The Buddha Cave is one of the first stops on the Thakhek Loop, not far from Thakhek, Laos. 6 km down a dirt road off of Route 12, known locally as Tham Pa Fa (Pa Fa Cave). This Buddha Cave is filled with 229 bronze Buddhist statues up to 500 years old which can be seen inside behind a short gate. It wasn’t until 2004 that the cave was discovered or “re-discovered”.
Buddha Cave Laos
Parking: 3,000 kip
Entry: 5,000 kip
Sin (Lao Skirt) Rental Fee (For Women): 3,000 kip
From the historical and cultural standpoint, it’s an interesting place. Inside it is well light and smells of incense. It’s not a particularly large or uniquely beautiful cave and you cannot go very deep inside. It has more of a temple feel than that of a cave. No pictures are allowed inside and it’s strictly regulated with many signs and reminders from the attendants inside.
Access the cave by walking down a wooden pathway near Nong Pa Fa (meaning “Lake of Soft-Shelled Turtle”) amongst mountains of karst. It’s a beautiful area. Pay the 5,000 kip entry fee (3,000 parking fee for the area as well) and walk up the stone staircase leading up to the small entry (duck your head to get inside). It feels more like a temple inside than a cave.
For 10, 000 kip (about $1.25) you can take a boat ride in the sacred waters below the cave. Swimming is not allowed.
Trip Advisor Reviews
Reading the reviews on Tripadvisor people are quite divided (and sometimes ill-informed) about this one: “Must see” 5 stars and “Don’t go” with one star. Just know what to expect. It’s not an amazingly beautiful cave like some of the others on the Thakhek Loop, but more of a temple inside a cave, and not very big. From the historical side, it’s interesting (I’ve included the history of the cave below.)
Some people think it’s a shop and the Buddha statues are for sale! They are tagged but I’m pretty sure it’s an inventory tag. You definitely cannot buy these artifacts!
I don’t have any pictures from the inside, because it’s not allowed.
Getting to the Buddha Cave
Heading East from Thakhek on Route 12, around 4 kilometers turn left down a dirt road when you see the sign for “Buddha Cave and Pa Seuam Cave”. It’s 6 km on a dirt road. During the rainy season, the road has been known to get rough but was quite well graded in the dry season. After about 4 km take another left at the sign for the cave. It’s one of the first possible stops on the Thakhek Loop.
Tham Pa Seuam Cave (Tham Paseum ) and Nong Thao Lake can also be accessed from the parking area and make the drive out here more worthwhile.
History of the Buddha Cave Laos
Tham Pa Fa Cave, located near Na Khang Xang Village in Thakhaek District, recently came into the news following the discovery of 229 Buddha statues in a previously unexplored cave. In April 2004, a local villager by the name of Mr. Boun Nong entered the small cave opening 15m from ground level. He had noticed bats entering the cave and decided to climb a vine to investigate, with the intention of collecting bats (a local delicacy).
Passing through the small cave entrance he looked down into the cavern below and to his amazement saw a large Buddha statue. Proceeding down into the cave he realized that there were over 200 Buddha statues ranging in size from 15 centimeters to over 1 meter-tall. For one week he did not tell anyone in the village, as he did not believe what he had seen and thought that it might just be his imagination, but finally returned with a group of nine villagers to reinvestigate. Word about the new discovery soon spread, and the cave has become one of Khammouane’s most visited attractions. The villagers have since organized themselves to guard the cave and its sacred Buddha statues 24 hours a day.
The Buddha images are a collection from the Sikhottabong and the Lane Xang eras, with some thought to be of Khmer and Vietnamese origin. Together with the images, palm leaf manuscripts written in ancient Lao script, Lane Xang-style dharma, Lanna-style dharma, Pali dharma and ancient Khmer scripts are also present. It is unknown how these treasures came to be in the cave. The cave is named after the lake located at the foot of the cliff, Nong Pa Fa (meaning “Lake of Soft-Shelled Turtle”).
Gumprecht’s Green Pit Viper
Now before I wrap it up, here’s a shot of a Gumprecht’s Green Pit Viper hanging out in the tree next to the cave. This snake was only discovered and classified in 2002. Look but don’t touch!