Mar 07 2013

The Tha Khaek Loop

Published by at 6:04 am under Southern Laos


The Tha Khaek Loop, also known as the Konglor Loop or just the Loop, is a 500-kilometre motorcycle journey starting and ending in Laos’ Tha Khaek. It takes in the stunning limestone scenery of Khammoune province, remote villages and many caves, of which the highlight is Konglor, a seven-kilometre long cave which has a large river running right through the middle of it.

Fantastic views are all around.

Fantastic views are all around.

Most people do the loop in three to five days depending on how many of the sights on the loop they want to take in and how many hours per day they want to ride.

Inside Konglor Cave.

Inside Konglor Cave.

Regardless, everyone takes in at least some of the caves between 10 and 20 kilometres to the east of Tha Khaek where you immediately get a feel for the landscape and the people — small villages, lots of farmers.

A typical cave on the loop journey

A typical cave on the loop journey.

In years gone by, almost the entire 500-kilometre journey was on dirt roads, but recent road-paving projects have made almost the entire journey rather easy to navigate by motorbike. Even the last terrible 30-kilometre section of road is undergoing an improvement programme and some may feel that the loop is not so much of an adventure any more. We think it still is an adventure, but without some of the hardships of the past.

It's pretty remote out there on the loop.

It’s pretty remote out there on the loop.

To extend the loop and take in some really remote areas, take the road to the east from the small town of Mahaxay. This road is a 200-kilometre loop which eventually comes back around to Route 12 and leads back to the main loop route. Along this particular detour, you’re almost guaranteed to not see another foreigner. The road is dirt most of the way and it culminates in a river crossing which requires you to sit on your motorbike on a canoe.

A one point on the extended loop a crossing like this is required.

At one point on the extended loop a crossing like this is required.

Along the entire loop, there are small guesthouses and plenty of places to get a feed of rice and noodles. Before departing, your motorcycle hire place is likely to provide you with a rough map of where you can stay and you can get an idea of how you want to pace your journey. A good rule of thumb is: three days is a rush, four days is relaxing and five days is for the extended loop.

A dodgy river crossing on the extended loop.

A dodgy river crossing on the extended loop.

Great information is available at the Travel Lodge guesthouse in Tha Khaek. Whether or not you’re staying there, it’s worth popping in and checking out their loop log books.

Motorbikes are available for rent from a variety of places in town with Travel Lodge charging 100,000 kip and others cheaper than this.

One the illuminated caves which boggles the mind.

One the illuminated caves which boggles the mind.

If you’re thinking of visiting Konglor and have a few days to spare to go on an adventure, the Tha Khaek Loop is certainly something worth considering.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Tha Khaek Loop”

  1. Daniel McBaneon 23 Mar 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Riding around ‘the loop’ was one of the highlights of my two months in Laos. We took 7 days to do it, but we really took our time and went off on a number of detours. Among them, we headed down the road you mentioned east of Mahaxay, but we didn’t go all the way around. I wish we’d known about that, but our map was horribly inadequate. It sounds like we missed out.

  2. Jiraon 18 Nov 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Thakhek Khong Lor Road Trip November 2013

    Just back from a trip to khong lor. We had a car so we drove from Vientiane to the route 13 LAK São turn off (marked on some maps as vieng kham, but commonly known as ‘tang bang lak São’). There are 3-4 medium sized 2 story concrete block hotels to cater for guests passing through. We stayed in a big green place on the Vientiane side of the 3 way intersection, 100,000 for room with air con or 60,000 for fan. Satellite tv with no English language Chanels. Room smelt a little moldy. next time will drive around 5km in along the LAK São road to stay at small set of bungalows called Skyline, on the right hand side of the road. Much nicer setting on a small river and much quieter without the highway traffic.

    There are a couple of good restaurants immediately on the right as you turn into the LAK São road. We had tasty veg friend rice & Lao coffee for breakfast there too. Unitel office across the road sold me a new SIM card and set up 3G access on my ipad for me.

    The following day we drove from tang beng LAK São through to the Vietnamese border point Namphao. A few steep windy parts along the way, with nice views of the limestone mountains, valleys and rivers. We got stuck behind several huge logging trucks taking planks of timber across to Vietnam. Probably saw around 20 of these timber trucks altogether.

    Stayed at the sainamhai resort 4km from baan na hin. Great little place with lovely garden and view over the river runoff from TPHC hydro dam. They had as election of local handicrafts (sings, fabrics, scarfs) which were unusual and we loved, spending our first 30 mins discussing weaving patterns and livelihood projects of local villagers.

    We went into baan na hin in the late afternoon to check out the local market and bought some vegetables and fruit. Lots of protected wildlife on display unfortunately. The village of nahin is right next to the fancy looking then hin noun power company site, with staff villas, expansive lawns, the THPC sit office and the golf course.

    we hired a couple of dodgy old Chinese motorbikes from a guesthouse on the market street in baan nahin. Maybe the name was known kham guest house? 80,000 a day. Only at 45 km ride to khong lor, great scenery and interesting contrast of hour power lines stretching out along the plain towards a break in the mountains towards thailand. Also irrigation project under construction as you head further south towards khong lor, with a network of small concrete waterways being built – someone in nearby village told us it was a THPC sponsored project. The road was in pretty good condition, with a few pot holes so you need to ride slow and keep an eye out for them. The turn off to khong lor is a few Km before baan nahin, there are 3 big petrol stations on the main road

    At khong lor we stayed at chantha house. It was simple, room was clean (really narrow bathroom, but nice hot shower), and had a good upstairs common balcony for potential sunset over the paddy fields and mountains. The food was tasty, we had pat phed gang the vegetables in red curry sauce. Free wifi. 60,000.

    There were a few decent looking guest houses in khong lor, including a row of bungalows on the main road right a few hundred metres before chantha house. Looked to have good balconies for view of the mountains around cave entrance, and paddy fields in the foreground. There is a fancy place around 200 metes from the village called khong lor sala.

    I’d love to go back and stay for a couple of days. Do some treks around with local guide and swim by the cave entrance, and relaxing with a book on a balcony. There is a nicely produced folder of ecotourism activities in the chantha house foyer, including maps

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