Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Luang Prabang

This is the first of three posts of our recent trip to Laos and Thailand - we just got back last week.  Chris' brother and sister-in-law, Pete and Mary, decided to make a trip to Southeast Asia, so we joined them in Luang Prabang, Laos, took a trip up the Mekong to the Golden Triangle, spent a few days in Thailand around Chiang Rai and made a quick excursion into Myanmar.  Covered alot of ground in a week!
View from Phousi
At Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang is enchanting.  Chris and I had been there once before, with our dear friend, Joni, but when the opportunity arose to visit again, we jumped at the chance.  The town was at the heart of a thriving kingdom of Lane Xang Hom Khao, the Land of a Million Elephants and the White Parasol, around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and at one point, was a vassal state of the Siamese kingdom of Sukhothai.
Wat Xieng Thong
Situated where the Khan River dumps into the Mekong, it is surrounded by green mountains and exudes serenity, culture and the spirituality of the temples and monasteries there.  It is a magical place and in 1995 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so although it is gaining popularity with tourists, hotel development is strictly limited.  It still has a slow feel to it, with many cafes to sit with a Lao beer or a coffee (Lao coffee is awesome), and tuk tuks as the principle means of transportation.
Ringing the afternoon bell
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, spent all-day Friday, and left early on a Saturday morning to catch a boat up to Thailand.  So, the one full day, we all made the most of it.  While Pete and Mary visited an elephant sanctuary, the All Lao Elephant Camp, Chris and I strolled around town, visiting temples, cafes and markets that we had missed during our previous visit.  As markets go, the night market was amazing, as it had grown considerably since we had been there 5 years ago, and now covers 5 blocks down the main road which is cut off from traffic from 4:30pm on.  Items for sale were essentially handicrafts, including textiles, carvings and silver, mostly made in Lao, Vietnam and China.  A day and a half in this town was not nearly enough..... might have to go again....
Naga, protector of the Lao

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