Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey


Pakbeng to Luang Prabang ~ Pak Ou Caves
We took an early morning walk down to Pakbeng pier to board our longboat to resume our voyage down the Mekong. There was light fog and smoke in the air but it was cleared a bit by last night's rainstorm. Our camera shot more great scenery not yet obscured by the fires. There were many more huge rock outcrops, tributaries, coves, waterfalls, and sand on the shore. We learned that yesterday's captain was rushed to hospital with possible stroke last night so we had a new captain at the wheel.

Beam shared some Mekong mythology and legends with us: NAGA the river snake/dragon dwells kilometresbeneath the Mekong. There is a mythical bird that can see heaven/earth/hell and in one sweep of its wings can travel thousands of kilometres. The river drops off very steeply from its banks and is full of dangerous currents and whirlpools making it very dangerous to swim across.

The boat family set out the buffet lunch we had signed up for yesterday for 50,000 kips: fried chicken, stir-fried vegetables, curry, potato, carrot, soup, rice, watermelon - very good.

As we got closer to Luang Prabang the scenery changed. There were more prosperous villages and many kids all over sandbars fishing and waving. We saw long buildings which were schools - closed till the end of the month for New Year's holidays. There were more cleared and terraced hillsides and more small garden patches on the shores. Many more cattle and elephants grazed on the shore. Many more rock outcrops were staked out with bamboo poles and nets. 

Some of the sandbars were submerged and invisible resulting in a beached longboat that people were trying to push back into deeper water. Our guide pointed out a large "Government Hotel" (prison) with high fence and guard tower. He said the food and service was terrible.

We docked at Pak Ou Caves -- two large linked caves containing thousands of small Buddha statues left by pilgrims. It still is a popular pilgrimage site - especially during the April Lao New Year time when we were there.

We climbed the many stairs to the lower cave. It has an interesting history, we were told, where originally Buddha statues were hidden in the sixteenth century for fear that invaders would destroy them. Many others were added in the ensuing years by visitors. In past years the water of the Mekong has often risen so high that it actually flooded the bottom cave during Monsoon season. This explains why so many of the huts in the villages are raised or built on stilts.

It was another 150 steps to reach the larger dark upper cave featuring more Buddhas and a platform where previous royal families would come to meditate. We decided it wasn't worth the effort and spent our time taking more photos after which we returned to the boat for refreshments and waited for cast off.

The remainder of the voyage was uneventful and before long we reached Luang Prabang

Back on board to enjoy more scenery along the way
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Exploring the rear of the boat: Canteen, PA, Engine, Family Living Quarters
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Onboard Diners
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A Stop to Explore the Pak Ou Caves
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More Sights: Village ~ Elephant ~ Rural Temple ~ Prison
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Peninsula Luang Prabang where Nam Khan flows into the Mekong




Copyright 2015
Bill and Sue-On Hillman