Luang Prabang: Not the least bit crappy.
Luang Prabang Travel Blog› entry 78 of 251 › view all entries
May 25th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
Steve felt better in the morning but decided to take a round of â€śjust in caseâ€ť antibiotics. I had arranged for an elephant trek for today, but it seemed a really bad idea for him to spend time in the sun. So I took the shuttle to town to cancel our trip (we lost a 50% deposit) and buy more water and food for the day. On the way back, an old man asked me, â€śtuk tuk to the waterfall?â€ť Hmmm. It was a nice day. Maybeâ€¦
So I arranged a trip to Tad Khuang Si (waterfall), 25 km from town, for $25. We could stay as long as we wanted while the driver waited, and we could stop at a rice field and visit a village on the way home.
The driver gave me a ride back to the hotel for no charge, stopping at a gas station along the way. It was closed. â€śClosed on Sunday?â€ť I asked. No, he said, sometimes they just run out of gas. The next station was out of gas as well! Things were not looking good for our trip. Finally he found gas just outside of town. We were both relieved. â€śItâ€™s not good for the drivers when the town runs out of gas,â€ť he explained. Yeah, no kidding!
When I walked into our nice, cool hotel room I realized Steve should probably just stay there all day and take it easy. Even if we spent the whole day in shade, it was really hot out. And he seemed none too keen to go out, so I met the tuk tuk driver and traveled by myself to Tad Khuang Si.
Well, I had a great day, and was constantly saying to myself, â€śOh! I wish Steve were here! He would love this.â€ť First I visited the Asiatic Bear Rescue center located near the entrance to the falls. The bears were rescued from a bile farm. At these farms, their gall bladder bile is â€śharvestedâ€ť regularly while they are kept (barely) alive. All for â€śChinese medicine.â€ť Itâ€™s a terrible story! These little bears were thriving thoughâ€¦ they had a wonderful environment with a small river, a rope swing, and other structures to play in. They were running around and having a grand time, and two of the frisky ones had found a spot for a little intimacy -- the top of the tallest platform.
There had previously been a rescued tiger as well (of course, in a different enclosure). A large sign showed a picture of the baby tiger, when it was rescued -- no hair, malnourished, and near death. Another photo showed the magnificent creature it had grown into. Unfortunately a letter was posted over the board saying the tiger died of center nervous system disorder on May 20, 2008. Itâ€™s very, very sad news for the local people and the people who have been caring for the tiger for the past 8 years. Heart breaking. The letter was well written, and long, with a full explanation of the tigerâ€™s life and her disease. I read it with a heavy heart.
Then I followed the path to the waterfall.
He then took me on a â€śsecret routeâ€ť up the right side of the waterfall that was very steep and slippery. Not much of a path at all! It was hard work and very hot, but it was worth it when we got to the top and I got to peek right off the top of the waterfall! Then we had to cross to the other side, and thatâ€™s where things got hairy. We waded over rocks and through water, and then came to a deeper area filled with standing water, dirt and leaves.
Well, if this was a test of balance, I am ashamed to report I received a failing grade. Off the slippery log I slid, right into the leaves and muck. (I am sure thankful I gave my camera to Phet, who dashed over with no problem at all!) Phet looked horrified, even when I laughed and instructed him to quick, take a picture! I was a complete mess. See photo. At least the water cooled me off.
From there, the â€śsecret routeâ€ť took us through some undergrowth that we had to cut through, until finally we came to the stairsâ€¦this is the route everyone else takes. Since I was a filthy mess, it was definitely time to go swimming!
Things had really picked up and many of the swimming areas were packed with people.
I reluctantly left the waterfall, and we headed back, stopping to look at a sticky-rice field on the way. There was a small covered platform on stilts near the edge of the field, and a lone girl sat in there. She must have been about 3 years old, and was very grubby. I said hi, but got no response, not even a smile.
On the way home, the driver told me the local area was experiencing a real problem. The government had sold the rice fields used by five villages to â€śsome Koreans.
I asked him questions about his life. He said he and his wife and their 5-year-old live with his parents. In total, 14 people live in the house. Someday he hopes to â€śmake a home for his family,â€ť but for now it is not possible. He told me these things matter-of-factly -- he was not making a play for sympathy or looking for a handout. He was just telling me what life is like. When you are sitting in a nice cafĂ© in a nice town, being served by kind, smiling people, itâ€™s easy to forget what hard lives the Laotians actually lead. This area is very, very poor. The people are so kind and gentle here, I badly want good things to happen for them. (Bottom line: please visit, and spend a lot of money when you are here! :^).
In the evening, Steve (who was feeling well again after another day of sleep) and I went to town for some shopping and dinner. As we walked along the mellow street, he exclaimed, â€śThis sucks! We have to leave and itâ€™s so NICE. Itâ€™s not crappy at all!â€ť (These are high accolades from Steve, who tends to be a little more pessimistic and critical of the places we visit). By â€ścrappyâ€ť he was referring to the dirty garbage-filled areas every town seems to have, and we always seem to inadvertently run into. Heâ€™s rightâ€¦ I have walked all over this town and have yet to see any trash and ruin (poverty, yes. Filth, no.). I donâ€™t know where they hide it, but the overall effect is quite nice: a beautiful, clean village with lovely streets and shops, and a market where no one harasses you. Yes, yes, you can probably tell by now: I am completely in love with Luang Prabang.
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