Pak Ou Buddha Caves at Luang Prabang - Laos
Pak Ou Buddha Caves in Luang Prabang is one of the main highlights of the Mekong River cruise when you are visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the very interesting trips to see the thousands of Buddha statues inside the caves here.
Pak Ou Buddha Caves in Luang Prabang is one of the main highlights of the Mekong River cruise when you are visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of the very interesting trips to see the thousands of Buddha statues inside the caves here. It seems like the entire Luang Prabang guests either have been or are going when in town. This Buddha Cave trip is sold at all travel agents around town and happily, I was one of the travelers that took the trip here. The broucher says "Take a boat ride, Visit a traditional Lao whiskey village and see the Thousand Buddha Statues at Pak Ou Caves".
Getting to Pak Ou Caves is via long boat from the main town of Luang Prabang. The journey is 25 kilometers and this will be one you remember as you would be cruising along the great Mekong River for almost an hour making one or two stops at a local Lao Whiskey Village or Sa Paper Village. When you book your tour, the agent will meet everyone in town and then walk you from town through some lanes passing peoples homes and eventually arriving at a sandbank where few boats are waiting.
When you arrive at the tour meet up point in the morning, there will be many various groups heading in the same direction so please stick to your group as it can get a little confusing if you have not had you coffee fix. Once you arrive at the riverbank, you board the long boat and your journey starts. Please do not mind the river water as the milk-tea colour is pretty normal. The long boats are also very basic so no 5-Star treatment. You get to sit on a wooden stool/chair for your entire journey.
If you are a backpacker, this would be a great pace to meet fellow travelers as the journey will take about an hour. Looking out the boat, you see nothing much but beautiful Lao landscape and an occasional fisherman. passing by. Villagers go by their daily washing of clothes and Lao children playing by the river are common sights. You will also see a number of other tourist boats, some faster than your boat zooming past by.
Along the way to Pak Ou, I saw a unique Hotel Boat where guest live on board. I asked around and was told that there are a number of hotel boats that travel along the Mekong River stopping at various towns. It looked pretty interesting as I may consider trying this out the next time I visit Luang Prabang.
Apparently the local Lao people have been coming to the Pak Ou Caves for thousands of years bringing statues of the Theravada Buddha. Until today, the locals still make their way there and continue to bring Buddha Statues. During the Laos New Year, pilgrimages of Lao people travel by boat to the caves and perform the washing ceremony of all the old Buddha images. Previously this was performed by the King and members of the Royal Family but now is performed by the Governor of Luang Prabang and local families.
Upon reaching the upper cave, I made a quick visit and saw more Buddha statues there. Going deeper into the upper caves would require a flashlight which I did not have. So, if you plan to explore the upper cave, do bring along a flashlight. By the way, there are more stairs to climb when going to the upper caves so best be prepared with proper hiking or trekking shoes.
You might also want to have some bug repellent on stand by and pack some food as there are no shops or restaurants at the caves.
For the adventurous, there are also companies that offer Kayaking trips to Pak Ou Caves so you can inquire with the local tour companies for this. And for those who do not like long boat rides, you can also visit the caves via Tuk tuk going through the villages.
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