Monday, March 1, 2010

Relaxing in Luang Prabang

We've enjoyed our time immensely in Luang Prabang. The city (it's more of a town really) here has a very "up and coming" feel to it. There is a lot of construction going on, and the steady influx of tourists makes it a vibrant place to kick back for a few days, although it's definitely not typical Laos. On the bus ride through the country-side to get here we saw how poor Laos really is, but you wouldn't know in Luang Prabang. It acts like a sleepy village, but it has all the modern conveniences you'd need to have a comfortable stay.

If not for our desire to see more places, we could easily stay here longer. From what we've heard and read, Luang Prabang now is what Chiang Mai was maybe 10 or 15 years ago. It would be interesting to come back here in a few years and see how it changes. With so many new guest houses and touristy restaurants opening up, I wonder if it will be able to continue to retain it's charm and appeal. But, of course, I think that's why we travel - to see places and enjoy them in the moment, as they are.

In any event, as I mentioned, our stay here has been very relaxing. We took a day trip out to a huge cave, called Pak Ou Caves where there are hundreds of Buddha statues, which although interesting, was not really that impressive (maybe I should have been impressed?).
Pak Ou is sort of a resting ground for Buddha statues

Combined with that trip, we also went out to a beautiful waterfall called Kouang Si. This was totally worth it, and we weren't going to go out there since it's the dry season, until we ran into some people from our bus who said it was gushing.
There were multiple swimming areas, including a cool rope swing that we got to use to jump into the water. Doing either side trip was kind of fortuitous, because although tuk-tuk drivers ask you on every corner, "Hello sir, Cave/Waterfall?" we weren't exactly sure how to organize a group to get the best rate. The drivers charge a flat fee to go (they charge about $50 US for the entire trip of about 100km), so the more people you have the cheaper it is per person. On the street one morning we ran into a Canadian from Montreal who was on our bus and he said he had booked the tour with six people but two of his group were sick so he asked us if we wanted to go. He was leaving in about 10 minutes, but we thought, why not? We grabbed some coffee and banana cake, ran back to our guest house and put on our bathing suits. We had no idea that it would be an all-day tour (we left at 9AM and got back at 4PM) but we had fun. Plus, this guy Pierre is a hoot, as were his friends from France (who we continue to see all around town).

Apart from the cave/waterfall tour, we've spent a fair amount of time lounging at a very nice bookstore/cafe called L'Etranger Books and Tea, which although overpriced by Southeast Asia standards, has free wifi, draft beer and at 7PM they show free movies on their TV in the loft area on the second floor. We were lucky enough to catch Fantastic Mr. Fox (bootlegged DVD from China) one night.

Additionally, we caught up with the Canadian couple that we met in Chiang Mai and had dinner with them. We attempted to go to the highly recommended Tamarind restaurant, but apparently it's closed on Sunday. As a backup plan we had great food and beer at the market, and it was fun to talk smack (as much as we could having not really followed the Olympics) about the upcoming USA versus Canada gold medal hockey game that they were getting up at 3AM to watch. (Having not that much a vested interest either way, I'm glad Canada got their gold medal.)

We went to Tamarind for lunch today, and it's definitely worth checking out. We had their vegetarian sampler platter and some pumpkin-coconut soup. The restaurant also has cooking classes which would be worth doing if we were staying longer here.
Speaking of leaving, we decided to take another overnight bus tonight, down to the Laos capital of Vientiane. It's supposed to take 12 hours. We'll see. (Update: the bus actually came in an hour early, with no breakdowns or other issues. It was uncomfortable though, and the Laos music videos on the TV were interesting for the first 10 minutes, but annoying after that, especially while trying to catch some sleep.) We've also been trying to figure out when to leave Southeast Asia and head to India. We're having a great time here, it's pretty cheap (we're averaging about $35 US per day including transport costs from town to town) and there's still a lot to see (Southern Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Our tentative plan is to do an S-shaped itinerary down through Laos and Cambodia and then traverse south to north in Vietnam ending up in Hanoi in northern Vietnam. From there we'd fly to Bangkok and on to India. Nothing is booked yet, but we'll be sure to update the blog when know for sure.

We added more pictures to the photo album, and there were some tourists who took pictures of Jaimee jumping into the water at the waterfall. The one guy promised to e-mail us the pictures which we'll post to the album as soon as we get them.

2 comments:

  1. You've hit the nail on the head with your guess that Luang Prabang is just like Chang Mai was 10 or 15 years ago.

    Back in the mid to late 90s Chang Mai was an over touristed ghetto of wall to wall guest houses selling trinkets and faux Thai food and offering an out of Thai experience with cafes and guest houses crammed in every meter.

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  2. very nice blog. More informative.Thanks for sharingAccommodations in Trichy

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