Lovely Luang Prabang

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March 9th 2006
Saved: December 4th 2008
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Laos is one of the least densely populated countries in Asia, even less densely populated than the United States. It also has the misfortune of being the most heavily bombed country in the history of warfare: one planeload of bombs, every eight minutes, around the clock, for nine years, all illegally courtesy of Uncle Sam. The only Laotians I knew of before coming here were Kahn, Minh and Connie Souphanousinphone of King of the Hill fame.

Laos is also the darling child of South East Asia, all the travelers I met along the way said Laos was their favorite country by far. Laos doesn't have a lot of tourist attractions per se, but it has gorgeous scenery and lots of charm.

Luang Prabang is surreally beautiful, but its also a great example of how incredibly fast things are changing in South East Asia. Its mind boggling. My three year old guidebook promised me few tourists and friendly locals all throughout Laos. I'm sure that was the case then, but now Laos is packed with tourists. The locals -except for the awful tuk tuk drivers- are completely immune to tourists here in Luang Prabang. I'm trying to get off the beaten path in Laos (French colonial architecture is not why I came to Asia) but I can't figure out how. Tourists are everywhere. It's frustrating.

That's the thing about South East Asia these days, you're going to have to actively search out the exotic. 90% of the travelers I've spoken to absolutely hated Vietnam. If you do it wrong and only take the cafe minibus being herded North to South, your experience will probably not be great. I felt like I did a good job seeing all sorts of different parts of Vietnam- I wish I knew how to do Laos justice.

That's not to say Luang Prabang is not worth visiting despite the tourist overload and the scary bus ride from Vientiane. Its a beautiful, peaceful, World Heritage listed small town with 32 temples- its just bustling a little bit more these days. I can't shake the feeling that I should have been here years ago.

I'm having a great time visiting the wats and chatting with the monks- in Laos all Buddhist males become monks for a time in their life, they go to school in the monastery. They're great kids and they're dying to practice their English with you. My favorite sight in Laos is the monks in their bright orange robes walking down the street to collect alms in the morning. Its definitely worth getting up for. The night market is also great, I've bought tons of stuff but passed on the opium pipes.

I'm going to spend the next week or so heading south through Laos until my visa runs out. I'm flying from Bangkok to Burma on March 22nd- I'm convinced that Burma's going to become the next Laos so I better get there ASAP.

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9th March 2006

awesome blog as always
you gotta write a travel guide. i know there's a million people that think they tell of this wonderful exciting adventure, but i might actually buy your guide. i'm actually interested in travel because of miss kate. you know i'd love to become a hermit, but with your guidance masta, i could become you, the ultimate travelaaaaaaaaa. miss the thai kitchen since NO ONE will go with me. I cry alot. keep up the awesome narration of your journey. shandawg
9th March 2006

Great blogs and pics, Kate!! I'm glad to see you've been searching out those real-life, local experiences everywhere you go! It's so easy to get caught up in the tourist trail over there. I really admire your approach to travel. I was in Laos 2 years ago. And from your writing I can tell you would find Vang Vien disheartening. I hear that there is an amazing orangutan reserve in South East Laos. You should look into it if you are into monkeys. ;) Keep the amazing adventures coming!
10th March 2006

Thanks for your comment Kate! Laos looks great and when I have a break from work will pop over! :) Vietnam is great and its a shame most people leave without a real sense of what it is like. Take care on your travels! :)
12th January 2007

hi Kate, I'm a Cambodian. I've travelled to quite a few of my neighbor countries. Ur blogs are quite a reflection to what i've experienced too. U sounded a bit negative on Cambodia. But what u felt is true. I havent been to Laos though, but it appeared in my dreams a couple of times. The place gives me a sense of peacefulness. I hope i can get to spend some time there with my girlfriend. (wink wink~)

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