Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Friday 2nd – Tuesday 6th December: Luang Prabang

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Lovely, laid-back Luang Prabang was a delight. We stayed in the Villa Merry Number 1 which we had booked on-line;

when we arrived the charming but very business-like owner managed to upsell us to a superior room for an extra $10 a night…definitely worth it:

Our huge room with attached dressing room 🙂

It was very comfortable, and every morning we had free breakfast (eggs, bread, coffee and fresh fruit) on the hotel terrace overlooking the Nam Khan river, a tributary of the Mekong.

The city is small but bustling, although very chilled out, no hassle from tuk-tuk drivers etc, and very honest people who always give you the right change (even when you mistake a 100,000 VND note for a 10,000).

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The lovely old streets of Luang Prabang – bicycles, low-rise buildings, bougainvilla and the odd brightly-coloured tuk-tuk.

Oh, and flags – lots of flags:

We noticed lots of excellent and sophisticated restaurants, and there is quite a vibrant cafe and bar scene over a couple of streets in the old city, but they manage to avoid the ‘Australians in Bali’ syndrome by having a curfew – all bars in the old city (which is a UNESCO world heritage site) to be shut by 11.30. I realise I am showing my age when I say that I think that this is a very good thing.

This is the marvellously ricketty bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan river (just round the corner the Nam Khan meets the Mekong). In rainy season you cross on a bamboo raft:

Another ‘to do’ in Luang Prabang is the tribal crafts night market, where mostly Hmong tribal crafts are sold.

As well as wandering along the side of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers stopping for Lao Coffee (yum) in one of the great restaurants with riverside terraces:

We paid a visit to the Royal Palace – a museum now as the monarchy was kicked out in 1975.

Although unfortunately you can’t take photos inside the actual palace, I rather liked it – it was a liveable size and I think I could have been quite comfortable there. One of the displays was of gifts given to the royal family over the years by various nations; my favourite was a paperweight containing actual specks of moon rock, a gift from Mr Richard Nixon.

In the evening after drinks at the Coconut Garden we skipped dinner and instead grabbed a sandwich:

and sat in the square watching an outdoor cinema screening of Lumpinee – a quite shocking and moving Thai film about kids in Thai boxing part of the Luang Prabang Film Festival.

This is the road bridge – also ricketty – near our hotel. The wooden planks are the ‘pavement’. You can just about see our hotel tucked away on the river bank, but close enough to hear the traffic rattling across the bridge at all hours.

And this is the fantastic street-food stall near our hotel, serving the usual rice and noodle dishes as well as fruit smoothies and crepes. Yum. We probably ate here 7 or 8 times…

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Although we did go for a slightly more sophisticated dining experience at Cafe Ban Wat Sene:

On our last morning we did a bit of volunteering; we’d donated some money to ‘Big Brother Mouse‘ the day before, and had been told about the English reading and conversation classes that they run from 9 to 11 every morning. They really like it when ‘farang’ come and help out as it encourages more people to attend, so we said we would go along. It was an interesting experience as it was totally unstructured, we were just given a seat at a crowded table and expected to get on with it. The attendees were mainly teenagers and young adults including several novice monks, and they had varying degrees of proficiency, so we just did what we could.

Luckily I had come prepared with props – a Welsh flag (which I’d had for the Rugby in NZ) and a Spanish flag (left over from the footy World Cup last year when we were in Serbia) plus assorted family snaps, so managed to get through the 2 hours of conversation practice without too much trouble and learned a bit about Laos, buddhism and the day in the life of a novice monk in the process.

Interesting fact about Laos: For their partial support of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Laos is the most heavily-bombed country per capita, in the world, hit by an average of one B-52bombload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.

US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos in this period than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War.

There is still a massive unexploded ordnance problem in the country due to the use of cluster bombs. The Plain of Jars is currently on the list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site but won’t be assigned this status until the UXO is cleared.

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Written by helenbcn

December 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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