1,000 Buddhas; The Caves of Pak Ou in Laos

The world-famous caves of Pak Ou are in a sandstone cliff about 25 km north of Luang Prabang directly above the Mekong. As we were already in the area, it was an absolute must, this important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Laos.

Thanks to Udon News forumite 'Maithai' for this excellent report.

It's at the mouth of the Nam Ou river where it meets the Mekong.

These are the typical Mekong vessels with a shallow draft, here used as tour boats. The caves are accessible only by water. It takes about 2 hours scenic boat ride to get to your destination.

In the offices of the tour agent tickets are sold for about 65,000 kip per person (about 260 baht). Alternatively you negotiate with the skippers on the river-bank for a smaller, private boat for the whole tour - approximately 3-400,000 Kip (about 1,500 baht). We opted for this option since our normal departure time of 8:30 was too early for us to enjoy our extensive breakfast.

The rear-view of our skipper. Very nice, but only spoke 3 words of English. But he did a good job, because from the bank the river looks quiet and slow, but from his boat you can see the many eddies and rapids. Some rocks are visible just below the water surface. You have to watch the river very closely if you're to arrive intact.

It was quite amazing to see how every little piece of waterfront is used for growing vegetables. The river-mud is very fertile.

On the way to the caves is a quasi 'pit stop' at the 'whiskey village'. Here the Laotian rice whiskey is produced in two flavors. Of the production itself, we saw nothing, but there were a lot of stalls selling whiskey bottles and cloths. As always they all sell the same! It doesn't give an authentic impression.

Our boat is approaching the cave. Looks just great!

Other boats are there before us, so we had to dock in the back on shaky bamboo walkways. We got off the boat and went directly to the kiosk, as usual in Laos. This time it's 20,000 kip per person (about 80 baht). The only toilet here costs 3,000 kip per use (about 12 baht). Then we go up the stairs.

It's pretty steep here!

About the origin of the Buddha collection I found two explanations:

The first indicates that these caves were a place of pilgrimage for centuries. Every pilgrim brought a Buddha statue and left them in the cave, where they accumulated. Some of them really look very old.

The other explanation is that the Laos population brought them here during the war in Indochina to protect them against looting. There are more than 5,000 statues here.

I think that the correct explanation is probably a mixture of both.

There is an upper and a lower cave, with most figures to be found in the lower cave. Here is the front portion of the lower cave. On each side there are statues.

Impressive and quite spiritual.

You can see in detail the many beautiful statues here.

On the way back we ran into a typhoon, giving us abruptly decreasing temperatures and heavy rain in the boat, so eventually we were glad to be back in our cozy hotel.

It was an impressive site and a beautiful and exciting boat ride on the Mekong River, but you should avoid holidays and the associated flow of tourists.

posted on: 04.01.2014 - last update on: 03.02.2017

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Latitude: 20.054359
Longitude: 102.214007

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