Pak Ou Caves

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Kez on March 1, 2006

The Pak Ou caves are one of the most well known sights in the area.

Filled with over 4000 Buddha images, there are two caves (one upper and one lower) set into a limestone cliff some way up the river from Luang Prabang. If you enter the closest and lowest cave first on entry, you will see a small shrine with quite a number of statues. Take the stairs at the left and you enter the cave proper. It is absolutely crammed with Buddhas sitting and standing on every available rock space.

Continue along the path to the higher cave. This contains another shrine with a large number of smaller statues. The cave itself is much larger, and the ceiling stretches upwards. At each cave there is a small box for donations, and you can pay to hire a torch to explore the caves. You really only need the torch for the upper cave, as enough natural light filters into the lower cave. The best option to visit is to take a boat, which is easily arranged when you are ready to go. It is a half-day-trip, and approximately 25km from LP.

When we were there, the caretakers's kids came to meet us to pose for photos in exchange for a little hard currency. One was holding a young Owl, and the other was holding numerous baby Squirrels. It was only after some time that we realised that the poor little Owl was on a short tether made of elastic bands twisted together. The young girl would throw it into the air and the poor Owl would start to fly, only to be pulled back to earth and land with a thud. When we tried to explain that allowing the Owl to believe that it could fly and instead being pulled back and landing on the concrete path with a thud that would almost certainly hurt the poor creature we were given puzzled stares.

I contemplated the idea of buying back the Owl, but my partner quietly asked me "what would you do with it if you did so?" I had to give up the idea. I certainly couldn't pack it into my bag and fly back to Australia with it. How different our ideas of cruelty can be when in another place and culture? The boat also stopped at a traditional village where people were busy making snake whiskey. I sampled a little and it almost blew my head off. The other village was Xangkhongposa, which is a weaving and paper making village where they make some seriously beautiful handmade papers. You had the opportunity to see the papers being made and were able to buy some, but were under no pressure to do so.

The boat trip also gives the opportunity to see fishing with traditional nets, water buffalo wallowing in the shallows, and lots of kids all cooling off in the waters and giving a big wave to you as you pass by. The trip there and back is almost as good as the destination itself!

Pak Ou Caves
Overlooking the Mekong River
Luang Prabang, Laos

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