June 25, Mekong river

I took a boat up the Mekong river from Prabang Luang to the caves of Pak Ou. Afterwards, I went to watch a traditional Lao dance at the royal palace museum.

Pak Ou is the name of a river which joins the Mekong across from the caves, and there is a village by the same name where the two rivers join, just beneath some beautiful cliffs.

There are two caves, a lower one, by the river, and a higher one. This cave has been used for religious purposes, worshiping the spirits of nature under the name Phi, since before the Lao people arrived in the 8th century.

For the past 400 years or so, since Buddhism has taken hold in Laos, it has been gradually filled with statues of Buddha.

By the way, signs in the Pak Ou cave indicated that it is illegal to bring any Buddha images out of Laos. I guess my pack can be lighter, then...

This little structure was on a little ledge that was rather hard to reach.

I visited the upper cave, but did not take good pictures of it. This is the entrance.

Inside is a sign showing a drawing of the cave made by the first French expedition to go up the Mekong, in the 1860s.

The trip up to the caves took about an hour and a half to two hours, and the trip back took about an hour. There is much to see along the banks, including water buffaloes and cattle.

The light-colored water buffalo apparently is quite rare, somewhat like a white elephant.

There was much beautiful forest along the banks, and several places where the forest had been cleared.

Also many, many beautiful mountains along the way.

There was even a prison.

Of course, along the way I was looking for Naga. But I didn't find Naga. I found some things that briefly reminded me of Naga, but they turned out to only be logs.

There are many rocks, islands, small rapids, and other navigational hazards along the way. Many of them are marked with small brick structures such as this.

At one point, the boat stopped at "Whiskey Village", so known because the inhabitants brew their own and sell it.

The still is on the left (filled with burning charcoal), and the liquor comes out the long pipe on the right. I declined a taste, but the villagers appear to do good business on this and other tourist souvenirs.

I found the village itself more interesting than the whiskey brewing.

The boat was a long, narrow river boat with a diesel engine near the back, and the driver sitting at the front. At one point we stopped to refuel, and the driver asked for a 200,000 Kip ($25) advance on his fee so he could pay for the fuel. The total trip cost 350,000 Kip.

This is Luang Prabang from the river, with the mouth of the Nam Khan river on the left in the first picture, and in the center of the second picture.

After all the hard work of visiting caves and villages, I relaxed at a performance at the Royal Palace museum. It was a little hard to take pictures (mostly without flash), and I don't really know what stories they told, but the costumes were beautiful and the music was charming.

Two (rather large) videos. Click on the two pictures below to get the video.

In this video, the bad guy, in the green mask, is trying to figure out how he will straighten out the heavenly mountain which he knocked over earlier.

And in this video, dancers are pretending to be monkeys, down to the scratching from time to time.

Finally, I went to a bar called Hive, which was having a fashion show. The pictures didn't come out well, but I did take pictures of the program, which gives useful information about the local ethnic groups.