Luang Prabang, Laos
28.12.2011 - 31.12.2011
After two days cramped on a slow boat heading South on the mighty Mekong river, we were even more pleased to see Luang Prabang than its tourist touts were to see us. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the sky and water were glowing as orange as Laotian monks’ robes. Perfect timing. We walked from the jetty into the town where the evening was about to kick off, restaurants were setting tables, the temples were lit up and local ladies were laying out their wares in preparation for the night market. We couldn’t wait to get stuck in!
Luang Prabang is a former capital of Laos and is a UNESCO listed heritage site. It has an abundance of French colonial style buildings as well as temples which made for a pleasant atmosphere. Our accommodation was near the river which held a constant low rumble and saw a myriad of local life carrying out their daily activities. One afternoon we crossed the river via a bamboo bridge and met a monk on the other side who was climbing trees for coconuts.
Whilst in Luang Prabang we hired cycles and visited many of the picturesque temples around the town and met plenty of monks and young novices.
We also cycled to a village in the countryside where we saw a very simple way of life, but still the big smiles we receive everywhere in this country. The town seems to be very quiet and slow paced, there’s plenty to see but not so much to do.
One morning we went to visit the morning food market. We thought at first that it might be a good place to grab some breakfast but quickly changed our minds when we saw the live poultry, splayed frogs and various other foodstuffs we couldn't identify but looked like roadkill. The market was very popular with locals who buy as they eat due to lack of refrigerators and storage space.
One evening we saw a catwalk show where we saw all of the different Laotian tribal costumes being modelled. It was quite interesting. We wondered how these remote and often isolated tribes manage to have such elaborate and colourful garments and how these fit in with their simple way of life that we have read about.
It was nice to walk around in the evenings too, once the heat had become more bearable.
We had one annoying afternoon when we needed to change hotels. We made a reservation at a new place online as it was busy for the New Year period. When we went to the address of the booking, the hostel didn’t exist! There was a hostel there but with a different name and not much English spoken. We spent ages trying to find the right place and asking local people. Eventually after hours of lugging our luggage around in the heat we found out that the dodgy owner had sold up and done a runner but is still accepting online bookings! Apparently we weren’t the first ones this has happened to. Luckily we found another place to stay in the end.
After all the recent travelling and cycling, we first treated ourselves to a massage in a lovely colonial building. Soph went all out and spent half her birthday money from the Hoqs on a floral milk bath, a jasmine oil massage and a hot stones treatment, followed by a pedicure and a foot massage, what a treat! We felt like we were floating on clouds as we left the massage salon.
We were in Luang Prabang for New Year’s Eve and decided to celebrate with the locals. We had seen a stage being set up so we knew there would be some festivities! First we went for a nice meal where we discovered a delicious Laotian dish called Pad Kee Mao, it was vegetables and tofu cooked in a satay-type sauce and served with rice. In the evening we went to the main square where there was live music and entertainment and lots of food stalls set up. All the local people were out in their finest clothes and making lots of toasts with their Beer Lao there was a really good, lively atmosphere and everyone seemed very happy, there was even dancing in the streets -quite a surprise for such a sedate place! At midnight, the crowds went crazy with clapping and cheering, hundreds of Chinese lanterns were released into the sky at the same time and we saw a fantastic firework display. They even sang Auld Lang Sein in Lao! It was a great way to see in the New Year! We wonder what 2012 will bring….