It was 2009 and AB and I were travelling together for the first time in Asia.

After several days of backpack-style travelling from central Laos through Vientiane and to Luang Prabang, we embarked on an idyllic ‘luxury’ cruise up the Mekong river from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai in Thailand. Because the journey was on the less popular up-river direction, because there was the economic crisis, and because we were there during the shoulder season in September just before the hordes of tourists would descend upon the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, we found a two-night cruise package onboard the Luang Say for a bargain.

There were only four passengers on board the Luang Say – us and another couple from the UK, I think. It felt like we were having a private cruise of the Mekong as we barely passed any other tourists during the two days.

We travelled along the Mekong, surrounded by the craggy limestone karsts and green nothingness, for hours. There was no mobile phone network, which meant that my Blackberry was tossed aside and what a liberating feeling it was!

One of the three stops during the journey was the Pak Ou caves, which is about 25 kilometres from Luang Prabang.

Outside Tham Ting at Pak Ou

Outside Tham Ting at Pak Ou, along the Mekong, September 2009

We climbed up to the lower cave, Tham Ting. In here, were some 4000 miniature Buddha sculptures left behind by worshippers who came before us over the years. I still remember the soothing sound of water dripping from the ceiling of the limestone cave onto the damp ground and the quiet calm amidst the many Buddha figures.

Tham Ting

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