Monks, Mountains and Mekong Sunsets

Trip Start May 20, 2010
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Trip End Sep 05, 2011


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Where I stayed
ThanBoum Guesthouse

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Louangphabang,
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DOMINIQUE HERE :

Day : 172
Temperature : 30 degrees daytime, cold enough for your woolly thermals at night
Weather : Glorious sunshine and clear blue skies

Lovely, mellow, historic Luang Prabang. The journey here was long. Ten and a half hours long to be precise…but it was ok, because we had booked a "VIP Deluxe Bus" and were feeling smug. Once onboard however, we soon discovered that we had THE worst seats on the bus, with approximately half the leg room compared to everyone else. In fact, we had so little leg room that I could not physically get into my seat because the passenger in front had their seat reclined. Fortunately, the aforementioned passenger complied with my request to raise her seat back position. This allowed me to squeeze into my seat, but my knee caps were still pushing firmly into the back of the seat in front. As you can image, Kevin had considerable more difficulty, and had to sit with his legs splayed apart. This meant that he had one leg in the aisle and one leg virtually where my legs should be. His discomfort was made worse by the fact that he had no arm rest, and so every time the bus bounced and bumped over a pot hole (and believe me there were many!) he was virtually thrown into the aisle.

The bus gradually wound its way up through the beautiful, mountainous countryside. Eventually, as we got closer, we could see the outskirts of Luang Prabang in a valley below, surrounded by rolling, green, mountainous peaks on all sides. The Mekong River shimmered and glistened in the sunlight as it twisted and turned into the distance. The scenery was simply stunning. We arrived just after the sun slipped spectacularly beneath the mountains, and the sky became a kaleidoscope of colours. What a setting.

We checked into a guest house in the old French quarters, which as it suggests, consists of narrow streets and quaint French villa style buildings with pretty pretty verandahs covered in trailing bougainvillea. In fact, UNESCO have designated this area of Luang Prabang as a World Heritage Site. After a quick bite to eat we collapsed into bed, exhausted from our travelling. It should have been a restful night, only the walls between the rooms were only stud partition walls and consequently we could hear our neighbours as if they were in our own room. We had a group of Spanish tourists enjoying a party until nearly midnight with much noisy merriment and hilarity in the room to our left.  We had an English couple watching the television and chatting away in the room to our right. Outside, a resident cat persistently wailed and howled ALL night long. At 5am the English couple got up and went out.  At 6.30am they returned. We were both exhausted by the time we got up ourselves. This was our fifth night with barely any sleep, and I was losing the plot big time. I was ready to throttle our neighbours and hurl the cat into the path of an oncoming truck in the street. Now, attacking our neighbours you can understand, but murdering a cat??! I realised I was seriously close to going over the edge and this called for drastic action.

We packed our bags as quickly as possible. Well, Kevin packed, I grabbed my belongings and threw them into my rucksack in a manner in which I have never done before. It wasn't pretty. We marched out of the guesthouse, down the street and into the nearest “posh” looking hotel that we could find. Fortunately a room was available. We proceeded to inspect the rooms, firmly banging on all four walls to determine their makeup, the manager by now giving us very suspicious looks out of the corner of his eye. Satisfied with the solidity and thickness of the walls we quickly informed the manager “we’ll take it”. That room cost us eighteen dollars….eighteen dollars!!! But it was worth every cent. Big soft comfy beds (with a DUVET!)  flat screen TV, and soft, perfectly proportioned pillows. Bliss.

Feeling somewhat calmer at the thought of a better night’s sleep ahead of us we rented some bicycles and set off around Luang Prabang to explore the backstreets and temples of the area. I was quickly becoming smitten with this town. Yes, it was a bit touristy, but it had a certain class and charm to it. It was relaxed and laidback, and around every corner was a café or restaurant with table and chairs outside. Tourists were happily chatting over a coffee or lunch whilst Buddhist monks clad in their orange robes carrying yellow umbrellas wandered past. A couple of the temples were absolutely beautiful, with gleaming ceramic mosaics, beautifully painted walls and elaborately carved golden doors. We did notice that there were considerably more middle aged and elderly tourists here, often in groups, but it never had the feel of “package holiday hell”.

At sunset we climbed up to Wat Phu which overlooked the town. It was fairly busy up there with everyone eager to capture their sunset images. We stayed up there for about an hour and a half, until it was getting dark. When we returned to street level we found that the main street had now become  pedestrianised, as hundreds of stalls were set up on the road for the night market. We were too exhausted to visit the market. We had an early dinner and an early night….because we had to be up at 5.30am the following morning….


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Comments

Eileen on

Flipping softies ... having to go to a "posh " hotel !! ..

what are you travellers or ........ me ! :)

I would need the duverts and soft pillows and quiet ...everynight :) xxxx

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