I woke up at 6:30 when a monk started chanting. I had 150 km to Kong Lor cave so was glad to get an early start.
I set off across the bridge over the new reservoir, leaving the tiny village behind and continuing north on the unnamed road. The first portion of the ride was through forest, much of it underwater from the new dam. Dead trees protruded from the water ominously. There were no towns on this part of the ride.
The road was new and really nice. Probably the best I’ve ridden in Laos. But then the nice part ended. It became dirt, then partially finished gravel. Piles of gravel filled the road. Workers were busy building the road, mostly with shovels and pickaxes. There was a lot of dust from the traffic, but there were some nice views of idyllic countryside.
This reminded me of the poorly-named “Death Highway” in Cambodia. Online accounts about that road talk about a treacherous muddy dirt ox car path that twists and turns through the mountains. But it’s all paved now. In a few years this road will be all paved too. The Loop will not be quite adventurous as it once was.
Eventually I came to the town at the crossroads with Route 8, another major East/West highway that goes all the way to Vietnam. I stopped for lunch in a little restaurant. Once again, food was surprisingly expensive for Asia, but the dumpling soup was pretty impressive.
There were more idyllic views as I went west on Route 8. I have been on a plateau since yesterday, so there were some views looking down to the plain far below.
Finally the road twisted down to the flat plain. I turned off towards the cave. The road to it is 50 km long and ends at the cave, making it a sort of dead end side trip. But Kong Lor cave is said to be quite spectacular, and is the culmination of riding The Loop. Once again I was in an idyllic landscape of green fields and karts cliffs. The scenery on this stretch was some of the nicest of The Loop.
I stopped at the first place I found, a little resort far off the road. It’s on a little stream under some karst cliffs. It’s quite scenic. It’s on Agoda, so there are quite a few tourists there who booked ahead. Since I didn’t reserve, I could bargain. The basic bungalow didn’t have en suite, so I negotiated the price from 150,000 to 50,000 kip. Once again, the food is pretty fantastic. But it’s not really what the locals eat.