Departure: Luang Prabang, Activity: Kuang Si Waterfalls, Mekong sunset cruise, Whisky village, Hmong village, Lunch at Manifa Elephant Camp
Take a two-wheeled adventure going out of Luang Prabang city. Pedal on the road along the Mekong river trails to the temples and villages, rice paddies. In the afternoon, enjoy kayaking in the majestic nature …
Departure: Luang Prabang, Activity: Kuang Si Waterfalls, Mekong morning cruise, Whisky village, Hmong village, Lunch at Manifa Elephant Camp
Departure: Luang Prabang Activity: Kayak, Pak Ou Caves, Mekong Sunset Cruise
Experience elephants in the morning. After lunch, visit Pak Ou Caves and Whiskey Village by boat. Return to Luang Prabang by sunset cruise.
Mekong River Cruise – Luang Prabang Day Trip
Taking a boat trip is probably one of the most rewarding ways to discover the local life along the rivers. The heritage city Luang Prabang is built on the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. The Mekong River has been the main highways for people and goods for centuries and is still seamlessly integrated into the lifestyle of the people of Luang Prabang. Fishers fish in the morning and evening, and women dip their feet in the water to catch river shrimp. Children splash in the river on summer afternoons. In the dry season, fertile land along the riverside (the Mekong’s water level can rise and fall nearly 10 meters) is used for farming and for grazing buffalo.
Upstream, there is mysterious Pak Ou Caves lined with countless Buddha statues. Located in limestone cliffs 25 kilometres upriver from Luang Prabang, the caves are said to have been discovered by King Setthathirat (r. 1520-48) in the 16th century, after the construction of Wat Pak Ou, on the other bank of the river at Ban Pak Ou, but they were possibly centres of spirit worship prior to this time. The king visited every New Year, and would have stayed on the other bank of the Mekong, at Ban Pak Ou. Francis Garnier, the French explorer, visited the caves on his travels when he charted the Mekong river in the 1860s.
Both the upper and lower limestone cliffs have caves, connected by steep steps, and filled with Buddhas statues. This is a place of pilgrimage, a numinous journey, and pilgrims have come here for centuries. They believe that phi, the spirits of the rivers and cave, dwell here.
The caves are set high in a cliff that rises vertically from the Mekong river, and they are reached by a series of steep steps. There are two levels, and the caves are called, respectively, Tham Thing and the upper ones Tham Phum. The higher ones are some 60 metres above the river. The lower cave is the focal point for most visitors. Offerings of flowers and incense are made here, and local villagers sell these on the steps going up. Images of lions guard the entrance to the caves.
At New Year crowds of people flock to the caves by boat from Luang Prabang. Inside there are thousands of historic Buddha statues, brought by pilgrims over the centuries. Most date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The older ones, covered with dust, are of wood, predominantly in the style of the Buddha Calling for Rain, but also a variety of other poses, including Calling the Earth to Witness and Meditation mudras. Some are tiny, a few centimetres high, while others are much taller. Lacquered and gilded, many are dilapidated, but their dust-covered appearance, all crammed together in the caves, makes for a haunting atmosphere that lingers in the memory. Official figures placed the number of images in the region of 4,000, and they used to fill every shelf and crevice of the caves. Unfortunately many have been stolen and are increasingly being replaced by modern plaster ones.