We have been in Luang Prabang for over a week now and I can’t figure out how to describe it to you. It’s not like any other town I have visited.To say it exceeded my (very high) expectations would be an understatement. Every blog I had read mentioned the gilittering temples,the saffron-robed monks,tne colonial villas, the quiet charm.But that doesn’t convey the real charm of the place.You have to feel it.Luang Prabang is full of tourists but it feels quiet and serene.Even when you walk through the night market and see the many French,Dutch,American and British tourists examining the fine weaving and wood carvings,you still feel calm.Even after you sit in a restaurant housed in a French-style colonial villa, on a terrace overlooking the Mekong or the NamKhan River,you can feel comfortable and not over intrusive.So we have decided to stay here for a while.The original plan was to spend a few days here and then continue south to Vang Vieng and Vientiane.But when we saw that our hotel,the Saynamkhan RIver View had upgraded us to a room overlooking the river we decided to offer them a deal- we will stay at least 10 days if you lower the price.It worked! So we are chilling out here for a while and trying to get to know more locals and do less touristy things.And it seems to be going well.First we went to a place called Big Brother Mouse a kind of drop-in club where Lao people come to practise their English with anyone who shows up.We found it great to just sit and chat to young people about their lives,and Laos generally.We made some good friends there.Today we went with a young monk called Bee Kham and his friend,also a monk on a short trip across the Mekong.We told him we would like to see a local village so he took us down to the pier and found a boat.We then crossed over the river and walked around in the village with them,talking and asking questions.We got to learn a lot and they got to practise their English- a win win situation.
Another day we met a girl called Mone from a village near Pakse in the south of Laos. She told me that she is a weaver and that she works in a shop called Ok Pop Tok which sells woven textiles.She said that she was an orphan and that she had come up here from her village to work and that once she had been to London.I asked her how that came about and she answered “IT’s a long story”.. Her employer is English, and Mone was supposed to attend a weavers’ conference with her in Peru,Lima.But when they arrived in Lima she was denied entry because of some visa mixup , so they ended up flying all the way back to London,where she was able to have a short holiday and relax before returning to Laos. She told me she cried all the way there because she was so disappointed and tired. Mone gave me her email and we are now Facebook friends.Many of the people at Big Brother Mouse have added us on Facebook, including the monks.
Another morning we took a tuktuk to the nearby Kuang Si waterfalls. We shared the tuktuk with some students from Singapore who spoke Chinese.So we chatted to them in mixedup Chinese and English and also exchanged emails.Last night we met up with them again and had an Indian meal together before they headed off for their Mekong boat trip up to the Thai border
One of the first evenings here we climbed out Mount Phousi, the tallest point in the town. There is a beautiufl temple near the summit,but the main reason people climb it is to see the sunset or sunrise.We climbed towards dusk and the views from the top were really stunning.IT was hard not to take photo after photo.Maybe we will climb again just to look without snapping so many shots.
Another thing we enjoy about Luang Prabang is the smaill-town feeling.We jokingly decided that you never meet someone here once only.We keep running into people who we met on the bus down here,or people we saw in other places.You stroll down the main drag or past the night market and you are sure to run into a friendly face.The pace here is uber-relaxed and it is easy to spend many days here doing nothing much- just drinking a fruit shake,watching the river flown.