Tham Khoun Xe or also known as Xe Bang Fai, is the largest River cave far away from Laos’ central province Khammouane.
The cave derives from mountain Annam Trung Sun on the border of Vietnam – Laos, crosses Nakhai plateau and flows into the Mekong river. Nakhai plateau is formed from lines of sandstone layers and big carbonates dissolved by the river to create the today Tham Khoun Xe cave, with about 7km total length of the subterranean canal.
The cave was discovered by a French exploration team, Paul Macey, in 1905 and once again in 1995.
According to the report of the exploration team, Tham Khoun Xe is a subterranean part of Xe Bang Fai river, is one of the biggest River cave in the world with gigantic caves with the heights of 120m, width of 200m and many impressive geological structures.
Before being discovered by the exploration team, the cave was used by the Laos’ locals to fish in the downstream and cave gate area, while some of the stone wall areas were the ideal place to keep and reap salanganes.
However, after 90 years without any efforts for the exploration of the cave, due to an unknown reason, it has to be closed. Till the year 2005 – 2006, this place has been reopened for tourists to discover in kayaks. Since that point of time, many exploration teams from France and North America have held many investigation trips to this region.
It took time till the year 2008 that Tham Khuon Xe had been re-explored by an exploration team from National Geographic. Since there this place has become famous all over the world.
The entrance has a 60m-high dome at a huge area like a curved terraced stand with a height of more than 150m. The river sections in the cave are about 76m in width and 53m in height, but in some areas it can exceed the width of 100m.
The length of the largest river section was discovered at 200m. The way through the cave is about 4 – 12m deep. Many areas possess stalagmite and stalactite more than 20m in height and some pearls with a diameter of 32cm have been found in this cave.
At the entrance, a beautiful forest has grown green, the green of the forest corresponds to the white and orange of the terraced fields, painting unique and exquisite arrays of colors on the limestone walls.
Tham Khoun Xe consists great mystery and miraculous, very hard to discover at the first sight, which is also the reason the locals believe that spirits are living in the subterranean river, who protects the village.
The legend has it that on one day, the local forgot their spoiled musical instruments at the cave entrance, but on the next day, those instruments were fixed and could totally play music. Those spirits will always protect the locals when the fall from the cliffs, therefore never has anyone lost his life here.
Also for this reason, the locals disregard their safety and do not warn tourists to wear helmets when the paddle in the cave. However, instead of this, the locals hold annual worship to the “protecting spirits” of the cave right at the cave entrance for their own and that of the tourists safety.
Besides admiring the beauty of the main cave, discovering the plentiful range of wild animals in Hin Nam Nor sanctuary is also an unforgettable experience. In addition, take a paddle trip in the kayak to discover the cave, or a walk on several grounds…If you can paddle on own, you may contact a local guide, to provide your trip more pleasant and safety.
Arriving here, several tour choices are on option for you:
Short tour: Paddling about 300m inside the cave and climbing to admiring the beauty of the Balcony cave. Moreover, you can spend about one hour to go through the mud puddles or climbing to the heights to witness the whole beauty of the cave.
Long tour: Enjoy a long paddle trip for the whole 2km inside the cave, then you turn back to discover the Balcony cave. This tour is the best choice for tourists with the taste for exploration and the ferocious sound of the falls…
You should take the trip to Tham Khoun Xe cave in the dry season from November to April, as at that time the water contains a very beautiful tone of blue. Please avoid this tour in the rainy season, from June to October, since the flow is swiftly, causing danger and difficulties to approach. However, if you choose to paddle form Pak Pha Nang village, the discovering of the cave is available for all around the year.