Friday, June 18, 2010

Uncharted land - caves, monks and Khmu

On my last visit in Luang Prabang I had the opportunity to visit an "unknown" cave. Tham Khou Pa. The monks used to live in that cave 10 years ago. There are rumors, that the monks engaged with local village girls. So the government ordered them to leave the place. Since then the place is deserted.

The cave, the mountain, the rice paddies and the whole area are very pristine and preserved.

The foot of the mountain is surrounded by a agricultural land mainly used to grow rice. A small path leads along and finally through the paddies for about 200 to 250 meters before it reaches the slop which ascends in a 45 degree angle to the top of the mountain. The path continues to some small bush vegetation and a small mountain side field, containing all kind of crops, such as bananas, pineapple, maize, cassava and other eatable plants. The garden is owned by a Khmu family.

We met the 80 years old grandfather of the family who finally showed us the way to the cave. As our first attempt, lead by a local guide was unsuccessful.

The old man met us at the rock cliffs where we were waiting for him, soaked in our on sweat. The last part just before the slop ends and goes over in a rocky, more mountainous area, the trail was overgrown with grass and bamboo. We used some knives which we broth along for the purpose to make our own path.

I consider myself as a more sportive person, but compared to the old Khmu I had not the slightest chances of keeping pace with him. In fact I lost him after 3 minutes. He even overtook our own 25 year old Lao guide. The old guy was sitting in front of the cave, smiling and waiting for us. While the rest lost another liter of body fluid... I was quite a bit impressed of the old Khmu guys fitness. Well, more than 65 years of gardening on the mountain seems to make one stronger... Some small parts included minor climbing skills.

The cave itself is very interesting and one can see that it has been left for a long time. Some wooden and bamboo structures built by the monks still remain intact, though the time takes its tribute.
Natural light and ventilation make the cave quite a livable place. The cave consists of an small entrance area and one big chamber with some smaller hideaways, which were used by the monks as sleeping area.

All in all a very nice, interesting and "undiscovered" cave, just a few minutes from Nam Khan.

Needless to say that I had to refill my missing body fluids with a couple of beerlaos afterwards.

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