As dusk falls over Laos, an endless ribbon-like cloud of bats pours out of a cliffside cave at Pha Luang in Meuang Feuang.
This natural phenomenon has yet to attract many tourists. Only a handful of Lao biologists and outdoorsmen had made the trek until recent years, when the expressway and upgraded road provided easy access to Meuang Feuang and its popular Nam Lik Riverside accommodation.
But even today, few outsiders know about the “Pha Luang Bat Cave”, and those who do need a guide and permission from the village chief to visit the vantage point for the show.
Local lore tells us that a Pha Luang villager first spotted the massive bat colony’s evening flight generations ago. Back then, the area was mostly a forest, where locals hunted. One day, the villager went hunting, and decided to spend the night in a clearing in the forest. As he sat admiring the limestone cliffs at sunset, he saw a silent black stream shoot out of the mountainside.
Unsure of what he had witnessed, he returned home the next day, gathered some neighbors, and ventured to find the source of this mystery. They headed to the base of the mountain, where the hunter said the black wave had emerged. Sure enough, as the sun sank, the black cloud was injected into the sky. They were close enough to see the individual bats, and traced the flow to a cave halfway up the cliff.
They stayed up all night, waiting to see the bats return, but they couldn’t spot any in the dark. They climbed the cliff in the morning, and entered the cave. They didn’t see any bats at the opening, and the cave disappeared into the darkness. However, they did notice plenty of bat droppings (guano), which they collected to use as fertilizer and gunpowder. Biologists say the bats head out at night to find food for their offspring.
Today, much of the forest has been converted into rice fields, and Pha Luang villagers are mostly farmers. The best time to see this natural bat marvel is at dusk (6:00-6:30) during October-February, when the skies are clear. Cloudy skies during Green Season obstruct visibility and change the bats’ natural clock.
How to Get to Pha Luang Bat Cave: From Vientiane (about 90 minutes) and Vang Vieng, take the expressway to the Hin Hoeup exit and head west on the newly paved Nam Lik River Road to Ban Don, where you turn south on the Meuang Feuang District Road. Continue past Ban Na Dan, and take the turnoff west onto a dirt road and the 2.5 km (20-30-minute drive) to Pha Luang. From here, follow a trail through rice paddies and fields of grazing cows to the vantage point.
Note: No pin is available for Google Maps due to a lack of signal. Visitors should hire a tour operator or guide/driver (below), who needs permission from the village chief, to visit the vantage point. Access to the cave is prohibited.
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