Looking at the current trend of readers on my blog and also the way I blog, I will be taking this site to the next level where I'm hosting its own dot com. The new site will be about the same stuff, photoblogging and travel blog with a slightly different focus which enhances usability and readers experience. Hope to get it up and running in August. freezingthemo.blogspot.com will be redirected to a new domain name once it is ready.
This site has moved to www.trailofasia.com
Sunday, June 20, 2010
After spending 1 night in Vientiane and 1 night in Vang Vieng, we head up north for approximately 6 hours from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang by bus.
This town was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 making it one of the well preserved town in terms of historical, cultural and natural heritage.
When we first arrived, I personally had a strange feeling about this place but couldn't really explain why. The streets are quiet, surrounded by greens, people are soft spoken, the buildings are well maintained and restored to its original structure reflecting the traditional Lao houses and hints of European influence architecture.
Luang Prabang town is big if you go beyond the central area. Hiring bicycle is a good idea for half a day exploration. It costs only 10,000 Kip/USD1.20 for this type of bicycle. So what is there to do in this quiet town? Here are a glimpse of things to do and see in LP through my lens.
Wander off the street of Luang Prabang and chill out at one of the store next to Mekong River.
Paintings on sale by the roadside.
If you're into exotic stuff like cobra and snake wine, you can find them here along the Mekong River.
The numerous well preserved Wats (temples) are a symbol of rich religious culture and influence in Luang Prabang.
One of the main street for tourists at Sisavangvong Road. Cafes and restaurants are plentiful along this stretch (with only a handful of free wifi services) but nonetheless you can find cyber cafes, massage parlor, guest houses, sundry shops, ticketing services and LP night market which starts at 5pm until 10pm every night.
You can book your half to multiday tours with any of the tour operators operating along this road according to your travel itinerary preference. We booked our1 day Kuang Xi Waterfall trekking package through Green Discovery and half-day Nam Khan river kayak through All Lao Travel Service. Details on both outdoor activities will be out soon.
At the end of a tiring day, a good Lao massage is helpful to ease the soreness on your body muscles. My personal preference goes to XiengMuan Spa and Massage for the staff has the right strength and skills to relief my tiredness. I went back again the next day and true enough the skills are consistent.
This is something that you cannot miss in Luang Prabang. If you have visited other parts of Indochina that has the same ritual, consider seeing this in a different environment.
Monks receiving alms all around the central area starting at 5.30am until 6am everyday as a morning ritual.
Devotees will wait quietly for them and drop a hand full of rice into the alms bowl. The monks will bring the alms back to the temple for their own consumption and also to serve other Buddhist community. There was one incident where kids as young as 5 years old stood along the devotees line with a big plastic bag open up gesturing for donations, the monk dug into his alms bowl and dropped 10 times more than what he received from one devotee. It was truly a sight to behold to reflect on our own life in the area of giving and receiving.
Moving on to the fresh produce market tucked away in Ban Pakam and Sisavangsong, this market is a great place to observe and discover the fresh produce available in Laos.
The staple food.
Cat fish from Mekong River.
Silk worm cocoons.
As mentioned earlier on, Luang Prabang night market is the place to hunt for souvenirs. Bargaining in Laos is the most relaxing and pleasant experience I ever had. Vendors are not pushy and if you can't reach mutually agreed price, just politely walk away and they'll smile and leave you alone. No pulling and chasing around.
One common practice you can observe here is that once they received money from customers, they'll slap the money on the ground before keeping it as a notion of good luck. Perhaps it is also a show of respect and gratitude towards their earnings?
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Guest houses are everywhere in Vang Vieng. Looking for one without much complains on Tripadvisor is a little bit difficult, each guest houses even hotels has its own dissatisfaction. At the end of the day, it depends on your level of tolerance.
So how does SaySong Guest House and Riverhills Bungalows fair?
Here's the Riverhills Bungalows at USD15 per night. Basic room with fan and air-conditioning, soap and towels are provided, average bed and bathroom with water heater. However, at night we spotted a cockroach running across the room, loud music leaks in as it is located few meters away from the happening bars. No wifi connection but it claims to provide free wifi. The padlock key to our bungalow fits other rooms' padlock as well, we accidentally went to the wrong unit and able to unlock the padlock, but you can always have double lock by locking the door knob.
Despite all that, this beautiful view of limestone running across Nam Song just outside the bungalow is absolutely stunning. It was not all that perfect but good enough for its price range.