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    Tuesday, 25 August 2009

    Lazy days in Luang Prabang

    The pace in Luang Prabang is slow and infectious which was not the case when we first arrived. Having been dropped of in the centre of town in the searing heat, we wound our way through people, parked bikes and general melee to find a hotel to stay at. What we did not know was that we arrived on the day of a boat festival which is one of the highlights here. We did not catch any of the boat races but did see the winner's procession down the main street later that evening. Imagine a winning football team, it was just the same. It was poor timing on our part as we were told later it was a cross between a boat race and Notting Hill Carnival, sounded like fun. The next day the town returned to a much quieter place.

    We’ve been bumping in a couple from London since North Cambodia however apart from brief conversation or the odd wave from a boat as we passed we’ve not really got to talk to them. We bumped into them here on the second day and arranged to meet them that evening for food. It turns out they are also travelling for a long time and are off to Vietnam next. It was good to compare stories and experiences over some food.

    The next evening we arranged to meet them again and we also knew that the Australians we’d met in Vang Vieng were about. After a couple of texts we also arranged to meet them and ended up having a great evening over a Laos style BBQ, where you cook your own food over hot coals.

    Morning Alms [Enlarge & More]
    We’ve fallen into bit of a pattern here where we do our own thing during the day and then meet up in the evening with the friends we’ve made. The London couple have moved on now so the Aussies have to put up with us. 

    One of the things I’ve found hard is to be selective about what we do, when something is on offer I want to do it. Here the cost of trekking or elephant riding makes it prohibitive to do so I’ve had to learn to just take it easy and enjoy being in a place. Luckily Luang Prabang is a world heritage site and I can see why as the French architecture is well preserved, even the ATM’s are well hidden and there are what seems like hundreds of wats here. Subsequently there is a very large monk population and if you rise before sunrise you can see the monks collecting alms from the local people. An amazing experience as it’s all done in silence as the dawn breaks with 200 odd monks proceeding through the town in single file, collecting whatever is on offer.

    Tails and Trotters [Enlarge & More]
    The main street is lined with restaurants and oddly loads of massage places. At some point there must be loads of tourists here to fill these places but for now they’re pretty empty. I opted to have a massage - what I asked for was a shoulders, back and neck massage but got a full body workout. The little Lao lady had me bent in all sorts of positions and an hour later I came out relaxed if not a little jelly like.

    There is both a morning produce market and a night tourist market here. The produce market is one of the best we’ve seen so far, the most unusual things we saw this time were Buffalo trotters and tails for sale. For the night market the main street gets blocked off and all the stalls get set up. It’s full of colour with lanterns, T-shirts, Bags and lots of things for sale. Unlike markets in other countries you see a lot of owners sleeping at their pitches. It’s not the hardest sale here, which is kind of sweet.

    In the centre of town there is a hill with another Wat at the top. The Wat is nothing exciting but the view is spectacular, once you get up the 300 odd steps you get to see that you are surrounded by lush green vegetation and hills. As we were enjoying the view these retired Americans arrived covered head to foot in the most appropriate gear, they reminded me of the models you see in the catalogues you get with the Sunday newspapers back home. That in itself is not really something to mention but what was slightly amusing is that between them they had absolutely no flesh exposed but as soon as they got to the top they proceed to fumigate everyone else by spraying their clothes with mosquito repellent. I also overheard one of the old ladies proudly say she had a mosquito net for the face with her just in case she needed it. Between us we’ve seen one Mosquito since we’ve been here, bless them!

    I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Tuk Tuk drivers in Laos but even though we have not taken them up on there services here, they are full of smiles. They still charge a fortune blaming petrol prices, which is odd as they were the same in Cambodia and there it was cheap to get about.

    The Drum [Enlarge & More]
    Tonight is our last night here, we’ve spent a relaxing time just chilling. The stay has been made more pleasant due to the guest house we chose, Xieng Mouane. It’s an old French building with high ceilings and wooden floors and is located just outside one of the many Wats. It definitely has character, as every morning you get woken up by the monks banging their drum. The first time it was quaint after that my trusty ear plugs came in very useful! One of the benefits of travelling off season again is that the room would normally be $45 US but we got it for $20 after a bit if negotiating, a right bargain.

    We plan to meet the Aussies for one last time tonight and then we have a 14 hour bus ride to the Thai border. It’s a shame that our time in Laos is nearly over just as we are starting to really enjoy it.

    1 comment:

    1. Like the way you write your story and all the things you see...hope you will be able to come back and stay a bit longer to join our Fair Trek activities...also in Nong Khiau. Have you been up there a bit? Welcome any time back:


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