This was one of the first things I saw when I got to Laos
And this is the honest to God nonsense that went through my head. I’m glad I didn’t say this out loud.
‘Hey cool. Shame we’re not in Thailand anymore or it would be a Thainado. Heh.’
2 minutes later
‘It’s a cycLao! Yaaaay!’
This is what all day travel does to my brain.
Although I guess if you count the day I took to get to Chiang Khong it counts as two day travel. And a night. After a two hour wait at the bus station I got on the bus to Luang Prabang, which lonely planet says takes 8 hours. Hahahahahaha. 14 hours. And that’s overnight on a ‘VIP’ bus, which means that all night you will be blasted with loud music and very very cold air conditioning.
I wasn’t prepared for this, but northern Laos is not warm. I must have looked seriously pathetic because towards the end of the journey a wonderful French guy gave me his sleeping bag. He was part of a couple and just smuggled up in his girlfriend’s sleeping bag, so don’t feel too bad for him, but honestly I was so cold that even if that was his only means of keeping warm I’m not sure I would have had the strength of character to say ‘no I couldn’t possibly’. I still didn’t sleep after that, but my feet did at least start to thaw out. I think it was about this point that I changed my mind about going further north and hiking in the mountains.
We arrived in luang prabang around 6 in the morning, which also happens to be when the morning alms route is up and about, with local people lining the streets to give food offerings to processions of monks from the local wats, and of course two steps behind them early bird tourists taking photos of the proceedings. Not sure how I feel about either the monks taking clearly far more food than they need every single day, or people following them for photo opportunities, but at least there were plenty of people about to ask for cheap room recommendations.
And then I checked in and huddled under two duvets fully clothed and slept for the entire day. Day one and two in Laos entirely wasted. Bah.
Seeking out the sites once I did emerge from my cave I stumbled across the local museum, which displays traditional costumes from the minority tribes of Laos. I’m being nice and only showing one photo since I doubt this is interesting to anyone who isn’t as thrilled by textiles as I am. But look at how tiny that applique is! Those square are about half the size of my fingernail! These aren’t special occasion costumes either, they wear these while working in the fields.
Wat Xieng Thong, probably the most fancy pants of the local temples, is covered in gold carvings and mosaics. According to the guide book there are erotic carvings here but I couldn’t find anything more interesting than the odd pair of boobs, so I may have been spoiled by India.
I’m not sure if the guy in the middle has been a) mauled by a tiger, b) drinking to excess or c) mosaicked the wrong way up, but his companions don’t seem too worried either way.
That phu si is on top of the hill in the centre of town and honestly the view and the walk up to the temple is more impressive than the temple itself. Don’t forget the major highlight – at the back of the hill there’s a smaller temple housing Buddha’s footprint. Ooooh.
Apparently Buddha had freaking huge feet.
Ah yes. And here is the undisputed highlight of luang prabang. I have never been so happy to see a sandwich. Counting back I think the last time I had one (well, two actually) was in Olympos. That was six months ago! Mmm, bread bread bread. There are a string of identical stalls in the main square selling crepes and fruit shakes and absolutely stuffed baguettes for under a pound. I ate here every day. Worth the journey just for this.