Tuesday 7 January 2014

The first day in Luang Prabang in Laos…

Are you ready! I should warn you now that these posts are going to be photo heavy and I will have to split the days up too - we did a lot!

So, we arrived about 9pm at Luang Prabang, as the plane flew in Ebi-kun explaimed that it couldn't possible the airport, it was too small! Of course he has on ever flown to and from massive international airports. With it being so small it didn't take long to get processed and we were soon in a tuktuk headed to town. Ebi-kun had been ready for bed but the tuktuk totally woke him up, he was so excited, raving on about how cool tuktuks are! What a good idea to have open sided vehicles and that a lot of people can get in them! The other thing we noticed was how cold it was! We were expecting it to be a warm summer evening type of temperature but it was actually really cold.

We checked into the hotel then nipped across the road to a restaurant to grab some dinner, the open air, next to the river restaurant - they did bring a pot of hot coals to put under the table and keep us warm.

One happy little boy with a very large glass of fresh coconut juice...

Although we went to bed late, we were wide awake at 5am, Laos is 2 hours behind Japan time wise, which actually worked quite well for us. We decided to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn to go and watch the monks taking alms, which was on the street just behind the hotel - handy.

It was still dark when we first got there and we weren't sure of the route or what time it all started so there was quite a bit of hanging around but then the monks came. This is an old religious tradition, the monks get up at 4am to pray and then after they walk through the town to collect food for their day. Each monk has a large metal pot and they collect rice, fruit and vegetables which is presented to them by the town folk.

Sadly, many tourists see this as their 'National Geographic' photo moment and basically shove their cameras in the monks faces and have no respect that it is a religious ceremony, some of the local dubious tour companies don't help by ferrying van loads of tourists around for the best photo opportunities. On the upside, I noticed many of the local shops had signs asking to respect the traditions, shame it was only written in English when many of the offenders we saw were not English speakers.

As the sun came up we realised that we had been standing near a beautiful Wat (temple), when we looked through the gate there was this amazing carriage, I'm not sure what it is for!

Then it was time to take a look at where we had landed, everything had been dark when we arrived. The hotel was reasonable, clean, large room and friendly staff. The restaurant was across the road, over looking the river, it's name is The Indestructible Rock, this is because of a lump of rock that refused to be blown up when the French we building in the town, they ended up building around it, I was expecting a big monster of a rock but the reality was far from it.

We had a great view of the river, this is not the Mekong, which runs down the other side of the town, this river runs into the Mekong. It was interesting watching the fishermen and farmers as we waited for our food.

We decided that time runs much slower is Laos and Lao time became a standard joke for the rest of the holiday, I liked it, forcing one to slow down and change the pace, I spend far too much time running round like a loonie. The breakfast was fresh orange juice, fresh fruit, a choice of scrambled, fried or omelette style eggs or banana, pineapple or papaya pancake and coffee or hot chocolate for Ebi-kun. 

Must say, I am already missing the pancakes!

After breakfast we decided to have a bit of a walk around town, get our bearings as it were. Lots of new things for Ebi-kun to take in...

Luang Prabang is a world heritage city, it is a fairly sleepy colonial place, with some very pretty buildings, although the main street is all for the tourists, and the outskirts are quite poor, many people living in nothing more than shacks on stilts. A lot of the old clonial building remain which give the town a lovely air about it. It actually reminded me a lot of Cuenca, the town where we lived in Ecuador.

As we wandered we came to Wat Xieng Thong and decided to take a look around. The local money is Laos Kip but US dollar get used too, it seemed that smaller items get paid by kip and things like the hotel in dollar. It cost 20,000 kip to go in, which is actually about $2.

It seemed like every square inch was decorated, lots of gold paint was used and glass mosaics too.

There was a heavy smell of incense and we noticed lots of offerings made from saffron flowers.

Ebi-kun was quite taken with the golden dragon heads dotted around, something we ended up seeing a lot of. We didn't stay very long as Ebi-kun didn't feel too well, I suspected a lack of sleep was catching up with him, so we went back to the hotel for a nap.

After his nap, he still wasn't feeling great but we decided to go and get some lunch as he hadn't really eaten much. We found a cafe with a lovely garden...

Ebi-kun turned his nose up at all the main meals and asked for a fruit platter with yoghurt. He had been desperate to try papaya, he has never had it fresh before but he was sorely disappointed and in the end, after trying several times, decided he didn't like it. I really miss the fresh fruit, the variety is so much more exciting than at home.

By lunch time the sun had actually come out and it warm! This seemed to be the usual thing, until the sun breaks through you freeze your buns off. Of course, I hadn't packed warm clothes so it was a matter of piling on more layers.

This was the hotel, Ban Lakkham and I highly recommend it, especially for the staff but that is a story for another day...

After lunch we headed to...
Pop back tomorrow to find out where!

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