Pak Ou Caves have a history dating back thousands of years and consider as one of the most respected holy sites in Lao;. Packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons, the caves, a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha, are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are two caves to visit, the lower cave called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, both boasting miniature Buddhist figures that are mostly made from wood. Positioned about 50 feet above the river, Tham Ting filters in some light but a torch is required for the absolutely pitch black Tham Theung. The upper cave is home to the majority of the Buddha statues and you will need to find your way in darkness to the thousands of hidden icons. The statues are believed to have been left in the caves by local people for hundreds of years. The Buddha images in the Pak Ou Caves assume a variety of positions, from meditation to peace and nirvana (the reclining Buddha).
A trip to Pak Ou typically includes a stop at the ‘whiskey village’ about halfway there. The proper name of the village is Ban Xang Hai, but everyone knows it as the whiskey village. Here whiskey is made from fermented rice soaked in water from the Mekong River. You can of course sample the wares as well as purchase a bottle. There’s also a silk weaving village on the way. If you time it right, starting off in the morning, you’ll finish about noon and can have lunch at the village opposite the caves. There are of course several places in the village to satisfy your cravings. The journey to Pak Ou is much easier now, with a small boat landing and stairs leading up to the caves. By river, the trip takes two hours from Luang Prabang and you can go with a tour agency, buy a ticket from the boat dock or charter your own boat. It’s also possible to reach the caves in an hour by tuk-tuk, though you’ll still need to board a boat to cross from the nearest village to the cave entrance. The caves are a very popular pilgrim site for locals and get very busy during April when the Lao New Year is in full swing with locals washing and attending to the images.