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.