After some consideration and an overwhelming love for Luang Prabang, I have decided to move here for at least a year or so. A nearby guest house is in need of an architect and I just could not pass up the opportunity....
But seriously Luang Prabang is amazing. It is definitely competing with my love for Sapa, Vietnam and practically every other stop we have yet to make on this trip. Luang Prabang is a city located in north central Laos at the source of Laos's two major rivers, the Nam Khan and the Mekong. The city's center lays on a peninsula between these two rivers and today attracts tourists to its many Buddhist temples and monasteries, its French guest homes, its surrounding rain forest, and its peaceful lifestyle.
During our first day in Luang Prabang, we took advantage of the city's abundant surroundings, including its rainforests, hiking trails, and its most well known water falls. Because it is the start of Laos's rainy season, the river and waterfalls are beginning to fill and flood. My friends and I took a tuk tuk to the outskirts of the town to Kuanxi Falls. After hiking through rain and sludge we finally reached the precipice and on our way down enjoyed swimming and rope swinging from fall to fall. Amongst the clear blue water and light rain fall, little fish swam below.
Life Lesson 3: Just keep swimming. (Day 1 Luang Prabang)
In order to keep the fish from nibbling your toes, you had to keep your legs moving and just keep swimming- another motto.that will continue with me throughout the remaining trip. Hours passed as we excitedly explored the inviting pools, nearby trails, and animal preserves including that of the Asiatic Black Bear.
By afternoon we made our way back into town. We spent the remaining day enjoying the town's street foods; visiting various temples; walking along the Mekong River; and catching up on reading and journaling in various cafés along the peninsula. I spent some time at Ock Pop Tok ("east meets west"), a fair-trade business which aims to advance the artistic and social development of Lao artisans and increase the global appreciation of Lao textiles and surrounding communities. Meant to empower women through this local craft, the business continues to employ, house, and suppport female artisans throughout the area. We visited with local weavers and observed their work and craft.
We spent the night wandering through a daily market extending the city center. Many men, women, and families set up shop rain or shine to sell to and barter with tourists. Tents of finely crafted textiles, flowing silk garments, gem stones and jade jewelry, and local paintings fill the street.
Our second day in Luang Prabang was a day all of us had been waiting for. We planned to venture to the Elephant Village Sanctuary and spend the morning riding elephants. Only photographs can capture our pure joy and amusant that morning. At elephant village we took our eighth and newest mode of transportation into surrouding villages, across the Mekong River, and throughout Laos's woods. Kiley and I rode Mahmet together taking turns being the driver and feeling like royalty. We spent our remaining time at the sanctuary feeding the elephants and learning about the sanctuary's community efforts and practices, the history of Laos as the Land of a Million Elephants (Lane Xang), and the future of this endangered species.
After our elephant adventure, we returned to Lung Prabang for an afternoon of site seeing and relaxation. On the ride back my friends and I joked about staying in Luang Prabang; McCullough beginning a tuk tuk company; Kiley managing a nearby vineyard; Allie building and running a yoga center and guesthome at the vineyard; and Eda and Pippa living the lax Lao life depending on our financial success. So if we do not arrive in the US on August 1st, you know where to find us!
That evening Kily and I visited the Xiang Thang temple. Both interested in the history, culture, practice, and day to day lifestyle of Buddhism, we were fascinated by local Lao peoples' encounters with this open sancutary at the center of Luang Prabang and the subsequent incorporation of meditation in one's daily life. The temple was beautiful- its ornate roof, gold leaflets, detailed and colorful mosaics, and delicate sculpture rendered tranquility amongst the magenta blossoms, lime trees, and abundant palms that bordered the open complex.
Lesson 4: Seek to understand; travel well. (Xiang Thang Temple, Luang Prabang, Laos. Day 2)
It says something about Luang Prabang that my group and I possibly had the best days yet despite the consistent down pour. Ending our last night in Laos at the bustling night market, we appreciated the color and life of Luang Prabang, the diverse urbanscape, the delicious French- Lao cuisine, and the friendly and hard working Lao people.
And off to Thailand we go! Our next stop: Bangkok!
"One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster...."
Easy Lao street foods to make at home:
Steamed Dumplings with Crunchy Rice
Minced Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Banana Nutella Iced Shakes
Much love from the East,