Published: May 7th 2012May 3rd 2012
We broke up our journey to Luang Prabang with an overnight stopover in Luang Namtha. Nothing much to report from there, other than that this was where we discovered the Laos baguette, perfectly crusty on the outside and soft in the middle bread, unlike the sweet stodgy stuff we’d had in Africa and India. God bless the French (influence)!
Being a World Heritage site, Luang Prabang is a tad touristy, but also very picturesque and charming, with its pretty temples, cobblestone lanes and colonial architecture. It certainly worked its charm on us, as did its numerous bakeries tempting us with culinary delights, which we’d only seen in our dreams during our previous four and half months on the road. With bagels, cream cheese, seeded baguettes, real cheddar cheese, salami, mustard, muesli, and peanut butter cookies we were in heaven! As if all of that wasn’t enough, we discovered a new treat for our taste buds, the Oreo shake! No wonder we ended up staying 4 nights.
We didn’t spend all of our time eating, and had time to take in the temples, “monk watch” and drag ourselves up the city’s amusingly pronounced Phou Si Hill in the midday heat.
We also went on a trip to see another waterfall, and visited the Bear Rescue Centre located in the national park grounds. The bears are rescued from bile farms, where they were kept to extract their bile for traditional medicinal use.
Luang Prabang was also where we met Sam and Matt, our new travel buddies who we travelled on to Vang Vieng with. Despite all the “scary” places we’d been so far, braving Nai-robbery and the chaotic roads of India daily for 2 months, this sleepy small Lao town was to be by far the most dangerous place we had visited. Apparently around 25 tourists a year die there and 5-10 a day are admitted to hospital with injuries sustained from the town’s most popular activity: floating down the Nam Xong river in a tractor inner tube. Before going we’d heard plenty of stories about this place being a mecca for partying, drinking and consuming copious amounts of readily available drugs. We’d also heard the horror stories about the number of people getting hurt and dying there. It didn’t exactly sound like the type of place that we would be able find or experience Lao culture, but, we were
curious to go, it was a stopover on the way to the Capital, and it did sound like a lot of fun!
We went, we tubed, we saw embarrassing scantily clad Westerners behaving badly, we sat in one of the endless bars showing Friends on repeat all day long, we left! We managed to escape the idiotic young backpackers (mainly Australians) trying to make us drink whiskey buckets before midday in exchange for wrist bands and letting them write all over us. Despite the general moronic atmosphere, the 4 of us had a great day relaxing on the river, taking in the scenery, bouncing on the trampolines, trying out the big slides, having a few drinks in the sun and chillin’ in the reggae bar. To prove statistics right, on our bus journey out of there, there were several injured passengers, including a guy on crutches with a broken foot.
There are more photos below