We arrived in Laos after 5/6 weeks of travelling and I think we were all just tired and you could tell. I was all moody, Ben was snappy and Zaki was erratic and frazzled. We changed our plans and decided to stay put for 10 days in one place. And we found the perfect spot to find our feet and recharge in – Luang Prabang.
UNESCO world heritage site, home to monasteries, temples, the mighty Mekhong river, beautiful traditional wooden guesthouses, amazing food and one of Asia’s best night markets….yup we were pretty happy to stay put for a while.
There’s a spiritual calm about Luang Prabang. Nestled in between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this Unesco protected town sees the confluence of these waters at the tip of its peninsular and it’s quite an awesome sight. The French left their stamp on the town in the form of wonderful colonial architecture and now wide villa style wooden houses, the dark wood being the Laos teak tree used, line the leafy, mostly traffic free streets. Unesco requirements dictate that housebuilding styles must be preserved and retained and so no new development that is away from this style can be seen, and it was a welcome relief to not see cranes and bulldozers responding to growing tourist needs in a city. We did find a multitude of guest houses and we stayed in 3 different ones over our 10 days in LP, all at different price brackets, the things we loved were the great service, friendly Lao owners and wonderful breakfasts. We woke early one morning to watch saffron robed monks receive alms from local women, and watched this procession on the non-touristy side of town (as apparently the 6am alms giving event is quite popular on the peninsula with hundreds of spectators) which was beautiful and quite humbling. Hundreds of monks receiving food for the day from ladies in their town, who respectfully knelt down with their heads bowed as they placed food into each monks alms bowl. The monks then sang thanks and offered prayers back to their donors. It was lovely to watch.
In addition, a few other things we did:
*Finally managed to post the umbrella that we’d bought in Myanmar
*Got Lao stylee haircuts
*Went to a great elephant sanctuary and rode on an elephant. I was initially sceptical of “elephant tourism” but we learned lots from those at the Elephant Village Sanctuary and how they look after elephants that have been rescued from days as logging elephants, and/or hurt from landmine explosions (remnants of USA’S secret war on Laos in the 1960’s – millions and millions of cluster bombs dropped, some still unexploded). Zaki loved it, was thrilled to ride and elephant (“my elephant”) and especially loved feeding them bananas
*Went to amazing waterfalls and also a butterfly farm
*Hired bicycles, got lost, climbed hills, saw sunsets, drank the best beer in SE Asia – Beer Lao
*Spoke with young monks outside a temple and we’re very humbled by their thoughtfulness, maturity and wisdom
*Watched our little boy explore a town his way and make friends with lots of people
Things we did not do:
*Sleep enough (he wakes up at 6.30am) *Go to bed early enough (still failing there)
*Plan more of our trip. Oh well.