Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Luang Prabang Dreaming

Luang Prabang is lush, quaint, and improbable.  This serene town of baguettes and butterflies seems to exist on its own terms, Southeast Asia with an unmistakably French panache.  The green hills, gorgeous buildings, and kind villagers spread out before you like an over ambitious dream.  You know the type, when it is too unreal to even bother with pinching yourself.   There is a saying that God lives in the Himalayas; I have a feeling that he vacations in Luang Prabang.

On our first morning in Luang Prabang, bells and a commotion roused us from our slumber at 5:30.  We all gathered on our balcony, wiping the sleep out of our eyes.  A slow procession of orange cloaked monks passed on the street below us, collecting their morning alms of rice, fruit, and other gifts.  This process takes place every morning.  Locals gather in the streets to give to the monks in an act of religious virtue.

We rented some bikes for 20,000 kip (about 2.50USD) and leisurely strolled around the town.  The entirety of Luang Prabang has been designated a Unesco Heritage Site.  We rode down the Mekong and through local areas.  At one point, Kristin needed to use the restroom, so she asked a local lady for help.  She walked Kristin into her own home, later refusing any money for the service.  We have really been impressed with how kind the Lao people are.  Everyone smiles and says Saba-dee (hello).

After our legs and specifically my butt tired, we decided to settle down on the Mekong for some lunch at a very Lao restaurant.  We sat on small neon colored chairs that appeared to be child sized.  Our server approached.  "We have noodle soup," she said.  We all nodded.  Kristin and Ryan broke up these very red peppers in their soup.  The peppers caused a bit of a scare.  The burning sensation that began in their mouths spread out across their entire face and wherever else their hands wandered.  Eventually, the burning subsided.  The lesson learned involved conservative use of unknown garnishes.  The food was amazing.

We decided on a boat ride up the Mekong to see life along the river and to visit the Pau Ok Caves.  The amazed on several levels, touting unbelievable natural scenery with a privileged glimpse of Mekong life.  Mr. Thangi, a man with a 114 year old mother and diplomat friends in DC, was our boat captain.  He looked back and smiled at us every 10 minutes or so.  The ride to the caves lasted about 2 hours in which the caves were a very quiet period at the end of an altogether enjoyable sentence.  On the way back we stopped by a river village that makes Laos rice wine, and passed perhaps the most idyllic prison in the world.

In the evening, a booming storm rolled into Luang Prabang.  We all relaxed and stretched out like cats as the thundering echoed throughout the valley.  We ate sandwiches on fresh warm baguettes, and thanked the world for such a perfect place.
 Our breakfast omlette and piping hot baguette 
 Out front of our hotel

 A Lao Dog surveys the scene

 An Old Mercedes

 This looks like an odd contraption 

 A pup, but not furmonster

 Going for a bike ride

 Stupas and Temples

 Kristin rides by

 A typical street 

 The Mekong

 A Temple 

 Some guys playing a Bocce ball like game for money 

 These European looking buildings are rampant in LP

 Even the trees are green

 A corner store

 AN Urn

 Pay a toll

 There were some kids playing in this freaking legit lily pond

 The house that Kristin peed in

 Socialist Park

 I parked my bike and checked out this pond behind some houses

 It was a brilliant little area, and just as I stepped back here, it began to rain

 This town is just green and butterflies and flowers everywhere 

 Some more Euro gorgeous

 Our lunch, noodle pork.  It was great.

 View from lunch 

 Our chef 

 Our table and little chairs

 Meagan and Ryan 

 The tuk tuks here are colorful

 River boat 

 Our driver Thong man

 Ying and Yang

 All up and down the river people make a living doing river stuff

 This kid directed us around him


 Shoveling rocks


 More fishing

 Our aging watercraft

 Mean mugging

 Cloud just hangs around the hills


 Our journey down the Mekong took 2 hours up stream

 A nice home

 Hanging out, another day at the office

 Beauty never gets old

 Arrival at Buddha Cave 

 No words for this

 View from cave 

 In cave 

 We climbed to the top of the hill

 1 armed scorpion

 I liked this bucket just sitting here 

 Leaving the caves

 Kids playing in the river 

 Our dock...

 pretty rickety

 Our craft and some kids

 We think that is a bear in the left bottle, which would be horrible since the asiatic bear is almost extinct 

 These Kids were great 

 DIY Laos Transport

 Small Village Up river that makes Lao whisky 

 This lady was a great salesperson, sold her wares to the ladies
 This is a prison 

 Water Buffalo 

 Heading back to Luang Prabang at this point 

 Ham and Cheese


 Furmonster of the Day, wider than long 


  1. You must have a state of the art camera, Justin. The pictures are almost unbelievable. We are enjoying our journey through your lens. Graduation was long but well done! We missed you all!

  2. This blog is fantastic!The pictures and documentation offer an incredible perspective in a world that few us could imagine. Thanks for letting us share vicariously your adventure. PS I know that Meggie is not doing the writing, she doesn't know this many 3 syllable words. Keep the pics and entertainment coming.
    Love Don, Meagan's Dad