Not far from Luang Prabang is a mysterious and mystical place. Yes, it is in a cave. Yes, it will be dark. Yes, it is legendary. Yes, you can go see it. No no, it is not a haunted place we’re talking about. This is Pak Ou Caves, the legendary cavern where thousands upon thousands of old and worn Buddha images are rested. Ready to go see the strange and fascinating place?
The best way to get there from Luang Prabang is by boat. Yes, road travel is available, but by boat, not only will you get to absorb the rhythm and atmosphere of the Mekong, you’ll also see beautiful limestone formations and feel that nice river breeze as you make your way to the caverns. It’s actually pretty cool to see Pal Ou Caves slowly approaching you as the boat makes it way there until it finally docks at the entrance.
Estimates have the number of statues at around 4,000. But there could be more! And the images here, well, they’ve been placed here periodically for the past 600 years or so. And even before the arrival of Buddhism in Laos, the place was highly venerated and a place of worship for the River Spirit. The statues come in all sizes ranging from almost human height to finger size, with standing, sitting and reclining positions providing even more variation at Pak Ou Caves.
Pak Ou is actually divided into two; the lower and smaller one called Tham Ting and the higher and bigger called Tham Phun. Tham Ting resembles a shrine, with a spot reserved for kneeling and praying in front of the bigger Buddha images. Tham Phum can then be reached by climbing some stairs, where some of the statues are deep inside and only visible with a torch or flashlight.
Your time at Pak Ou caves shouldn’t take too long. After visitng the caves, there is still time for you to head back to Luang Prabang or to then continue on to Kuang Si Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Southeast Asia.
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