There is a Lao saying that if you go to Luang Prabang and not making a visit to Pak Ou Caves (Buddha Caves), then it’s like you have never been to Luang Prabang at all. I don’t know how true that old saying is but when the staff at my guest house encouraged me to make a visit to the famous caves, I agreed without hesitant and asked them to make an arrangement for me.
Maly, the assistance manager of the guest house I was staying in was more than helpful and booked a morning trip for me to Pak Ou Caves. The people of Luang Prabang are so friendly and trusting to the point where I went on the tour and didn’t pay for the trip until the end of the day. Maly got the boat ticket for me for 70,000 KIPS (50,000 for the boat fare and 20,000 for a pick up at the guest house).
The tuk-tuk driver picked me up at 9:00 AM and took be to the boat landing area and he asked me if I paid for everything yet and when I told him no he told me it’s not a problem and I can pay to the tour company when I get back from the tour. I then saw Maly on her motorbike behind me and she went to up to the counter and paid for all the fares that have been arranged on behalf of the tourists. Within a few minutes later we were off for two hours journey to Pak Ou Caves. It takes two hours to get there and one hour to get back. Going down the stream is a lot faster than going up the stream.
On the way to Pak Ou Caves, we made a stop at a Whiskey and Weaving Village for a 20 minutes tour of the place. I bought three scarfs at the same price that is being asked in Vientiane at the village. The lady who sold me saw me with a group of Farangs and probably thought she can ask for a great deal of money which she did. When we got to Pak Ou Caves and saw the vendors there selling the same materials for 1/3 of the prices we just shrugged it off and told one another to just remember the experience of supporting the weavers at the village. Who knows they might have bought the stuff from somewhere else and the rest is just for show but hey that is part of tourist traps and in the end it’s all about fun and enjoying the moments.
I was a bit disappointed to not have seen more Buddhist artifacts at Pak Ou Caves. Many of the more valuable statues were removed to a safe place for fear of thefts and some have been stolen from the caves from what I have read in the news and from the relatives that told me about it. The boat journey was in itself an experience of a life time. It was wonderful to see the local people living their lives along the Mekong River doing their laundry, fishing, taking care of their vegetables, bathing in the water, and taking their cargo to wherever they have to go.
My heart was felt with joy when I saw the kids along the way waving and smiling at me and greeted me with “Sa Bai Dee” and I replied the same words with all the love and care I could send to them. Luang Prabang has no doubt captured my heart and I long to go back again to experience more of the love and warmth from the people there.