3 Caves To Discover On A Mekong River Cruise
A Mekong River cruise is all about experiencing the majesty and reverence of a waterway that means so much to so many people. Throughout Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and China, thousands of locals depend on it for food, irrigation and to make a living.
Historically revered, tourists talk of the river’s spiritual and mystical nature, much of which is tied into religion. Along with the beautiful temples and pagodas found in the towns and cities, a number of caves add to the sacred atmosphere on the surrounding banks. Here are three such caves you may discover on your journey along the Mekong.
Pak Ou Caves
The most popular cave system along the Mekong, and somewhere you will almost certainly get to visit as part of a shore excursion, the Pak Ou Caves can be found where the Ou River meets the Mekong. This is an ancient pilgrimage site just upstream from Luang Prabang and locals have been leaving relics and images of the Buddha here for hundreds of years.
When you arrive, you’ll see that there is an upper (Tham Theung) and a lower (Tham Ting) cave. Whilst Tham Ting is fairly well lit and is filled with the smell of incense, visiting Tham Theung requires a short climb and the use of a torch. This is where most of the Buddha statues can be found, dedicated to the River Spirit and Lord Buddha. It’s a moving sight, especially around Laotian New Year when locals arrive to wash and maintain the artifacts.
Dark and Bright Cave
Ha Long Bay may not be part of the Mekong, but an exploration of this fantastic body of water can easily be added to your Mekong River cruise. Dark and Bright Cave is growing in popularity as more people discover its beauty, choosing to either kayak or row through its distinctive arched entrance. In actual fact, there are too caves here – one pitch black with only a smattering of light creeping through and the other bathed in bright light.
Fossilised snails on the karst walls point to the fact that this complex was created thousands of years ago. Today, the lake which lies beyond the gaping doorway is fringed by colourful orchids, fragrant flowers and fig trees.
The least known cave complex on our list can be found in Luang Prabang and is somewhat of a hidden gem. You will need to use the services of a local guide, who will unlock the gate at the cave’s entrance and use their torch to show you around. Attached to the cave is a temple created in 1902 in honour of King Kamsuk Sakkarin, from which the place gets its name, and his remains were brought here when he died.
Inside you’ll find a shrine where local worshippers celebrate the Buddha statues and cleanse them with water from the cave. Two nicknames – Eagle Cave and Holy Water Cave – are attributed to this attraction. A large rock formation shaped like an eagle is the reason for the first, whilst water dripping from the ceiling to create a pool on the floor resulted in the latter being used. Local folklore says that if the water drips on your head when inside the cave, you will receive good luck.
If you would like to visit any of these caves, we can talk you through the range of Mekong River cruises we have available. Call the GoRiverCruise team on 0800 954 0064 or contact us online.