A Travellerspoint blog

Day 16 Luang Prabang

Thursday 15 November 2012

sunny 32 °C

This morning we went to the National Museum which is housed in the old Royal Palace. Sadly Tony didn't feel up to going inside as you had to walk bare feet but the grounds are lovely so he found a bench underneath a tree and sat and waited for me. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed so I couldn't take any pictures. It didn't take long to go round but was very interesting. The first rooms that housed the throne room and official welcoming suites were very ornate with mosaic on all the walls made of Japanese glass illustrating various Laos fables. The colours used were very vibrant and the rooms literally zinged with colour. The thrones too were on display and of course were made of gold but the private bedrooms of the King and Queen and their dining room in contrast were quite simply furnished, although the dining table was set with the most beautiful Limoges china. At the end there was an exhibition of the gifts given to the Laos Government or Royal Family not sure which and there were cabinets of the most exquisite gifts given by the Japanese, the Chinese, the Myanmar, the Indian governments then there were the very mundane gifts given by the Americans including a model of Cape Canaveral but although I went round twice I couldn't find anything given by the Brits! Maybe that is why we had to pay so much for our visas!
We then visited an exhibition of the cars owned by the royal family and I had a quick look at the royal temple. Tony then went to get a million kips (about £70) out of an ATM while I finally climbed Mount Phousi. I was pleased I did as the views were great when I finally got to the top but it was a pretty sticky experience - 190 steps! When I got to the top the young French couple who were on our cookery course were there and they insisted on taking my picture. They took the one of us yesterday at the cookery school but as the humidity has made my hair totally unmanageable I decided to show you just the view. Whilst up at the top I saw a butterfly the size of a bird. It flew onto the railings and just stayed there very conveniently so everyone could take its photo. A lady had some tiny birds in equally tiny wicker baskets for sale. Maybe they were for sale as gifts to Buddha as there were also the usual gaudy chrysanthemum flower posies for sale which are definitely given as offerings. Anyway when I passed by on my way down there were only a couple left so hopefully some non Buddhist bought them and released them.
Tony was waiting for me at a coffee shop. The coffee was delicious. We decided it was so hot we would go to the Kuangsi Falls for a swim. We book mini bus tickets for the afternoon and go back to the Coconut Garden restaurant for lunch. This makes it our third visit but the food is so good and reasonable and it is very comfortable and clean. Most meals for the two of us cost about £15 including beer for Tony and lime soda for me.
The mini bus when it eventually arrives is pretty dilapidated and has no air conditioning. We hope the van we have hired for tomorrow's long journey over the mountains is better. The drive to the falls is interesting. We pass several villages with beautiful vegetable gardens and water buffalo 30CCA8BC2219AC6817D6BE8032D651AD.jpg3075BEF02219AC681745AAA67C9D4632.jpg3082E90A2219AC6817EFFA5DCEDCA163.jpg308E8F442219AC681789C42422D0CEEC.jpg30AA1B5D2219AC6817AE16A697F66903.jpg3155BFCA2219AC6817717DAD0C386AB1.jpggrazing at the side of the road. When we got to the entrance to the falls though we were a bit disappointed. There were masses of mini buses and a variety of stalls selling tat. However, the falls themselves are fantastic and as they are spread out over quite a wide area it doesn't seem crowded. The water is deliciously refreshing and we both feel so much better after our dip. There was also an Asian bear sanctuary where they look after bears that have been in captivity and gradually release them back into the wild.
We got back to the hotel at about 5.30 and while I went back to the room to pack our bags Tony went to settle our bill. For some reason the hotel card machine wouldn't work so he had to go to an ATM to get another couple of million out! I find it impossible to work out what anything costs as everything has so many zeros.
We then went out for supper and had a lovely meal at a restaurant called the Verandah which over looked the Nam Kim river.

Posted by MichP 08:21 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 15 Luang Prabang

Wednesday 14 November 2012

overcast 28 °C

We had yet another early start as we had to be at the Tamarind restaurant for 8.45. Although we are further out of town than we would have liked a good feature is we get free tuktuks whenever we need them and the manager makes sure they know where we want to go. Inevitably there is one couple who doesn't show up so we hang around waiting for them. However we are offered a welcome drink of bael fruit and cinnamon tea. It is absolutely delicious. Eventually it transpires they are going to meet us at the museum. They have already done an hour's culture before we have even started our day! They are an elderly Australian couple in their 80s who have an incredibly busy schedule. We go to the main produce market and our teacher and cook for the day who is called Kai names and shows us a large number of herbs and spices we have never seen before. It is so interesting to see and a real assault on our senses. I choose not to go to the meat section as he says it is not for the faint hearted. We then get back into the tuktuks and drive to the cookery school. We drive for only about ten minutes but we are in the middle of dense jungle. It is a very beautiful location. We are all given aprons and towels and have little work stations. Tony copes well although there is quite a lot of standing so he is provided with a chair. First our guide cooks something and then we go away and make the same. First we have to make various dipping sauces, mine is tomato based and Tony's is Aubergine and then we prepared herbed fish steamed in banana leaves, lemongrass stuffed with chicken and herbs and a buffalo meat salad. Desert is sticky rice cooked in coconut with fresh fruit. I like it all Tony was not so sure about the buffalo meat salad particularly as one of the ingredients was buffalo bile! After we had prepared everything we sat down and eat it which again is very convivial. We finished at about 3 o'clock and get dropped off at out hotel. Our spritely 80 year olds are being taken by their guide to see some local waterfalls which are about 35 kilometres away. We go back to the hotel and crash out for a while before meeting our fellow travellers to order the minibus. It starts raining at about 5 so I don't think the waterfalls will have been much fun.
After ordering our minibus for Friday we walked through the night market - the things for sale are really beautiful and genuinely handmade. We then go to the same restaurant we went to yesterday lunchtime and have the spring rolls and a spicy chicken salad. It is so different from any thing we have had before. The salads here are so delicious. F9CD4D4B2219AC681785F1106B9ED6A0.jpgF9DC14D12219AC68178C20907B31E084.jpgFA0E55C82219AC68178EFBE7D79BDB11.jpgFAD9AC0A2219AC68172BFC76404040BF.jpgF9E53BC02219AC6817720294C8EEB03B.jpg

Posted by MichP 06:51 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 14 Luang Prabang

Tuesday 13th November 2012

sunny 30 °C

We have a fitful nights sleep. Every time I get up in the dark I bang my leg on the side of the bed as there is not enough room between the bed and the door, the room smells musty and damp too. Luckily in the morning the manager says we can change rooms. Our new room is much better and we are pleased. We have breakfast on the terrace. I then walk up the road to find a laundry. What we saw of downtown Luang Prabang it seemed very European with coffee shops and restaurants. Beyond our hotel though everything is very alien and I certainly feel I am somewhere in deepest Asia. I eventually find one but cannot get the lady to understand what I want. She beckons to a passing soldier (yes honestly) but I end up taking my stuff back to be done at the hotel. Not sure why I found it so difficult as I had a pile of dirty laundry and the sign said they were a laundry but there was obviously some sort of problem. We then take a tuktuk to the Tamarind restaurant to pay the deposit for tomorrow's cookery class. We then wander around Luang Prabang old town. The whole area is a Unesco World Heritage site. It has a lovely atmosphere with some beautiful shops and interesting architecture. The site is built on a promontory between The Mekong river and a smaller river so there are lots of places to sit over looking water. There is less river traffic though than I was expecting. I was planning to leave Tony sitting in a nice shady spot with a drink while I climbed up Phu Si, the local hill to see the view and look down on the town but the heat defeated me so instead we just sat and both enjoyed a fresh pineapple drink while watching the local life. After a while we see a French couple who we met on our boat trip and they are looking for people to share a minibus to go onto Vang Vieng on Friday which is our next stop too. This is really good news as the bus takes 6-8 hours and we were dreading it. They know of a Dutch couple who also want to do the same trip. We decide to have supper together to sort it out. We then go to have lunch. It is a lovely place and our first course of spring rolls was nice. Unfortunately what Tony chose for the next course was truly disgusting. Even he couldn't finish it and you know how he hates waste. It was buffalo and pork skin cooked in coconut milk and spices. It's the local specialty apparently but we won't be having it again! In the afternoon I went to visit the main temple called Wat Xieng Thong - one of 33 in Luang Prabang. It was probably the most impressive I have seen since we arrived. There were not many people either and it was nice to wander around. It was still too hot to climb Ph Si. Later in the afternoon we have an aromatherapy massage which is much more relaxing than the rather violent Thai ones. We go back to the hotel to get changed for dinner when the heavens open. Luckily we are quite protected in the tuk tuk but it is a really violent storm and just getting from the tuktuk to the hotel soaks us. There are great rivers of rain cascading down the roofs. It is still raining heavily when we leave the hotel. We have a really fun evening with the two other couples and also the Swiss couple. A real mix of nationalities but inevitably we all end up speaking English.

Posted by MichP 01:39 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 13 Pak Ben to Luang Prabang

Monday 14th November 2012

semi-overcast 30 °C

Second day on the Mekong

We both sleep well. The alarm goes off at 6.30. Breakfast is at 7 and we leave at 7.30. Delicious breakfast - my favourite is sticky rice cooked in coconut with fresh mango. It is quite misty and cool on the river. We pass several small markets. Apparently money is not used - all transactions are made by swapping items. Food for clothes etc. We are lucky enough to see an elephant at the side of the river and the views continue to be glorious. We travelled 187 94B955D72219AC6817818B01B7E3E88E.jpg94D0B1262219AC6817F9276C073B81F0.jpg94EC2F802219AC6817820943EEF61365.jpg94F46EAC2219AC68173CC6BDA8670115.jpgkilometres today and it takes us nearly nine hours including two stops. The first stop is to a really well managed village where they grow all their own vegetables, pigs are in pens, chickens wander the streets and the children are at school and we see them working hard. It is altogether a different experience to yesterday's village. Tony is able to walk through this time which is good news. We have yet another delicious meal on the boat. After which we just gaze at the amazing views. I am sure we will never see anything like this again so we have to make the most of it. The baby on board enjoys the boat as an extended play area but when he gets a bit older I am not sure what the mother will do. We then have one last stop before Luang Prabang. This is to a Buddha cave. There are 200 steps so Tony very sensibly decides to stay on the boat. He is not the only one. The views are good from the top but the cave itself is rather disappointing. Another hour and we arrive in Luang Prabang. There is a real commotion as we arrive with crowds of people and we have to haul our luggage up a steep bank. We share a tuktuk with the Swiss couple. This was perhaps a mistake as they were going to a friend of theirs house and they let me see the outside. There were about 6 houses sharing an infinity pool overlooking the Mekong. Our accommodation is not as grand in fact it is rather disappointing by comparison and further out than we would have liked. We are both rather tired from the journey (and still stuffed from lunch) so we decide not to explore but just have a quiet evening in our room. Tony catching up on scrabble and me catching up with the blog.

Posted by MichP 07:13 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Day 11 Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong

Saturday 10th November 2012

sunny 30 °C

We have a lazy morning. However we do walk to the coffee shop to have another delicious coffee and go to the bank to get out some more money. The good news is we are below budget - our delicious meal last night cost us £15 including 2 beers, 2 fresh lime and sodas and four different dishes. This meant we treated ourselves to a taxi to take us to Chiang Khong. We were planning to take the bus but they seemed to leave only every so often - no one was quite sure when and you couldnt book seats plus there was no air conditioning. I think the VIP bus we took to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai spoilt us somewhat. Our journey took us about two hours and again we saw loads of paddy fields, pineapples, bananas and every spare piece of ground was filled with corn plus of course wonderful flowers. As usual the taxi driver drove too fast for me to take any decent pictures of them.
Our hotel is overlooking the Mekong river and we have the most wonderful view from bed. We have an early start tomorrow morning as we have to clear customs in Laos before catching the boat to Luang Prabang at 9am and we gather it can be fairly chaotic.20D602962219AC6817ADC7941066A2D4.jpg20E0A9B72219AC6817BA9B77E8F8F76F.jpg20EC6DC82219AC681704189E97D5AF73.jpg

Posted by MichP 06:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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