Our 4 nights in Phonsavan was up and we were ready (kind of) for the 8 hour bus journey back inland to Luang Prabang.
The mini bus was stuffy since the people in front of us closed their windows (?) and had coats on too. Everyone did great on the winding roads, although Jed was sick all over mum halfway through (nice) but didn’t complain in the least. We were driving down a mountain when the French woman next to me started shouting that a bag had fallen off the roof. The driver stopped, ran back up the mountain and came trotting back down with my bag on his shoulder, good job I didn’t put anything important inside. I ate some noodles in a shack somewhere on the journey and read my book but my stomach hung in there as did mum’s and TUT’s (The Ultimate Traveller).
Once in the town centre of Luang Prabang we found a hotel down a side street and decided to stay there for a couple of nights until we found somewhere else to stay.
The town lies on the banks of the Mekong River with the Nam Khan river flowing on the other side of town. It was also the former capital of Laos with its many Buddhist temples and colonial buildings in the old town. Its classed as a UNESCO world heritage site too which is great to protect all the unique colonial buildings as well as temples.
We found a new place a street closer to the old town. We stayed there for 8 nights so a total of 10 nights. I guess you could say we chose to have a breather from all of our horrendous bus journeys. The great thing about staying somewhere longer than usual is you find your personal favourite eating places, shops and places to go and have more of a feel for the atmosphere of the place. A full row of food stalls lined a certain street and that’s where we went most mornings and evening for food. They seemed to have a lot of avocado here which was great since I’d missed it. Lots of avocado sandwiches and shakes for me :-).
A night market took place on the same street every evening and was always crowded. This is a great place to buy gifts for yourself or friends and family. They sold pretty much anything from elephant slippers to coffee grains.
La Pistoche the swimming pool is a great place to spend a day. Not many people go and there are two pools and it isn’t too cold. Jed enjoyed it immensely. I wouldn’t suggest buying food there as it isn’t worth the price but drinks are good.
We rented 3 bicycles for a couple of days to explore the town and its beauty. It was flat with not many hills so it was easy to get by. The temples around town are definitely worth the visit and even though they were simple they were beautifully designed. Phu Si hill
and Wat Xieng Thong
were the main ones we visited but lots of smaller ones too. Even to cross over the bamboo bridge over Nam Khan river was worth it.
Since we explored the Royal residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (see post Buddhism and Bustle) we decided to go to the former Royal residence of Laos. This one was on much smaller grounds but I liked it equally. It was a lot simpler with its white walls, no pictures and not much furniture apart from a bed and wardrobe in the bedrooms. The rooms were huge and the temperature crisp – a change from the hot air from outside even though there were no fans or Air/con.
In the early morning rays and the late ones of the evening the monks held processions in the temples and rang the gongs. It had a soothing effect and seemed to make the town calmer and the people more relaxed. Time slowed and nature seemed more alive in the tranquil town. Other times the monks made funky sounding music banging the gongs which would be great at a festival :-). They were very talented.
After a few days we rented a couple of scooters for the 1 hour journey to Kuang Si waterfalls. Before you enter the pools and cascades you go through the Asiatic Black Bear rescue centre where many bears live.
Kuang Si waterfalls consist of many turquoise pools, cascades and waterfalls. It wasn’t as good as Semuc Champey in Guatemala which was similar to this but you can’t really compare as each was beautiful in its own right. It was winter so the water was ice cold and took a lot of effort to dive in. It didn’t really get any warmer but it became bearable. The beauty of it was wondrous and you would be daft not to come here if you were in the area.
It all lead up to the main 3 tier waterfall that was roughly 60 m. The water cascaded down the mountain majestically, the jungle on both sides and a turquoise blue pool waiting at the foot of the waterfall. It was certainly one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever seen so far.
After the waterfalls we drove back towards town but took a turn to the elephant park. We didn’t ride one but we thought it would be good for Jed to see them. It always surprises me how majestic they are.
We walked to Big Brother Mouse which is an organisation that created the first books in Laos for school children to give them an opportunity to read. Before then nobody in Laos read. We bought some books for the kids we would visit on our Mekong river trip. See you on the Mekong!