there is a fish conservation zone. Get on kayaks to discover Xe Bang Fai cave. High quality torches are provided to observe enormous cavern decorated with highly impressive structures inside the cave.

 

In former times, villagers thought this to be the source of the Xe Bang Fai River and named it Tham Khoun Xe, meaning ‘the cave at the source of the river’. According to village legend, the cave is inhabited by a spirit. One time a broken khaen (musical instrument) was left at the entrance and was found restored to immaculate condition the next morning. The spirit was also known to lend beautiful clothes to individuals for various ceremonies until one time a villager returned the garments uncleaned. After this, the spirit no longer lent clothes to people. The spirit is still believed to be benevolent though, as no one has been injured while within the chamber. Not only that, but no bombs entered the cavity during the war. A sacrificial offering was traditionally made before each entry to the cave. Nowadays the sacrifice is made once a year to ensure the spirit’s continuing protection.

 

After a picnic lunch, travel back to Nong Ping village, embark on a local long tail boat to return to Pak Phanang. Continue by van to Lankhang.

 

Overnight in Lankhang

7

Langkhang - Nong Seng - Ho Chi Minh Trail Caves - Border

Lang Khang - Ban Nong Seng: 3.5km Lang Khang - Ban Nong Boua: 6.5km Lang Khang - Border: 18km

Optional Morning Activity: Pha Koud Macaque Spotting

The reward for early risers is a short walk in nature with a picnic breakfast at a cliff area and a chance to see the Assamese macaques. Take a morning transfer to Nong Seng village and be met by a local guide to go on this short trek.

The Assamese macaques at Nong Seng area are believed to live in caves on the cliff’s face and eat fruits and shoots of trees on the cliffs and around the base of the cliff. They live in groups of 13-35 individuals. This specie of macaques is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) due to recent population declines as a result of hunting and habitat degradation in South and Southeast Asia. There are two other species of macaques found in Hin Nam No NPA, Bear Macaque and Pig-tailed Macaque, which are both globally threatened. There are three other primate species found in Hin Nam No, including Southern white-cheeked gibbon, red-shanked douc langur, and black langur.

After breakfast, continue to Nong Boua - a village on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. During the war, villagers lived in caves for a total of nine years, largely without any way to plant and lead their normal lives. Each villager who lived through the war here has a story of an epic struggle for survival that has remained largely unacknowledged. Visiting this area provides an unforgettable experience and honour mixing with those villagers who survived in this and called the caves their home.

Meet Uncle Gee - one of the war survivors. During the war he was the head of the youth group and learned to speak Vietnamese to communicate with and help the soldiers. Follow Uncle Gee to visit Tham Nam and Tham Long, the two caves used as bomb shelters by villagers during the war.

Learn all about the tragic stories during the Vietnam War, how the cave got its name and the hardships that the locals faced.

After lunch at Nong Boua village, continue to Naphao - Chalo Border through Mu Gia Pass. Mu Gia Pass is famous for being the principle entry point into Laos across the 16,000km series of paths known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It is estimated that 75% of all truck traffic, carrying supplies from North Vietnam destined for Viet Cong revolutionary forces in South Vietnam came through this narrow valley in the Annamite Range.

Nowadays, this pass is known as the Naphao/Chalo border checkpoint between Khammouane Province, Laos and Quang Bin Province, Vietnam. During the Second Indochina War, this road was a muddy track low in the valley passing through streambeds and squeezed between steep sandstone mountains to the north, and a maze of giant limestone monoliths to the south (now the area of Hin Nam No National Protected Area). Once the pass was negotiated, a further “choke-point” through limestone karsts near Phanop and Vangkhone proved to be the narrowest constriction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This constriction caused this area to be one of the most heavily armed sites, and in turn, the site of the most concentrated aerial bombardment on the trail. Over two million bombs were dropped on Laos by the United States from 1964 to 1973.

Overnight in Thakhek.

8

Langkhang - Nong Seng - Ho Chi Minh Trail Caves - Border

Lang Khang - Ban Nong Seng: 3.5km Lang Khang - Ban Nong Boua: 6.5km Lang Khang - Border: 18km

Optional Morning Activity: Pha Koud Macaque Spotting

The reward for early risers is a short walk in nature with a picnic breakfast at a cliff area and a chance to see the Assamese macaques. Take a morning transfer to Nong Seng village and be met by a local guide to go on this short trek.

The Assamese macaques at Nong Seng area are believed to live in caves on the cliff’s face and eat fruits and shoots of trees on the cliffs and around the base of the cliff. They live in groups of 13-35 individuals. This specie of macaques is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) due to recent population declines as a result of hunting and habitat degradation in South and Southeast Asia. There are two other species of macaques found in Hin Nam No NPA, Bear Macaque and Pig-tailed Macaque, which are both globally threatened. There are three other primate species found in Hin Nam No, including Southern white-cheeked gibbon, red-shanked douc langur, and black langur.

After breakfast, continue to Nong Boua - a village on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. During the war, villagers lived in caves for a total of nine years, largely without any way to plant and lead their normal lives. Each villager who lived through the war here has a story of an epic struggle for survival that has remained largely unacknowledged. Visiting this area provides an unforgettable experience and honour mixing with those villagers who survived in this and called the caves their home.

Meet Uncle Gee - one of the war survivors. During the war he was the head of the youth group and learned to speak Vietnamese to communicate with and help the soldiers. Follow Uncle Gee to visit Tham Nam and Tham Long, the two caves used as bomb shelters by villagers during the war.

Learn all about the tragic stories during the Vietnam War, how the cave got its name and the hardships that the locals faced.

After lunch at Nong Boua village, continue to Naphao - Chalo Border through Mu Gia Pass. Mu Gia Pass is famous for being the principle entry point into Laos across the 16,000km series of paths known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It is estimated that 75% of all truck traffic, carrying supplies from North Vietnam destined for Viet Cong revolutionary forces in South Vietnam came through this narrow valley in the Annamite Range.

Nowadays, this pass is known as the Naphao/Chalo border checkpoint between Khammouane Province, Laos and Quang Bin Province, Vietnam. During the Second Indochina War, this road was a muddy track low in the valley passing through streambeds and squeezed between steep sandstone mountains to the north, and a maze of giant limestone monoliths to the south (now the area of Hin Nam No National Protected Area). Once the pass was negotiated, a further “choke-point” through limestone karsts near Phanop and Vangkhone proved to be the narrowest constriction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This constriction caused this area to be one of the most heavily armed sites, and in turn, the site of the most concentrated aerial bombardment on the trail. Over two million bombs were dropped on Laos by the United States from 1964 to 1973.

Overnight in Thakhek.

9

Thakhek - Savannakhet - Pakse

Thakhek – Savannakhet (150 km): 2 hours Savannakhet – Pakse (215 km): 3.5 hours

After a leisurely breakfast, be met by the guide at around 09:30 to continue the journey south. The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet make a stop at the beautiful 16th Century temple of That Ing Hang. An impressive central stupa dominates a courtyard which is flanked by statues of Lord Buddha, in a style similar to Wat Sisaket in Vientiane. That Ing Hang is among the most revered temples in Laos and many Buddhists will travel here during December for the annual Boun Phathat Ceremony.

Continue in to Savannakhet. The city is most famous as the birthplace of the father of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Kaysone Phomvihane, who was born here in 1920. Take a short tour of the architectural highlights, which include various French villas and the striking St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Visit the small but very interesting Dinosaur Museum. Dinosaur remains are being discovered nearby that date back to between 150,000,000 – 250,000,000 years old. Speak to the resident paleontologists and learn about the work. Proceeds from the visit help to keep this project going.

After lunch in a local restaurant, it is time to hit the road again for the drive to Pakse, which takes approximately 3.5 hours. Check-in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Sitting on the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedone River, Pakse is an iconic town in southern Laos. Pakse is home to a large Vietnamese community. When visited during Têt (Vietnamese New Year), do not be surprised if many shops are closed. This small city has a mixture of Chinese and French architecture and some lively markets.

Overnight in Pakse

10

Thakhek - Savannakhet - Pakse

Thakhek – Savannakhet (150 km): 2 hours Savannakhet – Pakse (215 km): 3.5 hours

After a leisurely breakfast, be met by the guide at around 09:30 to continue the journey south. The drive to Savannakhet takes approximately 1.5 hours. Before entering Savannakhet make a stop at the beautiful 16th Century temple of That Ing Hang. An impressive central stupa dominates a courtyard which is flanked by statues of Lord Buddha, in a style similar to Wat Sisaket in Vientiane. That Ing Hang is among the most revered temples in Laos and many Buddhists will travel here during December for the annual Boun Phathat Ceremony.

Continue in to Savannakhet. The city is most famous as the birthplace of the father of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Kaysone Phomvihane, who was born here in 1920. Take a short tour of the architectural highlights, which include various French villas and the striking St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Visit the small but very interesting Dinosaur Museum. Dinosaur remains are being discovered nearby that date back to between 150,000,000 – 250,000,000 years old. Speak to the resident paleontologists and learn about the work. Proceeds from the visit help to keep this project going.

After lunch in a local restaurant, it is time to hit the road again for the drive to Pakse, which takes approximately 3.5 hours. Check-in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Sitting on the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedone River, Pakse is an iconic town in southern Laos. Pakse is home to a large Vietnamese community. When visited during Têt (Vietnamese New Year), do not be surprised if many shops are closed. This small city has a mixture of Chinese and French architecture and some lively markets.

Overnight in Pakse

11

Pakse - Champasak - Wat Phou

Pakse - Champasak (40km): 50 minutes

After breakfast, transfer by road to Wat Phou.

Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself.  The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.

After the visit, continue to Champasak to see samples of French colonial architecture and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Check-in the hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.

Overnight in Champasak

12

Pakse - Champasak - Wat Phou

Pakse - Champasak (40km): 50 minutes

After breakfast, transfer by road to Wat Phou.

Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Wat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple that sits amidst the rice fields and waterways of southern Laos. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself.  The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before the construction of Angkor Wat. The temple served as the most important economic and political centre of the region and still is one of the Lao people’s most revered temples.

After the visit, continue to Champasak to see samples of French colonial architecture and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Check-in the hotel. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.

Overnight in Champasak

13

Champasak - Veun Kham/ Dom Kralor -Cambodia

Champasak - Veun Kham (128km): 2 hours

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Veun Kham border for an overland journey to Cambodia.

14

Champasak - Veun Kham/ Dom Kralor -Cambodia

Champasak - Veun Kham (128km): 2 hours

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Veun Kham border for an overland journey to Cambodia.

Important Information

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation in shared twin/double room.
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).
  • Tours and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles.
  • English speaking local guide (for other languages supplements apply).
  • All entrance fees as indicated in itinerary.

Our Services do not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately).
  • Meals other than mentioned above.
  • Camera/video entrance fees.
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance, tips, visa
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

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