Thursday, June 13, 2013

Luang Prabang, Laos

A Peaceful Town
Just a quick post from the three days we spent Laos. It's an interesting place. The old French quarter, which occupies the majority of the peninsula that is the UNESCO site, is beautiful. I wish I could say it was quaint, but it's so overrun by tourist (even in low season) that we're really glad we're not traveling during the busiest months. While on the peninsula, a temple is visible at all times, and similar to other cities, the temple sites are a sanctuary for space, peace, and quiet. We grabbed a frozen mint-limeade and took a nice stroll through. 

Unlike other places we've traveled to, Luang Prabang (and most of Laos for that matter) is still very agrarian, and the farms begin less than half a kilometer away from the center of the city. It's said that over two thirds of Lao citizens still live in rural areas, which isn't that surprising because there are few large cities, but nonetheless, the country hasn't seen a massive migration to urban areas like others in the region. We also learned that all young (Buddhist) men are encouraged to become monks, and can spend as much time as a monk as they want (which seems like a whole lot better idea than required military service, such as Vietnam). Every morning at 5am, along their walk from their homes to the temple, the monks are given offerings of food and money from local non-monk Buddhists and travelers. It's almost as if the town is built to support their lifestyle... Until the sun rises and the tourists (that's us!) come out and play. The vibe changes completely. 

Smarter Than the Average Bear
Per usual, we got out of town to explore the famous waterfalls and bear park we'd heard about. Bears from all over the region are brought here after being saved from the black market animal trade. It would appear that the bear in the lounge seat is well aware that he's in a sanctuary and that he can just relax. 

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

No caption needed. An incredible experience.

The New Breakfast Club
A delicious traditional Lao breakfast soup. Similar to Vietnamese Pho, except more basil and less dill.

Climb to the Top
On our final day in Laos, we climbed to the mountain top temple overlooking Luang Prabang. It was a
a full panorama. So green. And a nice place to get some thinking done. Days later, I still have the thick British accent in my head from the dudes sitting in front of us on the slow boat, and every time I say, "Luang Prabang," I now say it with a guttural, overemphasized version of the accent. Flor's a little annoyed... Good thing we're traveling to a new city. :)