Thakaek, I never really got a good vibe from this city. It has a lot of potential along the riverside and the old architecture suggests it may once have been a grand location but it now seems as though not many people are interested in it. The town is usually used as a staging area for those wanting to ride “The Loop” – a few hundred kilometre loop heading up and over a plateau and through some of the most beautiful natural scenery Laos has to offer. Parts of the road aren’t yet paved which only adds to the adventure! Other than that, it seems there’s not much more to Thakaek from a traveller’s point of view.
Loads of travel guides/information websites rave about the Traveller’s Lodge in Thakaek as being a great point to start and end “The Loop” but what they don’t tell you is that it is situated well away from the river or anything else for that matter. So rather naively we took a taxi there only to later realise how far we were from any other hostels or restaurants to try anything else than what the Lodge offers. And of course the only room available was the nice and pricey Deluxe room, more than double our current budget. Despite the price, it was a very basic room with air-con (not needed) and high ceilings. As it was already dark and we weren’t keen to drive around at night trying to find another place we sucked it up and stayed there.
To be fair though, if you are stopping in Thakaek with the sole purpose of hiring a motorbike and driving the loop without seeing any more of the city then sure, its a good place to stay. However we prefer exploring so the location wasn’t ideal for us.
The Loop (or at least part of it…)
As the Konglor cave is one of the main attractions on the northern part of the “Loop” and we had just arrived from there, we decided against going the whole way around again but instead opted to only drive up the plateau and around the lakes created by the Nam Theun dam project and enjoy an evening there. Actually Peryal saw a pic of the sun setting over the lake with hauntingly beautiful dead trees jutting out the water and really wanted to take some pictures of it. So we raced our little scooter up to the Phosy Thalang Guest-house just in time to catch this sunset…
It was rather cold driving in the evenings and early mornings high up on the plateau so if you’re planning this in winter then dress warmly! Early the following morning we made our way back to Thakaek and made arrangements to catch an the next overnight bus down to Pakse.
But not before stopping at Tham Nang Aen Cave and the Buddha Cave to enjoy some more subterranean tranquillity…
Aen Cave has been wonderfully lit up with colourful spotlights which gives it even more of an eerie feel than other caves. There we met a few Laotian students that wanted to take a picture with us so we asked them to take a pic with out camera too. The initial confusions due to the language barrier and subsequent photo shoot that followed were hilarious.
The Buddha Cave is a little bit more off the beaten track (an 8km dirt road that is anything but flat) but well worth a visit if you have the time. In April 2004 a local villager discovered the cave with 229 Buddha statues inside with no record of how where they came from or how they got there. The collection of Buddha images come from both the Sikhottabong and Lanexang eras with some believed to have Khmer and Vietnamese origin. Photography is prohibited inside the cave so we can only show you around the entrance.