Monks on the Mekong
Luang Prabang Travel Blog› entry 21 of 39 › view all entries
ANDREI - We're rid of the boat trip, and finally in Luang Prabang, a rather likeable Laos town.
Like most of Laos, this is a relatively quiet place in the low season. Quite touristy but very laid back. However, once we stepped off the boat, we were accosted by the usual phalanx of fellas touting for various guesthouses. 3 of our Gibbon Experience brethren (Luca, Christian and Dan) went off to another place from their guidebook whilst Kerry and I set off on foot and found a nice place on called "Suan Keo Guesthouse", on a quiet soi just outside the central district.
A good choice since there was a local coffee shop around the corner called "Laos Coffee Shop" (!) which was our cheap breakfast destination. Also close to a doughnut stall which set up shop at 4:30pm everyday - I got my daily fix for 2,000 kip (12 pence) for a fresh one. Magic! Thanks to the French colonialists, the Lao have great bakeries!
Since it is a former capital "city", there is a profusion of Wats (Buddhist temples) in Luang Prabang so we were spoiled for choice. You also get to witness the daily almsgiving procession of the monks at dawn. We stationed ourselves opposite Wat Phra Maha That at 5:30am and toyed with the idea of buying a gift of rice. We decided against this just in case we boufght some dodgy rice and poisoned a monk! So we just watched and were a little disappointed by the turn out of the locals. I was expecting a throng of at least 50 or so locals, but the 10 r so we saw were matched by the number of tourists! Maybe they have a rota for each day?
We spent the rest of our time walking around town in the blistering sun, mad dogs and all that! We visited a number of other Wats (including the rather run down "Wat Sop"!), climbed up the steps to Mount Phousi (the "h" is silent, apparently!) for sunset, perused the night market every day for touristy stuff, took a boat to the Pak Ou caves, and visited the Kwang Si Falls.
Our only disappointment here was the Pak Ou caves. I guess we had had enough of river boat trips, so the 2 hour trip upstream on the Mekong was a chore for us. However, the 2 caves we visited were not very deep, the various Buddha statues left by worshippers long ago were far from memorable, and we were accosted by kids selling us stuff. The main problem with the latter was that they had small bamboo leaf cages with small birds in whuch they wanted money for to set them free (so they could catch them again....!). One line they used was "Please oay us so the bird can fly and eat!". 70,000 kip each plus 20,000 kip each entry fee for 5 poor quality hours!
The Kwang Si Falls, on the other hand, were excellent. Kerry, Dan and I bargained a tuk-tuk driver to take us the 25km there and back for 140,000 kip. It started raining when we got there but we pressed on, paid our 20,000 kip each and walked from the car park in to the well developed park. It had 2 levels: the lower level made up of small falls and a 15m by 15m pool-like area for swimming in the river; and a higher level where the main falls are. Dan and I stripped to our swimming shorts and wandered closer to the higher falls to hear the roar and add to the rain water soaking us! Then we enjoyed the lower level for 45 minutes whilst Kerry chickened out and took photos of us. The water wasn't too cold but felt warmer than the rain so we were happy. Recommended!
It was also a pleasure to share a few beers and meals with young Dan. A great guy from Sheffield. He's been a doorman since he left school but has worked at an orphanage in Nepal for a few months, and had just finished some English teaching in SW China before most foreigners' visas were revoked for the Olympics! He'll be working his way back on the train from Beijing to St PEtersburg then down the Baltic states, Germany and home before doing a teaching degree. Those kids are going to have one great teacher. He's got some great experiences to share.