During my time in Laos, I was fortunate enough to visit amazing Buddhist relics, admire the picturesque Kuang Si Falls, climb the domineering Mount Phousi, and have a good time mingling (and eating) with the locals in sleepy Luang Prabang. However, taking a trip on a longboat on the Mekong river was another highlight of my trip to this fascinating country!
I got a great deal with a company in Laos called Green Discovery, who were good partners with my hostel, and this enabled me to enjoy a boat trip on the Mekong River to go and see the Pak Ou Caves. It is a 6 hour tour, departing and arriving back in Luang Prabang at exactly the same place, and you get an English-speaking guide on the tour, plus a nice lunch included!
The boats are very loud, or at least the one I was on was. Other backpackers say the same thing about boat travel in Laos; in fact, some people who arrive in Luang Prabang on the slowboats up the Mekong from Vientiane often complain of deafness when they arrive! Pollution can also be a problem as you will inhale a lot of diesel smoke from the boat as you power up the river. The journey to Pak Ou Caves seemed around 90 minutes each way, although to tell the truth I wasn’t timing the journey much, as I was focussing too much on the scenery. The jungles around here are so lush and green. It is hard to believe some people are intent on cutting this jungle down, but such is urbanisation. I guess, even sleepy Laos is not immune.
The Pak Ou Caves were a nice little attraction to visit after the boat journey up the Mekong. Although for me, the boat ride was the absolute highlight (I missed out on a trip on the Irrawaddy when in Myanmar). The cave system is actually comprised of two caves, and they are both littered with statues of Buddha; some reclining; some meditating; some were actually damaged so I had no idea what those ones were supposed to be doing!
After a short exploration of the cave system, the tour had planned to arrive back in Luang Prabang by mid-afternoon, but due to some technical issues with the boat, we were delayed for a couple of hours on the riverbank (well, this is Laos, after all). Not only did this commotion being in the cheeky local Lao kids to see what was happening, but it also saw the sun begin to go down in front of us. It not only made a great picture, but also made me realise that regardless of how inconvenient it may seem to be stuck on a riverbank for hours, it’s not every day of the week you are able to just sit and admire the Mekong River while actually getting your feet wet at the same time!