Our minivan picked us up in Vang Vieng this morning for the 6-hour bus ride to Luang Prabang. The first half went by quickly as it was almost possible to forget that we were on a bus with all of the karst scenery mixed in with local villages.
But after hours of sharp turn after sharp turn, it seemed as if it took forever to go from the ‘Luang Prabang – 120 km’ sign to the ‘Luang Prabang – 100 km’ sign.
It was a good thing for one of the best rest stops I have ever had the experience of stopping at. It was in a village where there many girls dressed in fancy traditional outfits. We had actually passed many girls in similar outfits while driving along. But now we got to see them up close.
Here was the beauty of the situation – they had absolutely no interest in us. None. They were there to play one-handed catch with each other and that was all they were focused on. I only point this out because most of the time you see people dressed in ‘traditional’ (I use the term loosely) outfits is when they are there to put on one big show for tourists. These shows consist of tourists that feel like fools for getting suckered into such a thing and locals feeling like fools for acting as if this is how things really are where they live. But what we saw today was 100% real. Apparently the girls wear this attire for the week since it’s the Laotian new year (or some Laotian holiday). This was a treat to see their true culture in action.
An hour or two more of winding roads brought us into Luang Prabang (what I will refer to as ‘LP’ from here on out). Yay! This was our last bus ride for a while as it will be an airplane that will be taking us back into Vietnam.
We are now sitting atop of a hill at a temple in LP waiting for the sun to set. We only ended up here because we were passing by and thought ‘Why not go up there?’. But apparently this is the place to be for sunset as there are loads and loads of people here. Who knew? (Well, I guess they all did.)
We ended our night with checking out the goods at the night market. Since we are here for a few days, we resisted the urge to buy. After all, we know that the urge won't be disappearing any time in the next few days...
December 13, 2007
Once again, we are staying in a lovely location – smack across the street from the Mekong River. Because of this, we get to start every morning enjoying our breakfast at the restaurant that looks directly onto river and the morning fog. A bit chilly but so enjoyable.
We wandered around this small city (or is it a large town? I’m not quite sure…) and viewed countless orange robes walking around. I just can’t get enough of them. I have even labeled myself the ‘monkarazzi’ to Elisa as I am quite prone to get snap- happy with my camera when I see them. How can a person not be drawn to the bright orange when surrounded by the duller shades of brown and green?
Our afternoon took us to the Kwang Si waterfall. It was beautiful out there. I wasn’t viewing this as a ‘waterfall’ (since once you have been to Iguazu or Victoria Falls, other falls don’t really constitute a ‘waterfall’ any more) – I was viewing this as the gorgeous natural surroundings in Laos. We climbed our way to the top to get a vantage point from up there. While we couldn’t see much of the falls from up there, we were able to see the progress we had made by how far from the bottom we were. Nothing wrong with a bit of self-satisfaction while at places like these. I was just thankful that I made it up and down without exhibiting any of my ever-present klutziness (that is mostly reserved for simply walking along a flat street).
A friend just sent me an article on ‘Places To Go in 2008’ – and Laos ranked numero uno. In the one paragraph blurb, they mentioned a Luang Prabang restaurant called 3 Nagas and specifically referenced the tasting menu. It was time for us to go there and try it.
Let me first start by saying a big ‘Thank you!’ to the New York Times. There’s a good chance we wouldn’t have gone there otherwise since there are so many restaurants to choose from. We got to experience just how delicious and amazing the unique Laotian cuisine is. Almost everything we tried was new to us and we probably wouldn’t have ordered these items if they weren’ t on a set menu. Here is an idea of what we had to eat:
Fried dried river weed
Sundried buffalo meat with lemongrass and sesame seeds
Chili paste with buffalo skin
Fried coconut rice and sour pork salad
Minced fish with string bean salad
Steamed stuffed lemongrass stalk
Stuffed bamboo shoots
Spicy Luang Prabang buffalo sausage
Pulled chicken, minced pork and buffalo skin cooked in coconut milk
Grilled river fish stuffed with pork and herbs wrapped in a banana leaf
Pumpkin and coconut crème brulee
Quite a menu, huh? Everything was superb. And we couldn’t get enough of the steamed sticky rice out here – a fun change from regular sticky rice with it’s glassy color and the impossibility of eating it with anything other than your fingers.
Luang Prabang is a city that makes for some early nights. We are now back in hopes of getting a bit of digestion in before going to sleep.
December 15, 2007
My morning was filled with visiting different Buddha statues and getting my last dose of being the monkarazzi. I’m going to miss these viewing opportunities.
While walking to lunch, I almost feared that Elisa was going to the other side after spending the past two weeks in Vietnam and Laos. Our conversation went something like this:
Elisa: It’s just ridiculous that people back in the U.S. charge 100% more for things than the price they pay! Me: Ummm. Elisa – it’s called ‘wholesale’ and ‘retail’. Elisa: Yeah. But it’s just ridiculous. Me: Elisa- It’s capitalism. Are you going communist on me? Do we need to get you out of these countries?
And this coming from the girl that works at an investment bank. And then the American in her came out when just a couple minutes later she stated that she was just going to buy things and sell them for twice the amount back at home. How can a person not love this girl?