Trip Start Nov 22, 2006
44Trip End Jan 01, 2007
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After a long and weary 2 day boat ride through the north of Laos, we were thrilled to see the soft glow of Luang Prubang's welcoming lights loom before us. Unfortunately, LP proved not to be such a welcoming city in terms of accomodation. We (and the hordes of other slow boat people) were sadly turned away hotel after hotel, guest house after guest house as the city was completely packed! We finally found a room for the night in one of the most luxurious hotels LP had to offer - tough break! After securing a more reasonably priced option for the rest of our stay (a room in the servants quarters of an old french colonial mansion), we were finally able to relax, unwind and enjoy the city that so many had flocked to see.
Well, no wonder this city is full of foriegners. It is one of the most fantastic cities either of us have encountered! This jem of a place is set admist beautiful mountains and enveloped by 2 rivers. It is quite a small city, and completely manageable by foot or bicycle.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage city (which accounts for how amazingingly clean it is in comparison to other Asian cities we have travelled through) and the french colonial buildings are beautifully restored. What makes this city so breathtaking are the numerous quantities of wats (32 in total) dotted throughout the city.
Unlike other wats we have visited, most are very active and filled with novice monks from all over Laos. We spent many afternoons chatting with these young men, helping them with their english homework and in my case, even getting checked out by the odd novice monk! (Just to clarify, Kelly is writing this one). One of our favourite wats was located directly across from our guesthouse. This serene place was covered in vibrantly coloured bouganvallia, and throughout the garden, there were statues of Buddha in various poses. In the evening, we would sit in the garden and listen to the monks chanting in the adjacent wat.
We also spent a fair bit of time surveying the goods at the night markets and sampling a selection of street food in the food markets. We have discovered that Laotian cuisine leaves a little to be desired (dried buffalo and river moss seem to be a specialty).
First you choose your noodles - there are fresh rice noodles or thinner dried ones, which we preferred. The soup lady (not to be confused with soup natzi - she was very lovely) would then take a handful of noodles, along with some mung beans and watercress and dip it into boiling water for a couple of seconds to cook the noodles. Next, you choose your meat - slices of raw beef or cooked beef. The soup lady would then dip this meat into her broth which had been bubbling for hours, to cook the meat. She would then ladle in the broth overtop of the noodles and beef and leafy greens. The soup is served with a huge plate of fresh lettuce, herbs (mint, corriander and basil)long beans and an assortment of condiments including the ubiquitous fish sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce and sugar. It is up to you to add the final touches to your broth. Filling and nutritious. Unfortunately, also very hot, and when eaten during the day in 35deg plus heat, leaves you sweating in your soup bowl!
Each man also has his own set of specially personalized petanque balls (no pun intended). The older men seemed especially skilled at this game - they would easily knock the opponents ball out of play while smoking a cigarette and trash talking the other players.)
As you can probably tell by my in depth description of these simple activities (I feel like this could be a Seinfeld screenplay), our time in LP was incredibly low key and very laid back.