Saturday, June 25, 2011

Luang Prabang

First, a little history and geography. Laos, is nestled between Thailand, China, and Vietnam with the Mekong river flowing through and connecting all the countries. The town has a decidedly  french-provincial feel to it in the old quarter, remnants from French rule during the 1800s. I would describe Luang Prabang as Europe's Asian cousin. In some ways it's typical Asia with red and gold wats on every corner, but next to the wats are cafe's offering coffee, croissants, and freshly baked baguettes. Orange robed monks glow in the early morning mist as they line the street every day at dawn, receiving their daily alms from the community. Luang Prabang was named a UNESCO world heritage site in the 90s, leaving trucks and buses banned. Only cars, motor bikes, and pedal bikes clog these quite streets. And quite it is here. There is an 1130pm curfew and things in general move slower in Laos then any other place I've been. The people are incredibly friendly, everyone is smiling and says hello as you walk by.
My first day here I rented a bike and spent the day pedaling around the town, getting to know the flower lined streets. I took note of things like massage $30,000K at the pallor by the river across from the white elephant sign, mental note. Oh, happy hour specials at the place around the corner, check. And laundry for only 1kg/8000K right across the street, perfect!
The following day I did another cooking class, which, since it rained all morning seemed like the perfect rainy day activity. I learned about Lao food and how different it is from Thai food (not as spicy). In the afternoon I wandered the streets as the sun attempted to peek around the clouds and saw a few wats. At dusk I made the 300 step climb up the mountain to the wat at top for a mildly cloudy sunset before dinner and night market quality time. The views from the top of the mountain were stunning, looking over all of Luang Prabang, the Mekong river, and surrounding mountains.
Yesterday I decided it was time for some serious elephant related activities and spent the day learning to be a mahout, which I've blogged about!

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