It was a another long and winding minibus ride from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang, twisting through sinuous roads, hugging the rising and falling terrain of longview landscapes - it all had Dave wishing he was out on a motorbike again!
Luang Prabang is a beautiful UNESCO listed city where the main streets are lined with shuttered and whitewashed French colonial townhouses and the city itself is bounded by the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, while limestone mountains look down on it from all sides. It is truly stunning.
We ran into Felicity (who we had met at Lazy Beach in Cambodia) and her fella, Tim, and we spent a day mooching around the lovely surrounds as we cycled on bikes. We swung around the Nam Khan peninsula, passing lots of provincial buildings as well as a nice collection of cool art deco houses built in the 60s and 70s. We headed over to the local market where there were lots of 'interesting' fresh meat stalls, including lots with jiggly flourescent red blood cake, small bags of iridescent green buffalo bile and a man sporting a 'hambag' - a shoulder bag made of bamboo for carrying a live piglet! So wish we'd got a photo of that!
We stopped for some noodly lunch at a local cafe where a crazy monk sat and drank his ice coffee while trying to scribble the That Chomsi temple out of the sky with his finger!? So we took our bikes and crossed the rickety bridge to the other side of the Mekong to sip some afternoon cocktails and watch the sun slowly set.
In the evenings, we worked our way through the excellent night markets where some of the best and most original handicrafts we've seen in South East Asia are sold at very good prices.
The following day we took a trek to see local tribes, elephants and waterfalls. We started at the Elephant Sanctuary where ex-working elephants get looked after. We crossed the river and made an easy trek to the first Khmu village, full of laughing kids. It was a steep climb to reach the Hmong village where the kids seemed less happy and then steep down again to the last Khmu village which was huge but very quiet. Then it was back down river to reach the beautiful Tat Kuang Si limestone waterfalls before heading back to town to catch sunset. That evening, we joined Flic and Tim for a 'Rambo Hotpot' which was not as hot as it sounds!
On our last morning in Luang Prabang, Dave got up at 5.30am to see the processions of monks file out of their temples and through the main streets to receive their alms (donations of food or money), their bright orange robes juxtaposed against the whitewashed buildings and ornate gold stupas. There were a lot of tourists out to experience this daily ceremony but there were also a number of local ladies who obviously make this part of their daily routine. It was a magical way to finish off our visit to this magical city.
Mr and Mrs T xx