Luang Prabang has a lovely feel to the place, with historical sites, monks and a nice tourist touch that is not too overdone. Probably one of the better places I have had the pleasure to visit.
Luang Prabang – 19Jun’08. Call it my innate desire to be on the highest point of every area I end up in. Early morning at 5.30am, I woke up to solo climb the 350 steps up Mt Phousi, a hill atop which sits Wat Tham Phousi, and where I can catch a panoramic view of the town. The other reason to wake up early is to see the procession of monks walk along the main street in a line, with the locals offering food like rice, which will be the monks meal for the day.
I was out at 6am, but apparently that wasn’t enough. =( Caught only the tail end of the procession. So I just went up my 350 steps to get some morning air.
Here’s a 360 birds-eye view. The trip up is 20,000 kip. I was too early so there was no ticket collector dude there. But on the way down, gave up my 20,000.
And lastly, here’s a shot of me on top, lousy lighting courtesy of the dawn’s lack of light. There were two Americans up at the summit who helped take the shot. They had the same idea, but didn’t get there earlier, cos the were stopped by locals to join and (sic) “feed the monks”.
Since we now have till evening before the bus leaves, decided to follow the half day tour up to Pak Ou Caves by slow boat. Since we dropped the 7hrs +7hrs slow boat journey, this 2h return trip should make up for the experience. And glad we did to, trip was boring as heck. I didn’t bring a book (so much travelling I finished 2 novels while sitting in buses) or breakfast, since we had set off at 8am.
Other random happenings. On the slow boat ride, the speedboat passed by us. That thing blitzed past us, with its contents in motorcycle helmets and lifejackets. I read on Wikitravel that these boats reach Huay Xai in 7 hrs, but has a dubious safety aspect. Can understand why after seeing one.
The entire slow boat was full of tourists. This trip is becoming way too touristy, not the backpacker chic travellers i was expecting, but rather camera toting Hawaiian shirted uncles. I attribute this to the easy accessibility and promotion as a Heritage site. Similarly, Vang Vieng which lies smack in between the capital Vientiane and Luang Prabang, would be well visited. Remind me that for my next trip, I will that the road that is off the beaten track. Then, I’ll follow the side-trails off that track. =)
This Japanese guy on the slowboat struck up a conversation with me because I looked Japanese. Huh? K, didn’t mentioned this earlier, but at least 2 Thais said I looked Thai, the Laotian kayak guide said I looked like a local. By now, I’m not quite sure what I am.
With the evening came our public bus ride to Huay Xai. The difference between this ride and previous is that we are not taking the chartered minivans, where we sit in comfort with fellow tourists. This bus ride we shared with locals. There were other travellers as well, not many, the Korean couple, a trio of ?English? guys and 2 Japs. The bus station was a prelude. No need for air-con, it was cool winding up and down the hilly terrain On the bus ride, we suffered through Laos karaoke DVDs, they were ok, but when you play them ad nauseum for 4hrs, it kinda grates on you. Stopped for pee breaks in the middle of nowhere; everyone got off and peed by the road, even the females. Stopped for dinner at one of the villages, with a lot of “I dare you eat them” food (I stuck to sweet corn). There were also hill tribe families (could be Akha) that boarded and sat on plastic stools on the middle aisle. Maybe they weren’t paying the full fair or something, but preference went to the rest for the proper seats. One incident had the cute rosy cheeked hill tribe girl board the bus, spit on the aisle before moving to the back of the bus. Hahaha!