Published: May 25th 2010May 24th 2010
First of all, I apologize for the LONG post - it's been a few days since I've been able to blog and I am way behind...
Wow, what a few days it has been! I think I have been transported a few decades back in time! Luang Prabang is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited. Even though it's next door to Cambodia, the landscape and the feeling of the city is so different that you feel half a world. The tourism industry is still quite young (tourists were not let in until Communism ended fourteen years ago) which means no large tour groups, no mega-hotels and a much more authentic-feeling experience. It's hilly and lush with lovely smelling flowers - almost feels Caribbean. The Laotian people are so calm and extremely kind. In their culture, it is extremely offensive to touch a person's head and apparently they feel sorry for people who think too much!
We arrived on Saturday and spent the afternoon scoping out the town. We watched the sunset from Phui Si, a mountaintop temple where you can overlook the entire town, the two rivers and the gorgeous green mountains surrounding the city! It
was breathtaking...and HOT!!! Thankfully, that was the hottest day and we have been given a much needed respite from the sweltering heat the past two days. What a treat! Our dinner the first night was at a fairly fancy Laotian restaurant. We sampled some of the local delicacies and the highlight was definitely dried water buffalo with sesame seeds. YUM! Just before they brought out our main courses, the whole town experienced a blackout. Everything stopped for a minute, the lights came back on, then went out again...you get the gist. This is a quite common experience here, as are internet blackouts (hence the reason I haven't blogged in a few days!).
Yesterday we joined up with a Canadian/South African couple and took a two-hour cruise down the Mekong to visit Kuang Si Waterfall. This was no tourist cruise, in fact, our boat captain definitely lived on his small boat that seated six - Carlos took it upon himself to take a nap in the back in what we believed to be the captain's bed since we were short a seat. The captain didn't seem to mind and the ride was really amazing. There were children swimming, people fishing,
water buffalo having a drink and goats scaling the hills that surround the river. When we arrived at the village to be taken up to the waterfall, we hopped in the back of a flat bed truck and made the bumpy trip up to the park. We hiked up to the top and there were swimming areas so we jumped right in! It was so cold and so refreshing!! AMAZING! I know it lowered my body temperature a few degrees and it was tough to leave such a beautiful place.
We hit the night markets last night and had all intentions of eating street food for dinner, however, when we got there, we chickened out. There were some interesting dishes there including fried river weed and grilled pig's face - not exactly tempting! Instead of eating there, we walked down and had crepes from a stand. Ann Candler and I had cheese and we both have had stomach issues today. Kind of ironic that we were trying to avoid any sickness by eating Western food and ended up with anyway! Oh well.
This morning we got up at 5:30 a.m. to watch the procession of monks taking alms
from the people. Luang Prabang is known for its many monks and every morning, they walk through town and collect cooked rice from the townspeople. They are dressed in their orange robes and they walk barefoot, in a line down the street. It is a very quiet process and one that is incredibly peaceful to watch. The monks range in age from young children to grown men and seeing them all together in their orange robes is fascinating. Apparently, most monks are not monks for life and often serve for a year or two before they are married. I think the young ones are often orphans who have been taken in by the temples around town.
At 8:30, we headed off to ride elephants in Elephant Village, a sanctuary for old or sick elephants. They only have female elephants - our guide says the boys are too crazy and hard to control! We got to the village and hopped on our elephants and proceeded to be taken through some rough terrain. At one point, we were going down a very steep hill towards the river and Ann Candler told me she thought we were going in and I scoffed.
these flowers are everywhere!
She was right though, we hopped right in and rode our elephants across the river (which also happened to be the preferred bathroom for the elephants - no swimming there!). Afterward we got to feed the elephants which was one of the best parts of the experience. Again, I have great pictures but still can't post them...
Something at the Elephant Village gave me a ridiculous allergy attack and I sneezed the whole way back to town. Thank goodness my mom made me pack Benedryl so I took some and ended up sleeping it off most of the afternoon. We enjoyed a traditional Laotian dinner of bamboo soup, grilled pork skewered and wrapped and lemongrass, and sticky rice last night. It was fantastic. Today we are off to Hanoi and I am bound and determined to get my pictures on this blog! Stay tuned!
There are more photos below