Luang Prabang, Laos.

Out of all my travels over the past couple of months, I think Luang Prabang is probably one of only a couple of places i.e towns or cities, in which I haven’t really met any other travellers and / or locals or had any relevant or meaningful social interactions with anyone apart from the hotel staff and the odd, brief chat here and there with people.

If you read my last blog post, you will have seen that I made a solemn vow to take a break from drinking / partying which seemed to have consumed my travels over the past few weeks. Nothing wrong with partying over the festive season with friends of course but my body needed a break. I think that part of the reason I didn’t meet anyone (apart from staying in a slightly non-social hostel) is because sub-consciously I was avoiding them – I knew that if I met people I would most likely end up in the pub with them or on a night out as is the way it usually goes! Avoiding people to avoid alcohol raises a whole world of other questions about myself but let’s leave that out for another day.

That being said, Luang Prabang was the perfect place for a period of solitude and relaxation. It was definitely one of the most serene and calming places I had been to in South East Asia. The whole town is also a UNESCO world heritage site and had been assigned that status due to the unique and beautiful architectural buildings and religious temples that are dotted all around the cities.

The first day I took a walk around the town based on the standard walking tour map which the hostel manager provided me with and I was really taken in by the town. I felt instantly relaxed. It sits right on the border between the Mekong and Nam river which makes a beautiful setting. Another observation I made is that it is probably also the cleanest town I have visited in South East Asia so far. The locals or authorities obviously take care and have  a lot of pride in their town. This was a town of the Buddhist monks and you could see them everywhere. Another interesting thing that people do here is wake up a 5.30AM to see members of the town give gifts and food to the monks, it is called “alms giving” – I tried, I really tried but I failed. I blame it on the roosters, there was none outside this hostel to wake me up this time just when I needed them.

I will describe that day’s walk with some pictures and captions.

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First I visited a museum which told the story of all the various different ethnic people that live in Laos and how they try to preserve their way of life while adapting to modern advancements and changes in the world. It was quite interesting.
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Nice walk along the Nam or Mekong river, not quite sure which one as they intersect in Luang Prabang.
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…….where I arrived at Mount Phou Si. This is a big hill right in the centre of town which basically has Buddhist statues all the way up it, topped by a stupa which you can see from all around the town.

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Top of Mount Phou Si – you can see this thing from all around the town.
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If you look carefully, you can see a plane coming into land at the Luang Prabang airport.
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Not sure what this is but it looked nice so I took a picture.

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I think behind me you can see where the Nam meets the Mekong river.
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Next, based on the map I was given which was telling me what to do I paid £1 to walk across a bridge only to discover that there wasn’t really anything at the other end of the bridge. I think the bridge itself is the attraction.
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Royal palace where a Laos king used to live. King Sisavanvong. Built in 1904. Inside the palace is preserved pretty much how he left it when it became a museum but you were not allowed to take photos inside.

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Statue of the King that lived in that palace I mentioned before.
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This place was called the Utopia Bar and is probably one of the most chilled out bars I have ever seen in my life. As you can see everyone was just lying on mats, gazing out over the river.
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I am British and I am off the booze at the moment, so naturally I had a cup of tea in the Utopia Bar.

Next day was a chill out day. I like to throw a couple of them in the mix now and again where I don’t do any activities or spend much money. I did have another cup of tea, this time at the place where two rivers meet (Mekong and Nam), took a nice walk and got some much better views of the river/s. I also enjoyed the best massage I have had in South East Asia at a place called Dhamamada Massage.

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I almost forgot to take a selfie when I was down at the river’s edge. I had to walk back to take one.

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And on Day 3, it was time to rent myself another motorbike and armed with a new countryside map provided my the hostel lady I explored the surrounding area and countryside. I stopped off at some waterfalls and a few viewpoints and then I did some strange things that day. Firstly, I visited a butterfly farm and even more bizarrely then the butterfly farm, the tomb of a man called Henri Mouhot. One reason this is a little odd is that I didn’t really know who he was (was just following the map again) but when I returned to my hostel I did my google research and discovered that he was the man who popularised Angkor Wat in the West on his travels when he sent reports on them back home back in the 1800’s. He was an explorer basically and he died of malaria when exploring the Laos Jungle so they buried him there. Also, some people reading this may be interested to know that he lived in Jersey, Channel Islands during one period of his life.

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I started getting ready to put my swimming gear on but when the women here started screaming as she entered, I dipped my toes in and they nearly froze solid right there and then so I gave the swim a miss and just stood there for a while amused at peoples reactions when they entered the icy water.
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What time is it? Tea time of course! No booze, bring on the Lipton Tea. I always make sure I have my tea with a view though.
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Kuang Si Waterfalls

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Viewpoint from the top of the waterfall area.
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Source of the Waterfall apparently.
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Butterfly farm. Not usually my “cup of tea” but the gardens and area were quite relaxing. I also discovered that male butterflies die as soon as they mate so I learnt something anyway.
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Bit of fish feeding in the butterfly farm .

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Statue of Henri Mouhot who I described earlier.
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Tomb of Henri Mouhout famous for his exploration and reporting’s to the West on Angkor Wat – buried here in 1861, the tomb was totally consumed by the jungle growth and not discovered again until 1989.

On the way up through Laos, I had heard a recommendation about visiting a place a few hours north of Luang Prabang called Nong Khiaw which is a small village which is supposed to be well worth seeing due to its setting.

I booked myself onto the mini-bus and was taken there by a Tuk Tuk driver the next day at 9.00AM. After we were all loaded up, I tried to hide my revulsion when the driver loaded an exposed animal carcass in the foot-well of the van right near our feet. A French couple near me did not hide their disgust though and so after a short delay while it was all covered up in plastic, we started our drive out of Luang Prabang and on our way to Nong Khiaw…….

Next post: Nong Khiaw and last few days in Laos.

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