One Day in Luang Prabang

According to legend, Buddha, on his travels, stopped to rest on a shady patch of ground held between two rivers. Charmed by its beauty, he smiled and prophesied that one day, a great Capitol would be founded there. From this seed of prophecy, the flower of Luang Prabang.

Breakfast bagel at Cafe Joma. Thanks to French influence, Laos has all kinds of delicious bread. Also: CHEESE! This may not seem like a big deal where you are, but after the bizarro bread in Thailand, this bagel was like manna from heaven.

Boats plying the Mekong. This was taken where the Nam Khan flows into the Mekong, at the very end of the spit of land holding Luang Prabang.

All along the river, folks have planted beautiful raised-bed gardens. Some of these vegetables find their way into restaurants, others to the markets, others straight into the family cook pot.

Fresh chicken spring rolls. Yes, they were delicious.

In the dry season, families build bamboo bridges across the Nam Khan. Falang are asked to pay K5000 (about $.75) to cover construction and maintenance costs. During the wet season, the current is too strong and the water too turbulent.

Like looking through a lens into the past. This same scene might have happened 40 or 400 years ago.

Fisherman. Not only do people eat the fish they pull from the Mekong, they also harvest river weed. Dried and seasoned, it is essentially freshwater nori.

The walking surface of the bamboo bridge is springy and slightly terrifying. To a big falang such as myself, it seems hardly strong enough to trust.

On a hot afternoon, a cool swim. I wish I could have jumped right in too.

Leave the historic World Heritage Neighborhood and you see a much different side of LP.

Part sunshade, part site-specific installation.

Hidden paths link nearby roads to the banks of the Nam Khan.

View from another bamboo bridge. The dude manning this one was definitely drunk. If all you did all day was ask stingy falang to fork over K5000, you'd be an alcoholic too.

Yes.

Narrow, stepped walkways connect Luang Prabang's main streets. They are used as living rooms, kitchens, clothes drying areas, parking lots, and storage. And sidewalks.

It is illegal for falang to own property in Laos. However, many businesses, including this French bakery, are started and run with foreign cash. Usually, they are operated by a Lao/falang couple and cater primarily to tourists. Although these were delicious croissants, after this particular snack, Tim and I tried to support establishments that were Lao owned and operated. The more down-home, the better.

Another beautiful garden.

Another quick swim.

Another bamboo bridge.

French colonial architecture. There's tons of it here, but for some reason, I didn't take a lot of pictures documenting it. Perhaps because these buildings were home to businesses catering to the rich and foofy.

Wherever you go, tuk tuk drivers are waiting to spring into action. Most times it's just “tuk tuk, sir?” But occasionally, you get “tuk tuk? Lady? You want Lao lady?” And perhaps even “smoke smoke, good weed!” The all purpose word to refuse the tuk tuk, the lady lady, and the smoke smoke is “Bo.”

Kids will stick their heads into ANYTHING.

View from the top of Pho Si hill at dusk.

On Pho Si hill, there are tons of statues of the Buddha and, purportedly, one of his footprints! He had enormous feet, like way bigger than Shaq.

Nagas. Look it up, would you? Sayfohn related some of the story to us, and even though I've been meaning to do some research on it, I haven't yet gotten around to it.

Behind a grotto containing a big fat golden Buddha is the entrance to a cave. Go down into this cave and you will find these dudes waiting for you.

Every day has its own Buddha. Thursday's Buddha is the reclining one, which leads me to believe I was born on a Thursday.

Like a superhero team!

Sunset over the Mekong as seen from the abandoned temple on Pho Si hill. So peaceful and serene…

…except for the dozens of tourists screeching like howler monkeys and vying for the best place to take a picture.

After a visit to our room to rinse off and change costumes, dinner along the Nam Khan. On this particular evening we met an obnoxious woman from Chicago who started off our acquaintanceship by asking, “Are you students? Because you sure are studying that menu!” My inner brat replied, “for future reference, this is what it looks like when people are purposefully ignoring you.” My public face smiled blandly and said nothing at all. Sometimes that's as much peace and love as I can muster.

 

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