Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Luang Prabang

Our next destination: Luang Prabang (Laos). After backtracking westward a bit on our motorcycle, we turned and headed south until we met up again with the mighty Mekong River.

Luang Prabang's popularity as a tourist destination has grown since obtaining a UNESCO heritage classification, and for good reason. Perched on the banks of the Mekong, its quaint centre has a European charm left over from the French occupation. Sidewalk cafes and boutique shops encourage leisurely stroll.

Downtown day scene

Come evening, back alleys come alive with a salmagundi of food vendors; elbow-to-elbow hungry buyers jockey for the night's tasty delights.

The evening hails an end to normal traffic on the main street as well and it is hastily transformed into a crafts and wares region with a myriad of vendors.

The following morning, we visited the grounds of the Royal Palace Museum (formerly the Royal Palace), where there is a very elaborate Royal Temple. I tried to snap a photo of the inside of it, but was told that no photos were allowed, except for the outside of the Temple. We also walked through the Museum and had to turn in our camera as again no photos were allowed.

Royal Temple

We continued to the much glorified Tam Ting Caves that hang on limestone cliffs that rise right out of the Mekong. Access was through the Village of Pak Ou, 20 km upstream from Luang Prabang. Most tourists take boats from town for the upstream trip arriving right at the caves. But having our own ride, we drove up to the Village of Pak Ou and then hired a small river boat to take us across to the caves.

The caves' attraction are their 4,000 Buddha figures that have been placed there over many years by various Buddhist visitants of all status from humble to royal. Placed in almost every available perch of the upper cave and lower cave, the figures gaze out towards the Mekong and range in size from thimble to more than human.

Silhouette

Bunch of Buddhas

On the way back to Luang Prabang, we stopped at Whiskey Village. There, the locals have been making whiskey and wines from rice, and in more recent years, have found a market for their spirits with the tourists. "Creatively" presented, some bottles have creepy crawlies pickled in the firewater, other bottles have a hand wicker coat.

Whiskey still

Also, many of the villagers had row upon row of hand- and machine-made scarves, blankets, table covers, handbags, etc. Overwhelming. TOO much to choose from.

Drying dyed yarn

With a little daylight time left, we squeezed in 1 more site, Kouang Si Waterfall. We weren't expecting much but as we started up the trail that wound through the jungle trees, we were pleasantly surprised to see picturesque streams and pools of turquoise waters that cascaded in steps as far as up as we could see. Continuing up, we were met with a magical serendipitous moment as we came face to face with an amazing fairy tale worthy waterfall.

Waterwheel fall

Fairy tale fall

We finished the day by again joining the evening throngs strolling the vendor stalls in town centre.

Busy day and evening...off to slumber...

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