|After three days of travelling I finally made it to Luang Prabang - a city deemed worthy by UNESCO to be called a World Heritage Site.
I chose to take the more scenic and wallet-friendly approach from Thailand into Laos. Thus, the three day approach! The journey included:
- 6 hour van ride from Chang Mai to the border of Laos
- 1 night in a basic guest house at the Thai/Lao border
- 1 morning to sort out visas and get luggage and self settled onto a wooden bench in a long...slow...filled to capacity...boat down the Mekong
- 1 night in Pakbeng, Laos, in a guest house which ran out of water (and apparently electricity) around 9 p.m. But, unfortunately, did NOT have a shortage of mice in the middle of the night
- Another 8 hours on a wooden bench in a long...slow...boat...enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Mekong River go by
I could have saved a day by taking a speed boat down the Mekong rather than a slow boat but rumours about injuries and fatalities (in spite of the crash helmets and life vests) scared me away.
Now I'm in Luang Prabang, Laos. It's a wonderful little town with a stunning collection of Buddhist and French colonial architecture clustered together along the Mekong river, surrounded by mountains. By renting a bike I was able to explore the entire town by noon, including a few magnificent Wats dating from the 1500's, and the Royal Palace Museum which used to be the palace of the King.
I'm a little disenchanted by the number of tourists here. I think we outnumber locals 2:1. The town is so user-friendly for tourists that it's hard to imagine having a 'genuine' experience here. It feels more like Disneyland. The main street is a scattering of delicious restaurants serving local and Western food. There are shops catering to tourists with stuff we need, as well as souvenirs we want. Every other block has an internet shop and/or a travel agent selling packages to see hill tribes, waterfalls, or caves. It's a little bizarre after India. But, in it's own charming way it's wonderful.
Tonight I'm going to a local Wat (temple) to listen to the monks nightly chanting. There are monks everywhere here in Luang Prabang. In their orange togas (for lack of a better word) they are hard to miss.
I'm planning to do a 3 day trek in an attempt to get off the beaten path a little bit. I want to see the "real" Laos but right now I'm surrounded by travellers. Not a single local in sight! Might as well be on Main Street, USA!
===heading to a small town in Laos on Tuesday, so don't expect an update for a week or so===