Day 121, Friday 4 May 2012, Luang Prabang
Happy 22nd Birthday Dom !
Luang Prabang (LP) is a UNESCO protected town situated where the Nam Khan joins the Mekong River. The town itself does not appear to be particularly old but it does contain a large number of old temples or Vat’s as they are known in Laos. Architecturally the temples are similar to those in Thailand, and at first glance Laos shares many things with that country – food being one of them. There are also a number of colonial buildings and Laotian style dwellings in town, and I must say from first glance it is a pretty town, quiet and gentle and a huge relief after the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
I had a miserable sleep, I obviously compensated for the awesome effort the night before by having a terrible sleep last night. So I was up early again, wifi was still not working and breakfast wasn’t part of the deal so I took a walk into town to find both, preferably in the same place. The main drag Sisavangvong Rd (and the last time I am going to mention a Laos street name) was about ten minutes from the hostel, with a good portion of that walk above the low but beautiful Nam Khan river. I soon reached down town LP, which is basically one main street a hundred metres long full of tour shops and restaurants. The town is of course, significantly bigger than this and full of nice shady, quiet streets to stroll down. It is now well past peak season for tourists so it is a perfect time to visit, with just enough people to keep most of the restaurants open, but nowhere near crowded.
I walked past Vat Sene, – the wats are Vat in Laos…
And then Vat Sickharam
I booked myself onto a tour to Pak Ou cave for tomorrow and picked up a decent map of LP, then stopped for breakfast and an internet session at a local cafe – before heading back to the GH for a shower and to get ready to start exploring.
I decided I would do the peninsula part of LP first, walk up the side of the Nam Khan, stopping on one of the bridges and then down the Mekong to the centre of town and check out some vats on the way.
Vat Xieng Tong is one of the main temple sites in LP, it has been restored over the years, restoration work continues at a number of temples throughout the town. Laos is a practising Buddhist country and a large number of the young men choose to do time as monks, so a number of the temples here have working monasteries.
I really liked the decorated doorways.
The glass murals
The small woodblock prints on the walls and pillars.
And these lovely old Buddha figures.
The renovation work at Vat Pak Khan has just started so the monastery is still in semi-original condition, I arrived soon after the monks had eaten.
And my favourite, Vat Xieng Muan – as it was small and a bit quirky and I so loved these doors. Why do I love doors ? who knows !
It was very hot and still here, as I had left early i had not really been a good boy with the sun screen, so around mid day decided I would have lunch and then head back to the GH for some shade and a cool down. You know it is hot and sunny when the bikes are covered.
I stopped at Wat Siphoutthabat on the way.
It was too bright for the view but i liked the sign…
After a lie down I headed out to That Chomsi, it is on the top of a small hill in the centre of town and was worth a visit on its own. I got as far as the ticket office (I should say there is a fee of about $3NZ at the main sites, it is a bit frustrating, but supposedly the money goes towards maintenance, I hope so.
At the ticket office I ran into Karen, who i briefly talked to at the visa counter last night at the airport. We started chatting and it got too close to closing time for the Vat so I decided to flag it tonight and went for a walk around town and had dinner with Karen, always nice to have company ! We parted company about 9.00 and I went back to the GH to try and make up for last nights lack of sleep.
You will all be pleased to know that I had a GOOD day, and am loving LP so far !