Laos - Days 5 - 9 - Sun Bears & Waterfalls
May 10, 2012
|Luang PraBang is the most ‘Lao’ city in Laos. While other urban centers in the country are heavily populated by ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese, LP is the only city in Laos where ethnic Lao is the majority. One of the joys of a stay here is simply strolling along the lanes and absorbing the unhurried rhythms of traditional Lao culture. Our guesthouse is in the “old city”, a concentrated finger of land, 1km long by 300m wide.
Over the past 5 days in Luang PraBang, we; relaxed in our wonderful guesthouse along side the Khan river. Joined up with Martina the second night we were in Luang PraBang. Explored the city both by foot and by motorcycle. Did some more relaxing, walking, eating, sweating (so flippin’ hot here), some more sweating, endured a lovely thunder storm and became a “laid” back forocal. (foreigner/local)
By foot, we discovered the beauty of the city. Riverside cafe’s and restaurant lined streets, beautiful blooming trees and flowers offered us shade from the days heat and temples welcomed us at almost every street corner. Monks could be seen walking around temple grounds, hanging their freshly cleaned saffron robes out to dry or taking a much needed nap in the shade. No honking, yelling adults, screaming kids or throat “spitting” could be heard, traffic was light and it was very easy to cross streets without having to worry about becoming the next road kill. It’s a wonderful, well laid out city that evokes a laziness in you. Although very touristy, lots of western food and western “comforts”, it has a charm and a way about it that makes you feel good to be here.
Every night a street market arises, massive in size, it goes on for miles and seemed at times, never ending. We tried fried dumplings and a bag of fresh molasses rice crisps - all turned out to be quite good. We stayed away from the $10,000 kep/plate (all you can eat buffet style) “foreigner’s market stall - Martina had heard a few back packers were sick (food poisoning) from the night before. Jason and I seemed to have caught a little stomach bug ourselves in Laos so our adventures for food were more western during our time in LP, always venture on the side of caution - plus it was comfort food from back home we were seeking.
By motorcycle, on a very poor maintained bike we made our way 35km southwest to Kuangsi Waterfall Park. Winding mountain roads offered us gorgeous views of the landscape, villages, rice fields, water buffalos, school children and working locals. We crossed several wooden stream bridges, paved and dirt roads, witnessed hundreds of butterflies gracing us with their presence every chance they got - it looked like snow was falling, that’s how many there were.
We spent the afternoon taking photos and enjoying the natural beauty surrounding us. A picturesque, multi-level fall that tumbles 60 meters before spilling through a series of crystal-blue pools. The spray from the falls keeps the surrounding grounds cool even at midday. There are picnic tables, change rooms on site - for a refreshing swim.
Just outside the falls, along the path lies the Tat Kuang Si bear rescue center, saving bears from the illegal wildlife trade. They had several honey bears on site, rescued from either local owners who couldn’t handle them anymore or from illegal situations that were very inhumane. We watched three bears in particular, two appeared to be males and one was female. Very docile and cute, they played together and dragged huge tree branches up to the top of their “tree house”. The female bear managed twice, to push off the smaller male from the top of her “nesting” area, he tried a few more times with no success. The larger male lounged inside a man made tree hammock just below, taking it with stride.
The roads outside of Luang PraBang were in great condition, easy ride there and back, returning to LP we narrowly escaped a huge thunder storm. There is only one government owned business that supplies these bikes to all rental places in Luang PraBang and they are all CRAP! Pocket raping as well, $13 dollars for the day. (7am to 7pm) Most expensive bikes we’ve rented in SE Asia.
We joined David, Brian, Anya (who go back to Vietnam) and Martina (continuing on to Vang Vieng) for supper on their last night in LP. We indulged in some wine and pizza, sat around chatting for a long time before heading back to our guest house. Sad to see them go but very glad to have met them all, hopefully we will catch up with Martina in Vang Vieng within a couple of days.
Our time in LP was very relaxing, we had a wonderful trip to the waterfalls and bear sanctuary. We took a lot of photos and gained a better perception on Laos and local Laotian’s. Excited to continue on our way down south, perhaps escape the heat wave of the north to cooler weather.