Believe the hype
17.05.2012 - 22.05.2012
Argh, the internet in Vietnam is so annoying, if it's not blocking facebook it's just not working, I tried to post this last week but it mustn't have worked so apologies for the delay.
After the epic bus journey through Laos I decided to stay put in one place for a while, luckily that place was Luang Prabang, one the most relaxed, beautiful and scenic places I’ve ever been to.
Before I started this trip I’d never even heard of the small Lao city of Luang Prabang, luckily the glowing descriptions in Lonley Planet persuaded me to visit. The city is set on a small peninsula bounded by the Mekong river on one side and the Nam Khan river on the other before they meet at the tip of the old town. The entire town is a Unesco protected, beautiful mix of gleaming Buddhist Wats and old colonial French villas. The lack of traffic, noise and in-your-face advertising provided fantastic respite from the other Asian cities I’ve been to so far. The French influence also means that there are fantastic cafes and bakeries on every street.
After catching up on some sleep, me and team New Zealand headed out to Utopia, a chilled out bar featuring oriental gardens, a bamboo veranda looking over the river, yoga classes, volleyball court and fantastic food – the Chicken Laap (traditional meal of minced Chicken with spicies, rice and salad) was my favourite meal in Laos. There is a strict curfew in LP which means everything shuts at 23:30, except that is for the bowling alley, so there we headed for a surprisingly fun night.
The next day started with breakfast at JoMa, a great bakery just round the corner from our guest house were we met with a few people from the night before, two Canadian’s and yet another Kiwi! We decided to hire motorbikes (the asian type which are slightly more like scooters than Harley's) as an interesting way to get the Kuang Si waterfalls which are 35km out of town. It was a great to see the country, even if it took me a little while to get the hang of it. The waterfalls were stunning, a series of small turqiose laggons with crystal clear water cascading down into more lagoons, perfect for swimming, relaxing and cooling down from blazing heat.
Mum, you can breath again, I survived the motorbike, bad news for you is that I really really enjoyed it and will probably hire one again soon and I'm thinking of buying one when I get back home.
Saturday 19th was to be my last day of travelling with my new Kiwi friends, that afternoon they boarded a bus to Vang Vieng to go tubing but I decided against it as it would have meqnt spending most of my last few day in Laos on a bus, plus there was still plenty to do in Luang Prabang. On our final day we chartered a long boat to take us 2 hours up the Mekong to Pak Ou caves as recommended by Lonely Planet. On this occasion lonley planets advice was a bit of a let down, the cave weren't particularly special, however the boat trip was a nice way to see some of the sights along the Mekong without having to spend 2 days on slow boat.
So at 18:00 I waved goodbye to all my new friends, it seems we've done so much together this past week and I can't wait to meet up agin in NZ if not before. Back on my own but it was nice to have a few days to myself to catch up on the blog, my journal and to properly explore LP. So the next 2 days were spent relaxing in coffee shops, sampleing the finest pastries and cakes on offer and wandering the old streets and rickety bamboo bridges leading further affield.The selection of gifts/souvenirs/home decorations on offer at the night market and in the little boutique shops is fantastic and much better quality than other places, it's a real shame I don't have the space to buy anything. My final evening was spent at the top of mount Phou Si, the Wat topped hill in the centre of town, watching the sunset over the Mekong river and behind the epic mountains which cover this county. It was one of those moments which gives you goosebumps at the stunning beauty of it all.
My final day in LP was an early start, up and out by 05:30 in order to catch the Tak Bat ceremony when all the monks from all the Wats come out an proceed through the town collecting Alms from the local people. Its quite a sight seeing hundreds of orange robbed monks getting handouts of food at sunrise.
Then I was off to the airport for my flight to Hanoi. Despite the bus saga and not getting to Vang Vieng I've had the most amazing week in Laos.