Sacred Pak Ou Caves in Luang Prabang
Pak Ou Caves - The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas
|thousands of Buddha statues inside the Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang|
The Pak Ou Caves, located just 30 kilometers north of Luang Prabang along the Mekong River, is one of the most popular day trips for visitors to north-central Laos. The caves can be reached by slow boat from Luang Prabang, and visiting them is a sort of pilgrimage. Indeed, the caves are considered to be a very important sacred place in Lao Buddhism
The limestone caverns of the Pak Ou Caves contain thousands of retired Buddha images, and once served as a royal meditation retreat for the kings of Laos.
|the entrance to the Pak Ou Caves|
Where do Buddhas go when they "retire"? A statue of the Buddha is a sacred image, and therefore can't be discarded or thrown away like a common decoration. Would a Christian throw away an old Bible or a cross?
The Pak Ou Caves have become something of a "retirement home" for old, broken, and damaged Buddha images. Today, the lower of the two shallow caverns at Pak Ou is filled with over two thousand Buddha statues, sacred tablets, and amulets.
|inside the Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang|
The upper cave, barred by a heavy stone gate, is located up a steep flight of slippery moss-covered steps from the lower cave. The upper cave is deeper and more tunnel-like than the lower cave, and the interior is dark. It is not lit by electric light nor candle, so visitors have to borrow a flashlight from the caretaker before venturing inside.
|the upper cave at Pak Ou, Luang Prabang|
|royal meditation area inside the dark upper cave|
Pak Ou Caves at Lao New Year (Pimai) ປີໃໝ່During Pimai (the traditional Lao New Year), a three-day festival held every year from April 13/14 to 15/16, local Buddhists will flock to the Pak Ou Caves on a special annual pilgrimage to ritually wash the retired Buddha statues as an act of new year merit-making.
How to get to the Pak Ou Caves
- The easiest way to visit the Pak Ou Caves is by package tour. While it's possible to reach the caves by motorbike, the road can be a bit difficult to traverse.
- Skip the booking office and travel agencies, and book a ticket directly at the tourist ferry (50.000 kip) for a half-day trip to the Pak Ou Caves that also includes a brief stop at the nearby Whisky Village, famous for its 100-proof sticky rice moonshine.
- A ticket to the Pak Ou Caves costs 20.000 kip
Location and map
- Pak Ou Caves: https://goo.gl/maps/kPiZiYvE26x
- Luang Prabang Boat Docks: https://goo.gl/maps/tebwjRT5bfu
- You can reach the Pak Ou Caves via slow boat from Luang Prabang. You can hire a boat (ticket for group tour 50.000 kip) at the Tourist Ferry Service in front of Saffron Cafe.
- The Pak Ou Caves are located about 30km north of Luang Prabang, on the western bank of the Mekong River.