Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pac Ou Caves

Stairs to upper and Lower caves
Pak Ou Caves are a natural cave system along the banks of the Mekong River. It is not far from Luang Prabang, for centuries the seat of the Kingdom of Laos.
Boat across the Mekong
What makes Pak Ou Caves an extraordinary sacred pilgrimage site is their treasure trove of Buddha statues inside -- over 3,000 of them. These Buddhas were carved of wood and left as offerings over the centuries by pilgrims who were traders, farmers, and even kings.
Overlooking the Mekong River in Lower Cave
Today, Pak Ou Caves are visited by contemporary Buddhist pilgrims and by motivated travelers. Why do they need motivation? This mystical site is accessible by boat only. Travelers can take a leisurely riverboat from Luang Prabang, or rent kayaks and paddle down the Mekong, an unforgettable adventure.
Main Section of Lower Cave
Approximately two hours upstream from Luang Prabang, the Pak Ou Caves are positioned in limestone cliffs above the Mekong River. The two caves are literally filled with scores of wooden Buddha statues accumulated during the 1000 years of worship at the sacred site. The Upper cave is called Tham Phoum and the Lower one is called Tham Ting.
Stairs to the Upper Cave with Mekong in the Background
To reach the upper cave, follow stairs to the left and climb for five sweaty minutes. This one is 50m-deep behind an old carved-wooden portal. If you didn't bring a torch (flashlight), you can borrow one for a suitable donation from a desk at the front.

Buddhas in Upper cave
The Nam Ou river joins the Mekong beneath the dramatic karst formation that, from some distance south, looks like a vast green eagle taking off. Facing it is the village of Ban Pak Ou, where a handful of river-front restaurants gaze out across the Mekong. On the other side (there's no bridge) are the two famous caves cut into the limestone cliff. Both are crammed with Buddha images of various styles and sizes. 

The Upper Cave Buddhas are well taken care of
It was a great experience for us and we really enjoyed seeing all the Buddhas and the Mekong below the upper cave. The lower cave was crowded but I waited and got a few pictures with out the crowds. It is quite a walk to the upper cave, over 318 steps and it costs 3000 Kip to use the restroom on the way back. All in all it was a fun afternoon trip.

Highly recommended! 

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1 comment:

  1. The area and caves look fabulous! Visiting Vietnam in November, will definitely have to add this trip to our itinerary. Thanks