Friday, November 29, 2013

Come and Find Out: Luang Prabang

After 2 days of floating down the Mekong River we got dropped off about 7 KM outside of Luang Prabang. (The Laos have perfected placing bus stations and boat docks just far enough out of town that tourists are forced to also pay for a tuk tuk ride into town too. Inventing artificial demand; capitalism at its' best.)

After arriving, what did we find in dear ol' LP? Actually a surprisingly pleasant little town that had a unique mix of crumbling French architecture, a cruisey Lao vibe and just the right amount of tourist infrastructure to not destroy the soul of the town. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much there that we ended up staying an extra day than we had originally planned to.
We will grudgingly give the French their credit for the influence on this town. 
Here are some of the highlights from our 4 nights in town:

While we have had no shortage of meeting new people on the trip, Kate and I often find ourselves as either on the upper end of the younger backpacker spectrum and the much lower end of the retiree backpackers. (Shocking, I know. Apparently all of our contemporaries are working or some such thing...) So it's not often that we meet people who (1) are roughly our age, (2) we can speak fluently to, and (3) we actually enjoy spending time with, so it was so much fun when we actually found not one, but two, couples in LP that we ended up spending a lot of time with.

First off, a somewhat random connection to a couple of travelers which some amazing similarities to us. If you check out Dave and Noelle's RTW blog you will see what we mean. Same departure date (May 1); same trip duration; similar schizophrenic itinerary; Chicago connections; shared Chipolte love affair (Dave and Charles); similar senses of humor; similar red wine tastes (Kate and Noelle); and of course, similar stellar hair (Dave- beard, Charles - head). End result? Friendship established.
A good end to our first blind double date. It went so well, we met them the next two nights also.
And, not to be outdone, while the boat trip was primarily filled with 20 year old gap year backpackers, we actually met some new friends - Florian and Nina - from Germany, as well as others, who we ended up traveling the next half week with. You will see Florian and Nina feature prominently in the waterfall pictures, nights out on the town and in our Vang Vieng pictures. Yeah!
From L to R: Felix, Janina, Bernard, Nina, Florian, and us standing on top of a waterfall.
What was a typical day like while we were in LP? Here was a run down of our Thursday in town: Morning yoga at Mekong Yoga - the best studio we've found on our travels so far, followed by a deliciously western breakfast burrito by JoMa Cafe, followed by a trip to the waterfalls outside of town with a group of folks who were great company as we explored the national park, which included:

An Asian black bear rescue center, complete with action:

You'd probably fight with your friend too if you were caged up all the time.
Some of the most spectacularly beautiful waterfalls, we've encountered so far on our trip:
Sometimes the pictures just take themselves
We also, got to hike up to the top to get as close to the edge of a waterfall as I ever hope to get.
Stairway to heaven? Perhaps.
It doesn't get much closer to the edge than this.

From the top, we looked down to see a group of monks frolicking in the falls. (Monks: They are just like me and you!)
Except this monk. He's probably got something deeper going on than you and I.
And then, to cap off such a spectacular day, we had a picture perfect swimming hole all to our selves, complete with a rope swing so that the boys could exercise their inner 8 year old.
Not a bad backdrop
This picture was taken with an iphone. And I promise it has not been photo-shopped. 

Then out on the town for delicious food and a few BeerLao's afterward.
Noelle, Dave, Charles & Kate
It was not a coincidence that it was on this same day that we decided to spend another day in LP to enjoy it.

And, of course, the food!
(Of course the food, have you been paying attention recently?) Thanks to the French influence, some much appreciated, delicious French baguettes and pastries, added some variety to our noodle, curry and rice diet of the past few months.
Could this be Charles' perfect breakfast? Coffee, cinnamon roll and fruit smoothie?
And a fresh baguette panni with a simple salad? Mmmmmm...Western food.

Tasty DIY table top Laos BBQ at Lao Lao Gardens
DIY table top BBQ and Soup maker all in one
Delicious laap (the national Lao dish) with sticky rice
The fish laap - which is spicy! - at Rosella Fusion
Traditional Lao BBQ pork skewers and chicken lemongrass at Tamerind, the best restaurant in town, with mains that started at $4:
Pork BBQ Skewers

Chicken and lemongrass
And finally, these little coconut rice treats in the night market, which came highly recommended to us. And deservingly so since they melt in your mouth.
Kate sampling the night market food.
Between the slow boat ride to town and 4 nights in Laos, amazingly our first week in the country had flown by. It's not to say that we didn't have good expectations for Laos, it's just to say that we were pleasantly surprised by just how much we were taken by this oft-forgotten Southeast Asia country.

1 comment:

  1. One of the best posts yet, I had fun just reading it. Travel on friends, and keep up the great reporting.