Lying on the Mekong and Ou Rivers’ confluence, the Pak Ou Caves site is best reached by boat. This cave is famous for the hundreds and hundreds of Buddha images it houses within.
Located 25 kilometers North of Luang Prabang, the caves can also be accessed by land. From the nearest riverbanks situated at the village just opposite the caves, numerous boats will be waiting to take you to the mouth of the cave site. River trips, however, are still the most popular way to see it, with the sceneries passing by beautifully before your eyes. Kayaks are also possible and there are local companies operating kayak trips down the caves.
Indeed, the trip going there alone can be very enjoyable already. Below are some of the reasons why this is a must-see place while you’re in Luang Prabang.
- See all kinds and numerous Buddha in numerous different positions. All the Buddha images inside, damaged and new, were donated by the local people of Luang Prabang. Collected throughout the centuries, the Buddha statues found within number to hundreds and hundreds of differently colored, sized and styled Buddha statues. Each position of Buddha conveys a different message and meaning. For instance, a Buddha statue standing up with its hands up, palms out is saying “don’t fight”. There are many more Buddha images in different positions and each one says a different thing. If you take a local guide with you, he should be able to explain them all to you if you so wish.
- Experience Lao culture through their religious beliefs. For thousands of years, the Luang Prabang locals have been bringing images of Theravada Buddha in the caves. From the mouth of the cave to the inside, they deposit Buddha statues until the cave is brimming with Buddha images. Today, the locals are still often seen making the trip to the caves to leave their statues inside.
- Learn more about religious practices surrounding the Buddha statues in the caves. During the monarchy period, the King together with all the members of the Royal Family made his way up to the caves to wash all the Buddha images in a religious ritual done every Laos New Year festival. Today, both the religious journey and the washing ceremony are still being done, but by the people of Luang Prabang and its governor.
- Commune with nature or experience spiritual peace and quiet. The place has a mystical quality to it compounded by the tranquil atmosphere. Either you enjoy the peace and quiet of the cave and the surrounding area, with lots of Buddha images in the background, or transcend that and go to a spiritual level, whatever your religious beliefs are, and meditate upon the many Buddha statues filling the caves.
- Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pak Ou Caves area was actually declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Find out for yourself the unique qualities of the caves and what it’s like to be in a place that’s been a part of the history and the heritage of the people of Luang Prabang for many generations.