We got picked up in a minibus this morning to take us to the main bus station, where we boarded our VIP bus to Kong Lo. As we were getting on the bus we saw 2 familiar faces - Natalie and Mai who we went tubing with in Vang Vieng! They were also on their way to the caves, and there were quite a few other Western people on the bus who were also heading there.
The bus journey took about 6 and a half hours and for most of the way we had to listen to very loud Laos/Thai music which was very difficult to ignore!
We finally arrived in the small village of Kong Lo at about 3pm and walked with Natalie and Mai to a guesthouse we'd spotted on our way into the village. We got a double room with fan and private bathroom for a fiver, and Natalie and Mai got a twin room next door. There's not much in the village - a few small guesthouses and tiny 'restaurants' and the national park where the caves are. Not a lot of people visit the caves as it's not that well known yet, and doesn't have an established tourist trail - the bus we got has only recently started going all the way here. Because of this, we got to know the other Westerners on our bus, sharing our guidebook with them and chatting as we met in the village. All of the locals and children were very friendly and we said 'Sabaidee!' (hello) to every single person we passed. A few of the people from the bus decided to do a homestay and stayed with one of the families in the village.
After a wander to the National Park entrance, 1km along the only main road and where we need to go tomorrow for the boat trip, we sat down in one of the small family-run restaurants. It had about 5 tables and a brief menu with mostly Laos and Thai food, and plenty of Beerlao in the fridge - it'll do for us! Shortly after ordering our Thai curries, we were joined by Natalie and Mai who ate with us. We arranged to meet them in the morning and come back to this restaurant for breakfast before going to the caves.
In the room we watched an episode of Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey on the laptop before going to sleep. Looking forward to seeing the caves tomorrow!