Last week we returned from our autumn vacation in Laos. We had booked for one week only, so we decided to keep it simple. Flight from Busan to Luang Prabang with a 6-hour stop-over in Hanoi and then back same route one week later. Minimum travelling -> maximum relaxation.
It all started off well with an upgrade to business class on our flight to Hanoi. What a bliss! The 6 hours in Hanoi passed quickly even though it may not be the most interesting airport around these parts. And then we arrived in Luang Prabang - a small former capital/kingdom in the northern parts of Laos. Formerly part of French Incochine, this small town is well known by all and every backpacker on the Southeast Asia trail. We arrived in the evening and therefore had to wait until next day to see what all the fuss was about.
This is funny - our food box from Lao Airlines - you may note that "You are" is a sticker ....
..... and this is what was written below the sticker
A Lao Airlines plane - similar to the one we came on - getting ready for landing in Luang Prabang.
Woken up at 4 am in the morning by the next-door temple gongs, it was a few hours before we could witness the daily alms-giving. At 6am the monks from the towns many temples start processing through the streets of the old quarter while locals and tourists alike offer small alms in the shape of a small hand-full of rice, a biscuit or a mandarin. Women alms-givers must kneel while men can kneel of stand. Women can't touch the monks ... some customs die hard. Seeing the orange-robed monks processing through the streets in the morning light is spectacular and well worth getting up for (especially considering that we were woken up at 4am anyways).
The 6am procession
Not all the alms-givers were tourist like this man (luckily) but most were.
The scene was very solemn
The route passed our guest house, so we could just sit on our balcony and enjoy the show.
Paula enjoyed it the first day ... stay tuned for her expression on the second day (after another 4am "awakening")
As mentioned already, we were in Luang Prabang to relax and so we did. We sat by the river side - either the Mekong or the Nam Khan - and watched the world go by while sipping our coffee, hot choco, fruit juice or beer. But the fruit juices finally got the better of us and both Paula and I were visited by the tummy bugs. Paula while we were at a cooking class whereas my problem kicked in a bit later.
This was the view from our favorite cafe Saffron - right next to the Mekong and Big Tree cafe
The Mekong longboats
The car ferry was just two longboats tied together
One of the many many temples in the old quarter
and lots of golden Buddhas
Many of the temples were a little run-down though.
The old quarter is bordered by the Mekon on one side and the Nam Khan on the other. Between them there are 4 small streets of quaint french-inspired houses, now almost entirely restaurants or guesthouses.
One of the stairs down to the river
The Phousi is a small hill in town offering great views. We'll get there later
Great murals in this old house of worship
The temple (or Wat as they are called in this area) of the National Museum. The night market vendors are already setting up their stalls.
The National Museum - the old royal palace.
Paula looking out over the town and the Mekong from the Phousi hill
Lots of green and for good reason. The whole week was overcast and rainy even though we were there in dry season.
Less excited second time around !
Still, very photogenic with their orange robes
The cooking class started with a trip to the market
Veggies, spices and the censored stuff - the meat section!
Then on to a small lakeside kitchen setup.
Lao food is not too different from Thai food but may be a little more French-inspired. I had frog for dinner one day ....
Shortly after this Paula was down and out with bad stomach and I was left to fend for myself
Our chef-teacher, aslo the owner of the excellent Tamarind restaurant in town
Stuffed lemongrass looks something like this
We had planned to do several day trips based in Luang Prabang, but due to the day lost in bed/at the guest house, we retorted to visiting the many fine restaurants, the wine bar or just wander around the very charming town. So in the end we just went for one day trip - mountainbiking for 20km, then in a longboat for 15 minutes upriver to a beautiful waterfall (Tad Se) before kayaking back to Luang Prabang..... in the pouring rain!
Suiting up for the bike ride
Paula likes flat - not up and definitely not down. Maybe hence the love for Copenhagen
We were a group of 9 people including the guide
No rain on the way out. Only on the way back in the kayak, but then it didn't really matter as we were getting wet in the rapids anyway.
Arriving at the river we came by a mahout course
I am not sure what tourists can use a elephant-driver's license for ...???
On our way to tad Se waterfall
Cool but refreshing. A little shallow for swimming but great for cooling down a bit
So did the elephants seem to think
A 10min walk up-river brought us to the upper falls
A bridge for Paula's to-do list
There were also time for a few limits to be tested and crossed. As Paula was going to turn decade at the end of the trip, she had a few "to-do-before-I-turn-40" challenges remaining on her list. Most of them involved crossing bridges!
And another .. now back in Laung Prabang
Hehehe .... :-)
I was shooting a video and i guess that didn't go down to well !!
Dry season passage only
A well-deserved Jasmine tea after crossing the bamboo bridge
This would be the next challenge
Long, high and apparently pretty old - just right for Paula!
She did well though - closed eyes and all.
A rare moment of sunshine had us diving for cover. It gets hot!
More temples !
Monks chanting while sending txt messages. paula doesn't understand why they wake us up with the gongs at 4am when they have mobile phones ... USE THE ALARM!!!
This is the most famous of the Luang Prabang Wats - Xieng Thong
After 7 days is was time to return to Korea. This time we had almost 7 hours in Hanoi, but we managed to pay our way into the business lounge, which was worth gold. Especially because this was on Paula's 40th birthday! We had a great trip to Laos and will definitely consider to return one day. But then it will have to be for an adventure holiday - biking (pedal or motor), kayaking or one of the many other things on offer in this beautiful country.
Some mixed photos: The temple at the royal palace
Looking out on the palace garden
Kids playing in the Mekong
Ferrying across the river
Me at the Scandinavian Bakery - our regular breakfast stop.
Luang Prabang Film Festival
Going to the airport in a tuktuk
The girls invited Paula for a late birthday lunch on Tuesday at Bela Moti
Guess she liked the present !
The girls ...