An opportunity for a boat ride along the Mekong River is the top reason why I took this quick trip out of the city of Luang Prabang and it must be the same reason for other visitors who as early as seven in the morning were already queuing up at the small pier close to Wat Xieng Thong.
A blessed, beautiful morning with a weather that was just right, despite the numbers of visitors and boats departing each minutes, there was no instance that the Mekong River feels crowded of any sort.
Mekong River is calm and graceful, I could spend many hours on this boat trip, dipping my hands into the water, trying to understand each ripples and maybe figure out how the boatman expertly navigates his way making right turn or left on certain spots along the river.
I’m pretty sure that all eight of us aboard were wishing to continue sailing the endless waters of Mekong River and once our boat docked at the entrance of Pak Ou Caves, everyone seems to have just woken up from a dream.
Pak Ou Cave or popularly known as a Buddhas Cave is a repository place for damaged Buddha images mostly made of wood, of different size and state which can no longer be placed in the altar. Though not all Buddha images placed inside the caves are damaged ones, you can find shiny new golden statues placed by tourists and bought from the vendors waiting at the cave entrance.
It consists of lower cave called Tham Ting and an upper cave called Tham Theung which requires a short climb via connecting staircase.
The inside of the lower cave is naturally lighted making the numerous small disfigured yet smiling Buddha faces against the dusts a little spooky. The upper cave requires a light torch or a flashlight, it is pitch black inside, but once lighted Buddha of larger sizes can be seen.
Most river excursion to Pak Ou Caves include a mandatory short stop along some of the villages at the river banks. One popular village is Ban Xang Hai or locally known as the “Whiskey Village”, in reference to the drink made of fermented sticky rice called lào-láo they produced.
The lines of souvenir shops at the village entrance can be a turn off for most visitors who just had enough of seeing the same shops again and again, but there are certain spots that is worth looking at, for example the same elevated entrance portion facing the Mekong River.
The one hour downstream boat ride along the Mekong River back to Luang Prabang is as equally pleasant as the travel going to Pak Ou cave, passing by the same villages, seeing the same mountain view and once again day dreaming.