Visiting the famous Pak Ou caves north of Luang Prabang with 10 Theravada monks was like a dream come true and a very different experience than the usual tourist trip up the river with a boat from Luang Prabang.
Coming from the North we drove down following the scenic Ou River through the mountains and stopped at the district office so that the monks can have lunch before 12 noon and then continued on a bumpy and dusty dirt road until we reached the village of Nam Ou.
Nam Ou is the place where entrance fees and boat fees have to be paid, tourists pass by on elephants and a few local shops sell scarfs and wooden crafts. A dirt path leads down to the rivers, where the Ou River meets the Mekong River, passing a beautiful local Lao temple.
Monks are not supposed to be too close to females, so getting off the boat and up the long stairs to the first cave, Tham Ting, was a difficult task to manage. The stream of tourists going up and down never ended and upon the sight of monks, most tourists raised their cameras to get a sneaky shot of them.
Tham Thing, the lover cave is filled with hundreds or even thousands of Buddha images and the view over the river, boats and mountains is breathtaking. Continuing to walk up the mountain to the upper cave, Tham Theung was a more meditative exercise. Less tourists and also a larger cave, which is deeper and completely dark. The Buddha images and small pagodas can only be seen with the help of flashlights. The upper cave would be an ideal place for a deep meditation.