Tha Khaek is in Laos.
From the North: Buses from Vientiane leave the Southern Bus station every 1-2h in the morning, the journey takes around 6h, 50,000 kip standard or 75,000 for a very colorful VIP bus. Note getting to the southern bus station involved a fairly long tuk tuk ride that will probably cost more than 50,000 kip. You can get a local bus from the Talat Soa (market) bus station to the southern one, it will save you money if you can't share a tuk tuk but this will take you quite a bit longer. There is VIP hotel pick up buses that can be booked from the center of Vientiane but they make quite a mark up charging around 130,000 per person!
Buses leave for Savannakhet (25,000 kip, 2-3h) and Pakse (50,000 kip 5-7h) at around 10.30. A tuk tuk to the bus station will probably cost 10,000 kip per person and takes about 15 minutes.
Tha Khaek town is small enough to walk around but tuk tuks will take you most places for 5,000-10,000 kip if you are feeling lazy. One speed bicycles can be hired from the Travelers Lodge at the slightly over
A tuk tuk to / from the bus station will probably cost 10,000 kip per person and takes about 15 minutes.
The market hidden behind the shops on the roundabout corner oppositely the Lao Development Bank is well worth a visit. Narrow lanes wind between the shops leading to a large open market selling fresh produce and sometimes unusual meats (or road kill!), Snakes, Squirrels frogs and bats are just some of the things seen for sale in the southern corner.
Tha Khaek itself is a small town, the Meekong has good views of Thailand and a fountain square is under development at the end of the main road, in Jan 08 the waterfront road was buried under piles of sand and bricks but once construction is complete it could be quite attractive.
Bicycles and Mopeds can be rented from the Tha Khaek Travelers Lodge or from a cloths shop on the southern side of the main road leading to the Lao Development Bank. An internet cafe on the other side of the road is open until about 10pm and charges 120 kip/minute. (Half the price of the dial up connection in the travelers lodge)
The Loop as it has become know is a good few hundred KM round trip along route 13 to the east and then back up and around returning to Tha Kheak on route 12. It is normally done in three to four days on a hired moped or using your own transport. It is not for the faint hearted, the condition of the roads and the driving standards of other vehicles is challenging to say the least! Once you have washed all of the thick orange dust out of you hair and clothing it is hard not to feel a great sense of achievement in having completing it.
Don't attempt to do the whole loop on the bicycles you can rent unless you are very determined. It is possible to reach the Tham Nong Pafa Cave (often referred to as the Budda cave) and some of the southern leg this way if you don't mind the heat and are reasonably fit but the lack of gears and suspension would make it very uncomfortable to go further. Allow a full day if going all the way to Aen Cave by bicycle and at least half for a visit the the signposted Budda cave (approx 15km from town, the last 9 of which is a dusty dirt road that winds through some stunning limestone scenery)
Tha Falang is a swimming spot in the river about 15km east along route 12, is a somewhat disappointing in the dry season but the ride and friendly children still make this trip good fun. It is not signed in English so you will need to turn off to the north, down a sandy track second after the bridge before the road bends around to the right between two cliffs. Immediately south after the bridge there is a shady spot to park and you can follow the river to Tham Xiengliab, a small cave with river flowing through it. Again a guide or pack of children will probably appear to guide you. Bring a torch and some gifts for the children if you want to go inside. After this point the road works being (Jan 08) Its about another 4-5km to the commercialized Aen Cave which is lit with a rainbow of neon strip lamps and has an amazing network of Escher like staircases. It has a river running out of mouth and a big pool at the back and is worth a look for the stair cases alone. 10,000 kip + 2,000 for the bike.
Konglor Cave is likely to be the highlight of this trip if not the whole of Laos, a 7km underground river that can be navigated by motorized long boat using torch light. It emerges into a lush valley on the far side which previously was only accessible by foot. In the dry season you will have to get out while the boat men drag the long boat over the shallows so bring flip flops. 100,000kip for the return trip, max 3 people to a boat. The road to Konglor is currently under construction and parts involve loose gravel and soft sand but it is due for completion around July 08. There are various guest house options along this road and some good home stays in the village about 1km from the cave itself (50,000kip per person with breakfast and dinner, max three people in the same house)
Check your bikes thoroughly before starting this trip, make sure the lights work and check the odometer as a lot of the turnings are not signed and you will have to measure the distance between junctions. If your helmet does not have a visor then sunglasses are essential as the dust and insects will blind you.
There are a number of very informative scrap books filled with tips, maps and others experience on 'The Loop' in the Travelers Lodge.
A number of Cafes line the riverfront road serving the usual types of basic food. In the market good noodle soup and be eaten under the sheltered section towards the middle. Pork Rolls (in hot French baguettes) can be bought as a take away lunch from stands near the new fountain square at the end of the main road, towards the other end night food stall sell pan cakes and pork buns by battery powered lamps. Its makes a good stop on the way back from Rendez-Vous and is good way to spend some money outside the monopolizing Travelers Lodge.
Rendez-Vous on the main road leading to the River front is a lively bar in the evenings, its popular with locals but good fun in a group. Beer Lao 9000 kip. Snooker table around the back.
- Tha Khaek Travelers Lodge - probably the most popular place in town but also the friendly campfire garden layout. It has a large dorm, 25,000 kip; doubles / twins for 50,000 and much nicer en suit rooms around the garden court year for 90 / 110 with air con. The inside rooms are very basic and the beds hard. It could do with some renovation but the outside seating just about makes up for this. Its a good place to meet people and arrange trips but easy to let it become the source of breakfast, lunch and dinner! The rest of the town is very undeveloped try to distribute your spending if you can. The staff in the Travelers lodge seem over worked anyway!
This page was last edited at 03:15, on 28 October 2008 by Wikitravel user Texugo. Based on work by Henry Wood, Wikitravel user(s) Oztraveller and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.