Just North of Luang Prabang you can find the Buddha cave, properly known as Pak Ou cave, by slow boat. Emphasis on slow, at least in our case because we stopped at a floating gas station for nearly a half hour waiting for tourists who joined the tour last minute to be distributed between our boats.
It is currently rainy season in Laos so when we set off around 8 AM there was a fine mist coming down, slowly soaking us and all our belongings.
After 2 hours in our long, covered boats we arrived along with some sunshine at a small village known for producing Lao whiskey. We stumbled off the boats onto a rickety wooden pier that led us up to our welcome team, who stood eagerly smiling and shouting down encouragements.
The more adult welcome came next with a sample of rice wine and sticky rice whiskey.
The wine was not so bad, the whiskey.. Well maybe it was okay.. Nope never mind.
The women in the village sit about on the edge of the road weaving cloth and greeting visitors.
All paths in this town seem to lead to a large temple in the center.
Before we knew it, we were being called back onto the boat. On the way from the village to the Buddha caves our captain (a new one since they seem to assign us to a new boat after each stop) wove the boat through a series of jagged rocks sticking out only slightly to create small rapids. My only thoughts were of the titanic, but he thankfully got us through unscathed.
On the side of the mighty muddy Mekong we spotted a group of children splashing and waving at us.
At the caves be warned that you will be charged an additional 20,000 Kip to enter the caves and another 2,000 to use the toilet. We were not told this when we purchased our tour package.
Inside the first cave stood hundreds of old Buddha statues brought here on their retirement. The collections sheer size was astonishing but the area of the cave that we were allowed to explore was rather small.
Up a flight of stairs, just keep going, you can find a second cave. Here you either feel your way through the dark, purchase a flashlight or use your phone’s flashlight app to explore dozens of gold Buddhas sitting in the dark.
The caves were a fairly short part of the trip, only 40 minutes, but very different from the other temples and caves we explored in Thailand. Plus the slow boat ride makes for a fun time.. Or as I’ve learned to say from the British, “quite good fun.”
Putting It Together
- Book the tour through one of the tourism shops around town and make sure to clarify whether transport to the pier is included
- Unlike the long tail boats in Thailand, I had no trouble keeping my belongings inside the boat dry but it’s always best to be safe and pack cameras, etc. inside water resistant bags
- Bring cash because you will be charged to enter the Buddha caves and use the bathroom
- Pack water, sunglasses and sunscreen (or any other weather related items)
- Our tour left around breakfast time and did not stop for lunch because we returned to town in the afternoon
Have you been to Laos? Tell me where you went in the comments below!