Exploring the Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang, Laos



While traveling through South East Asia, I had the opportunity to explore myriad temples and religious sites. Wat Po in Bangkok, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, and Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang were all stunning sites of spirituality that I would recommend to other travelers. However, visiting the Pak Ou Caves near Luang Prabang, Laos, was an extremely unique religious site that left a deep impression on me.

The caves, visible through a jagged opening in the waterside cliff face, are located right on the Mekong River, making the views very scenic. Inside the Pak Ou Caves are hundreds of Buddha statues of all sizes, shapes, and conditions. Most of them are donated by locals, who consider the caves to be a very important spiritual site. What’s really amazing is that locals of all classes have been coming to the site for over 500 years to worship and pray, which is pretty apparent when you notice that some of the statues are literally crumbling apart. While the site has become quite touristy, it is impossible not to feel something while being surrounded by so much visible history and culture.

To get there, you can take a boat from Luang Prabang, which is about 15 miles away. There are two caves, a lower and an upper. If possible bring a flashlight, as it can sometimes be dark and you’ll want to be able to clearly see all of the Buddhas. Expect to pay about $2 to enter.

Stroll through the Field of Light at the Holburne this winter

art From now until January 8, 2012, the Holburne Museum in Bath, England, will feature renowned lighting artist Bruce Munro‘s “Field of Light” exhibit. The art installation features over 5,000 light bulbs planted around the venue that alternate and shift their appearance in groups. A magical effect is created by acrylic stems topped with frosted spheres that contain fiber optic cables illuminated by a color projector.

Everyday from 4PM-7PM, the Field of Light is turned on, and visitors can enjoy strolling through the grounds free of charge. While exploring the exhibit, try to see if you can imagine the barren dessert in Australia and how it bursts into bloom after it rains. This image is what actually inspired Munro to create the work.

The Director the Holburne Museum, Alexander Sturgis, comments, “We are delighted that Bruce Munro’s artwork will bring such a magical experience of light within our grounds at the darkest time of the year. At what, for most people, is a frantic time of festive preparation we are pleased to be able to offer a tranquil and uplifting experience at the Holburne.”

If you’d like to visit the Holburne Museum, it is located on Great Pulteney Street. You can also check out the gallery below to get a better idea of exactly what this serene and mystical world really looks like.

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5 best smartphone apps for travelers who can’t get online

smartphone apps for offline travelers While you can basically download an app for anything you could possibly need to do on your smartphone, there are many times when traveling where you may find yourself unable to get Wi-Fi. When offline, many of these helpful apps become useful. To help you during those times when you find yourself traveling and unable to get online, here are five excellent travel apps for your smartphone that will work no matter what your connection situation is.

Jibbigo

For those times when you want to communicate with locals but can’t speak the language, this voice translator allows you to speak in English into the device and have your words spoken back to you in the language of your choice. Downloads are currently available in English to German, French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Tagalong (Filipino).

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. $4.99 per download.

GlobeMaster: Offline Travel Guide & Utilities

This app is a global travel guide for over 1,400 cities and more than 260 countries. Users will have access to practical information from WikiTravel content about the food, culture, festivals, holidays, traditions, and transportation of a place. Other features of the app include over 1,400 photos, travel reccommendations, a tip calculator, currency converters, advice on how to stay healthy, and more.

Available for iPhone and iPad. $0.99.

Tourist Eye

Not only does this app include travel information for over 60,000 destinations, but you get personalized recommendations for your trips based on your preferences. The app also allows you to share details of your travels on Facebook and Twitter for friends and family to see.

Available for iPhone and Android. Free.

JiWire

If you really can’t go any longer without Wi-Fi, this free app will show you exactly where the nearest location is to get connected. There are over 145,000 free locations around the globe, and you can even filter by what type of location you prefer (cafe, library, etc…).

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Free.

XE Currency Converter

Calculate prices and convert currency with this free app that contains over 30,000 currencies. If you go offline, the program will simply use the most recent rate update to perform calculations.

Available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. Free.