Visiting Konglor Cave, Laos

Konglor cave (also known as Kong Lo cave) in Konglor village in Southern Laos is a bit of a hidden gem. Roughly four hours bus ride from Vientiane, it is a sleep farming village where chickens roam the roads and there are just a handful of restaurants and some great guesthouses popping up.

Konglor village, March 2012

Konglor cave is just 10 minutes walk from where most of the guesthouses are situated and is the main reason for travellers to visit Konglor. It is a 7 kilometer long cave, through which a section of the Hin Boun river runs. Taking a boat through the cave is a truly awesome experience, which some parts of the cave reaching over 50 meters in height.

On the boat in Konglor Cave

The trip through the cave to the village of Ban Natan takes about an hour and there is usually a half hour rest side for refreshments before the return journey to Konglor. Sandals and a decent headtorch are a must for seeing the inside of the cave and its amazing features.

Coming out of the cave into Ban Natan

I really enjoyed the time I spent in Konglor in 2012. The people were really accomodating and the village had a lot of charm. I hope it hasn’t changed too much and that Konglor cave will continue to welcome travellers for years to come.

How to get to Konglor Cave

The nearest town is Nahin (Khoum Kham), located along Route 8 in central Laos. If you are traveling on the central Laos loop you will pass through Nahin.

If you are coming from the north, such as from Vientiane, you will probably be on a bus heading south to Tha Khaek or beyond. You’ll be traveling on Route 13 and you’ll need to get off the bus at the junction with Route 8 near Vieng Kham (Thang Beng). From this junction, take a songthaew to Nahin.

If you are coming from the south and heading north, you’ll get off at the same junction and you’ll take the same songthaew to Nahin. An easier option from the south is a songthaew directly from Tha Khaek to Nahin.

The cave is a further 30km south of Nahin. Another songthaew will take you there. If you arrived in Nahin on your own transportation, the turn off to the cave is marked and not too difficult to find. If you are having trouble, just ask someone.

Accomodation near Konglor Cave

The only place near the cave with an online presence is Chantha House, but luckily it’s the best option in the area anyway. There didn’t seem to be a shortage of rooms when we were there (2012), so you can probably just show up and find a room/

One of the villages on the far side of the cave offers home-stay options. They charge 50,000 Kip for a place to sleep (usually a thin mattress on a hard floor) and three meals per day. These villages are extremely rural with no modern amenities, but can be a great experience for those interested in seeing how people in this part of the world live.

The cave…

If you arrive at the cave by motorbike or bicycle, you will be required to pay a small parking fee. Boats through the cave cost 100,000 Kip each, which includes the entrance fee to the cave. They will only allow two people per boat (although you will see about ten Laotians squeezed into the same boat)

Make sure to wear sturdy footwear that can get wet. The boat will scrape the bottom at several points (especially in the dry season) and you will have to get out and wade while the boatmen drag the boat across the rocks. At one point, you will be let out of the boats to explore some of the rock formations up close. A strong torch could come in handy as well.

A Foodie’s Guide To London Food Markets

Although famous for its glamorous nightlife and flashing bright lights, London balances it out quite well with its softer side. The smell of attractive desserts and freshly baked goods from around the world flows through the air of Britain’s capital. Dodge the costly tourist activities and forget about the soulless restaurant chains you see in every other city. Explore London how the locals do—in the heart of its diversity. You don’t have to be an aspiring chef or a culinary expert to enjoy London’s food markets.

Borough Market

Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL
Tube Stop: London Bridge

A real food-fanatic cannot call themselves a true foodie until they delve into the taste-heaven which is Borough market. The oldest and best known market in London is right next to London Bridge station. What makes the produce in Borough Market so deliciously different is the quality; my favourite bit is the excellent cheese selection. The market is popular with meat enthusiasts, too, and you’ll find more choice here than anywhere else in the capital. Borough’s brilliance has definitely grown over the years, but so have the prices. Unfortunately, you won’t get the most bang for your buck here, but it certainly is something spectacular. Free samples are enough to fill your stomachs, too.

After all that eating, you’ll be dying for a coffee. Monmouth coffee grind their own stuff every day, and I know a good espresso when I see one. This London food market is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday but they also open on Mondays to Wednesdays for lunch.

Brixton Market

Brixton Market, Electric Avenue, London, Brixton SW9 8JX
Tube Stop: Brixton Tube Station

Brixton Market is probably one of the most diverse of its kind. London’s strongest point is its cultural diversity, and Brixton does an excellent job of portraying that. From the spiced herbs of Indian food to fresh fruit and vegetables blended into Thai cuisine, this market has it all – Caribbean, Chinese, and much more. It’s endless. Reggae bass blasting out of industrial-sized speakers adds to that touch of Brixton’s vibrant past.

Be careful about going crazy on the samples – the sheer variety of food is bound to leave your stomach upset. Instead find similar types of cuisine and stuff yourself that way! After that, head to Ritzy Cinema nearby to catch a quick film or go to a jazz bar and relax to some music. Brixton is filled with endless opportunities.

Broadway Market

Broadway Market, London, E8 4PH
Tube Stop: Bethnal Green

Broadway Market attracts a younger generation of clientele: fast-moving and open-minded. Hackney is London’s cool, hip-artist area filled with fresh ideas and creative thinking, and Broadway Market couldn’t be located in a better place. Mouth-watering cheese and fresh seafood (maybe not together, but certainly one after the other) will leave you in love with this market. Lucky Chip’s burgers are a must, followed with a coffee from Climpson & Sons. If you catch a rare sunny Sunday afternoon in London, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

Brick Lane

The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL
Tube Stop: Shoreditch

It’s finding these hidden gems that really make London worthwhile. Not all the food markets in the capital are world-famous for being overly-hyped tourist hotspots, and Brick Lane is one of the lesser-known few. Because of this, prices are relatively low while the quality remains sky-high. Located in the Old Truman Brewery building, the market uses industrial space perfectly, filled with fresh Moroccan dishes, hand-rolled Sushi, excellent Spanish paella and Caribbean classics. Don’t be surprised if you run into fashion stalls, either – bespoke items apparently work well with zesty world-renowned cuisine.

These London food markets are only a handful of the large selection available in the capital. The summer’s around the corner, and with the sun finally starting to creep up, there’s never been a better time to visit. There are also a lot of smaller pop-ups that have their own charm. Whichever market you decide to visit, make sure you’re hungry and ready to fill up with some diversely outstanding food!

So now that you’re clued up on the top London food markets, continue you journey around capital in search of the best dishes by taking a look at Secret London: 3 of the best pop-up restaurants.

Day Tripping in North Yorkshire

The area of the UK i’m writing about today has been mentioned before on lexitravels.com

I wrote about it in July 2013 in my post on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Route, which crosses the North York Moors via Ingleby Cross and Glaisdale, ending on the North Sea coast in the spectacular Robin Hood’s Bay. Having been reminded recently of the spectacular nature of the scenery in North Yorkshire whilst watching the Tour de Yorkshire on television this past weekend.

Whitby

“This is a lovely place. The little River Esk runs through a deep valley which broadens out as it comes near the harbour… The houses of the old town are all red-roofed and seem piled up one after the other anyhow…Right over the town is the ruin of the Abbey, a noble ruin of immense size. Between it and the town is another church, the Parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.”

These are the words of Bram Stoker, describing the town of Whitby in his 1897 book, Dracula. The ruins of Whitby Abbey (below) described by Stoker are no less impressive in 2015 than they were back in the late 19th century.

Aside from the Abbey, Whitby is a lovely little historical port town, famous for its pint-sized fisherman’s cottages and Georgian townhouses. Local boy James Cook served his apprenticeship in Whitby and all of the ships used on his world voyages were built on the surrounding coat. You will find a whalebone arch and bronze statue commemorating the life of this great sea captain in the town.

Whitby is a perfect stop for a brisk walk on the often windy (perfect for kite flying) beach and a dinner of freshly caught fish with a side of chips.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Part of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast, Robin Hood’s Bay is place to head for a wander and a refreshing drink by the sea. Six miles south of Whitby (and accessible by local bus or coastal path from Whitby) Robin Hood’s Bay benefits from a beautiful sweeping bay with golden sand and chocolate box houses which dapple the landscape that sweeps down from the North York Moors towards the sea. The sea shore around Robin Hood’s Bay is utterly fascinating, with rock pools, fossils and areas of sandy beach featuring.

Day trippers in the area can trek up the hill to St Stephen’s Church, which sits along the Whitby road, for spectacular views over the bay. “The sea is a recurring theme throughout the church and there are memorials to the shipwrecked in church and churchyard, a list of rescues by the lifeboat and a model of SS Pretoria.” says recent visitor to the church Jonathan Brennan who took the photo above.

You can find more information on visiting Robin Hood’s Bay here.

Resources for your day trip to North Yorkshire:

Train tickets for many destinations in North Yorkshire including Whitby, Scarborough and Bridlington (connect through York)

Walking Maps of the North York Moors and North Yorkshire coastline.

Do share any recommendations you have for day trips in the North Yorkshire area and any places to stop for food and drink in the comments section below.

Throwback Thursday – Angkor Wat 2012

In March 2012, towards the very end of a nine month round the world trip, I travelled to Cambodia and spent four days in the beautiful city of Siem Riep. There, along with new-found friends, I visited the temples of Angkor Wat. Here a few snaps from my time exploring the temples. I had such a great time, but it was too short and that means Siem Riep is one of the key places on my ‘must-return’ list.

 

Review: Parador De Carmona, Andalucia

In February, I was travelling on a short trip with my family through Andalucia and we decided to stay one night in the small hill-top town of Carmona, just 20 kms from the city of Seville (see map).

Carmona, 15kms from Seville in Andalucia

Carmona in Andalucia is home to one of the most beautiful parador hotels. If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘parador’, you’re not alone. They are not all that well known outside of Spain, mainly due to a lack of marketing or promotion to foreign markets and for this reason, you’re not likely to meet many non-Spanish guests while staying at a Parador.

Google’s chosen definition of a Parador (below) could lead you to believe that they are miserable cheap pensions, when in fact, they are luxury historic hotels such as converted from monasteries and palaces. They are spread throughout Spain and run a great many deals and bundles that groups such as the under 30s and over 55s can take advantage of.

Parador de Carmona

This was my first experience of staying a parador, despite having travelled throughout the country and living in Alicante for 9 months in 2007-8. It was a completely new experience for me and when I found out the price of the hotel (about €100/night for a twin room) I wasn’t expecting such luxury. For the same price as a cheap and nasty hotel in central London, we got luxury, space and amazing views. Not only this but terrific service and super friendly and accommodating staff, the kind that remember you, your room number, your tea/coffee preference and a number of other things.

The interior courtyard at the Parador

Our room had a great view across the plains (see photos) and was terrifically spacious and comfortable. The solid window shutters ensured that I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages, followed by a sumptuous buffet breakfast featuring every fruit, cake, pastry and cooked item you could ever think of. Whilst this seemed quite expensive at about €17, the evening meal, at €30 for three courses, was a great deal and offered a great selection of local specialities that were exquisitely cooked. The parador seems too make a great effort to keep their offerings, such as the dishes, ingredients and wine, local and will always make recommendations to help you understand the choices. Parador andalucia.

After my first stay in a Parador, I’m really looking forward to planning my next trip to Spain to enjoy at least a few different paradores outside of Andalucia.

The next Parador I’ve got my eye on is….

Parador de Jarandilla de la Vera

Situated 215 kilometers from Madrid in the Extremadura region of Spain, this Parador is quite spectacular looking. Surrounded by orange and olive trees, it overlooks the river gorges and chestnut woods of the La Vera region. The parador’s restaurant serves traditional extremaduran food such as Patatas Revolconas (Paprika mashed potatoes) and Migas (fried breadcrumb balls). In the town of Jarandilla de la Vera you can see various mausoleums and hermitages alongside medieval bridges.

In the nearby Vera and Jerte valleys or in the Natural Park of Monfrague, you can enjoy hiking, horse riding and mountain biking and canoeing as well as relaxing with a swim in the natural pools.

This area is full of villages and towns worth visiting as well as the gorges through which the crystal water flows, such as the beautiful Garganta del Jaranda gorge.

From the parador you can enjoy day trips to the towns of Plasencia, whose Cathedral is one of the most important in Extremadura, and the picturesque Roman town of Caparra, which flourished in the first century.