Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Travels:Laos. It's true what they say about Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang
Day 9
Sunday, December 28, 08.

After an ordinary breakfast at the "far-away Villa", we head into town and climbed up to Wat Phu Si. The wat is on top of Mount Phu Si, which dominates the centre of this little town. It wasn't a hard climb (though Husband J is inclined to disagree - he claims I complained 3 times whilst climbing up! Blehh!), and we chose to go up passing by little houses built along the hill slopes. We passed by people's backyard, and went through their gardens, and they didn't seemed to mind, or too polite to say anything. I'm sure they are used to it, as Luang Prabang is nothing but tourists, tourists and more tourists!

The top has statues of Buddha all over, and a lovely view overlooking the valley. The top is tranquil, and clean, but we weren't really interested to see Mr. Buddha (you see one, you've seen them all!!), but the view of Luang Prabang was picturesque. The area around this wat is slightly narrow and small, but because it is up on the hill, most tourists give this a pass. So it wasn't crowded at all.

After J and I were done taking pictures, we climbed down to a little cafe opposite the Luang Prabang Museum to have coffee. The whole entire street looks quite different during the day. At night, it is filled with tents with Hmong folks selling their wares. During the day, the narrow street is peppered with tour offices, restaurants, coffee houses and small craft shops. The buildings are rustic, very colonial French, and the streets are narrow, but clean. Luang Prabang has been on the UNESCO World Heritage site for a decade or so. Tourism has boomed since then but it has little effect on the vibe, look and atmosphere that is Luang Prabang, it's so refreshing! Unlike other Asian towns or cities where we try to look as western as we possibly can, Luang Prabang is pretty without even trying to be, and it is as Southeast Asian as it gets. It's true what you hear about Luang Prabang: it is a pretty little asian town!

Typical Luang Prabang street. Clean!!

After coffee, we walked across to the Luang Prabang Museum (or the Royal Palace Museum), where it housed Royal properties and religious royal objects. No cameras, shoes, and bags are allowed and we found ourselves shuffling for a free locker to store our stuff. Laos is a Communist country, one of the very few left in the world, and they still proudly hoist the Soviet flag!! They got rid of the royal family, and this museum is all what's left of that bit of their royal history.

We walked along the narrow streets by the Mekong, where there are plenty of restaurants for you to sample western or Lao food. I went for my new favourite: Fish Lab with sticky rice for lunch. It was nice; eating and enjoying the breezy afternoon by the Mekong.

View from the many restaurants along the Mekong

After lunch, we decided to start looking for a place to stay. It is getting closer to New Year, so almost everything is booked up. All the houses near the town centre are renting rooms to tourists. If they are not running a guest house, they are running laundry service out of their homes. It's like the whole place is just catered for tourism. Everyone is a part of it!!

After a few unsuccessful attempts (nothing was available), we got lucky with Channuane Guesthouse, run by a 52 year-old Lao lady who speaks impeccable English. The guesthouse was newly opened a month ago, and it is her birth house! She grew up in that house and now she has turned it into a business. The house is big but we were even more surprised when she took us to see our room. It opens up at the back with more rooms and a big balcony. It is a mansion!! She gave us the 'Honeymoon Suite' for USD40 a night, breakfast included. J and I were very happy. Problem solved. The hotel is near the town centre and we can come and go as we please.

Stopped by at JoMa because I was *dying* to have a piece of Pumpkin Pie I saw yesterday at this cafe. So I said to myself, I must have a piece before I leave! And today is the day! My love for pumpkin pies goes waaaaay back during college. I used to have it like almost everyday!! So imagine how ecstatic I was when my eye caught a plate of pumpkin pie all the way here in Luang Prabang! J has never heard of pumpkin pies before this. So I happily introduced him to one my favourite desserts. Had it with whip cream of course, and JoMa's black coffee. Ummmm..mmmm! Yummy!

All the way in Luang Prabang, had my first pumpkin pie in 15 years! Yumm!

Tonight was a little cold. Walked around the Hmong Market, and went back to the far-away Villa at 9pm. Tomorrow, we are packing off to the Guesthouse. Good-bye villa!!