"The Pak Ou Caves" Luang Prabang Things to Do Tip by Blatherwick

Luang Prabang Things to Do: 459 reviews and 1,013 photos

  Pak Ou
by Blatherwick

The Nam Ou caves have played an important role in Laotian's spiritual lives. Lao monarchs visited the caves once a year during the Lao New Year and commissioned statues were placed inside them. Devout visitors also placed carvings in the shrines. The site is still a popular spot for locals to visit during the Lao New Year. Altogether, there are about 4,000 Buddhas in the two caves. Some of them are made of resin, or soapstone, or sandstone, or horn, but mostly they are of carved wood finished with lacquer and gold leaf.

The Lower Cave at Pak Ou, known as Tham Ting is entered from a series of steps above the boat landing. The cave is open to the light revealing the shrine that this cave has become. Hundreds of Buddhas stand in rows, on shelves of stone, or in tight huddles in small alcoves. They wear carved robes finished in crimson, and enigmatic smiles on their faces. Others have curving arms reaching almost to their feet.

The Upper Cave, known as Tham Phum, contains the majority Buddha statues. There is no natural light in the this cave so flashlights are needed. They can be obtained at the front of the cave. If you arrive at a time when the tourist hordes aren't around then this cave is quite atmospheric with some cool buddha statues to look at. Otherwise, you end up wandering around with a torch trying to avoid running into people.

The best part of the Pak-Ou caves is the journey along the Mekong River. Northern Laos has some beautiful scenery and the people along the river. The trip I took included a stop at village where they make the local Lao Lao whiskey. The Lao think that us foreigners are all off our rockers. I know because I constantly hear them saying, "Falang Pi Ba" (Foreigner crazy). Of course if you know me you can probably understand why.

Address: Confluence of Mekong River and Nam Ou River
Directions: 25km upriver from Luang Prabang. It's best to travel by boat. Look for the boats on Souvanabaland Rd. behind the Royal Palace.

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  • Updated Apr 3, 2005
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