The 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 15cm to over 1m 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”). The limestone formations within the cave are quite spectacular and add to the natural beauty of the cave. There is a small entrance fee for visitors. Please also note that in this cave photography is prohibited. (Photographs in this publication were obtained by special permission). Close to the cave are stalls selling snacks, drinks, seasonal fruits and incense produced in the village.