We arrived at the airport, that was small but unusual with its exterior resembling that of a temple. We had flown in from Siem Reap, Cambodia, on a turbo-prop plane.
We arrived at our hotel, that was really nice and was on the river. Our room had a beautiful view of the river and surrounding hillside.
Our first day here was just chilling out and getting to know this charming town, with its age-old buildings and delightful shops, restaurants, temples and monasteries and the fun markets.
We walked along by the river and found a travel agency where we booked some trips for the next couple of days. Our first trip was a visit to a lovely village and some elephant trekking. The village was one street filled with stalls selling local crafts, including the local fire water which we were invited to try – Alf had a swig and after he started coughing Marilyn said “no thank you”! There was a temple at the end of the road with a monk collecting donations and blessing those that made any small contribution. We did a bit of shopping here and were next off on our elephant trek. We were a little nervous as the mahouts (elephant handlers) did look a bit young and we were concerned as their skills. However, our guy sat on the neck and took us through some pretty rough terrain and up and down hill, plus through jungle area, he was a bit of a joker and jumped on and off the elephant, but it was all actually really lovely and our beautiful elephant gave us a bird’s eye view of the area.
The next day, we took a long-boat and guide on the Mekong River. The scenery was spectacular. We stopped at five villages and visited them. Some of these villages were inhabited by ethnic minorities and it was so nice to see them dressed in their national costume. Some were farming minorities and some had weaving and carpentry industries. The last village we visited was a bit of a shock to us, as our guide told us about the upside of this village and how prosperous it had become and then he explained that this was where Leprosy sufferers, from all over Laos are brought to live out their days – they live in an isolated part of the village. It was a wonderful day on the Mekong River.
Unfortunately the next day Alf had “traveler’s tummy” and so we had to abandon our planned trek. Marilyn took the opportunity for some shopping and town-gazing.
The next morning Marilyn was out before breakfast at 6.45 am to see the most amazing true-life spectacle, watching the monks collecting their daily food rations from the local people. Hundreds of Lao people line the street, sitting on cushions and low stools, that are laid out before the start of the daily ritual and collected later. The monks walk by in a colorful line, each with a large shinning metal bowl and are each given offerings by local devout Buddhists. The monks walk the line and by the time they reach the end of the line that is about a half a mile long, their bowl is full with rice, bananas, vegetables and the tourists drop small notes in. Lao people are quite poor, however, they are generous enough to share their food with the monks each day, and be blessed. It was a touching and humbling sight and one that will not be forgotten. What a wonderful way to end our five days in Luang Prabang!
We left Luang Prabang by another turbo-prop plane for our one hour flight to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. The plane followed the Mekong River, with spectacular scenery. Originally, we had planned to take the two-day boat trip up the Mekong to Thailand but having seen the style and safety of these boats, we were rather glad that we changed our plan!