Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What A Week, Luang Prabang!

What a week it has been in Luang Prabang!  

Most of our time was spent wandering streets and back alleys, snapping photos, shopping in all the markets, eating fantastic food, and visiting waterfalls.

The Laotian people have been nothing short of welcoming and friendly.  Good grief, they are quick to smile.  We have shared a lot of laughs with many of them.

The main street of Luang Prabang is bustling during the day.

Main Street at night.  Still bustling.

90% of Laotian homes use wood as their source of fuel.

Many of the city's structures are designated UNESCO world heritage buildings, blending vintage French architecture and classic Lao design.

The night market!

We were given many wonderful recommendations for restaurants.  Most evenings, we planned to have dinner in one of them.  But try as we might, we just could not stop ourselves from eating at food stalls in the market.  The food is fast, it's fresh and oh so delicious!

One morning we got up extremely early to witness the 'alms giving' ceremony of the monks.  The street was pitch black and deserted, save for the woman who immediately shoved a container of rice and packaged sweets into my hands.  " nice!"  I thought for a split second.  "She's giving me this food so that I can participate in the ceremony!"  But of course nothing was free.  The next thing I knew she had her hand out for 30,000 kip.  Joe paid her and I awaited further instructions.

The woman unceremoniously tipped the sticky rice out of its woven basket and onto the sweets.  She showed me how it was done.  I was to grab a ball of sticky rice, put it on top of the package, then place it in the monk's alms bowl.  She then grabbed my wrist and led me to my spot to await the procession of monks.  By this time, the street was lined with noisy tourists sitting on tiny plastic stools with baskets of food in their laps. 

That's me sitting to the right of the green garbage cans.  My food was gone in no time.  I felt badly that the monks had to accept all that man-handled sticky rice and packaged food from the tourists.  I laughed to myself when the young monks walked right past me and didn't stop!
As soon as my food was gone, I left my post on the sidewalk.  It felt like a tourist attraction, not any sort of spiritual experience.  I felt sorry for the poor monks who have to walk that gauntlet every morning! 

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your life?  This was a basket of food for our Laos fondue at Dyen Sabai restaurant.  It was almost too pretty to eat.  Almost.

For a Laos fondue, a clay pot filled with burning coals is inserted into the middle of the table.  A metal ring sits on top of it.  The dome is for cooking meats and the moat is for broth to simmer noodles, eggs and vegetables.  What a great meal!  We loved it.

We met Wendell and Garythe at the elephant sanctuary last week.  What an incredibly interesting couple!  They've lived all over the world and have travelled most of it too.  We met up for dinner one night in Luang Prabang.

Very early one morning we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the Kuang Si waterfalls, about an hour's drive from Luang Prabang.

Nothing prepared us for the beauty of this series of waterfalls.  Luckily we went early enough and had the place to ourselves.  As the morning wore on, it got incredibly busy.

The falls at the top of the hill were stunning.

After our hike to the highest waterfall, we walked back down and jumped in the water.  This turquoise pool was cool and inviting.  We loved our swim.  And apparently, so did a bunch of Chinese tourists!  I think we are now in about 100 people's travel photos. 

Once we dried off, we walked to 'Carpe Diem', a restaurant situated on the lower falls.  Because it was still so early, these four young men were our private cooks and servers for our breakfast.

Me at breakfast, wondering how the hell I got so damn lucky.

Many things are still done the traditional way.

In the morning market, this woman was vigorously chopping kindling with a small machete.  Right next to her bare feet!

 Poultry stall in the food market.

Beauty is everywhere.  

Sunset over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River.

It has been a wonderful week in Laos and Luang Prabang.  This part of the world has a beautiful soul.

We leave for Hanoi tomorrow.  

We are looking forward to see what adventures await us in Vietnam.

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