Thursday, March 15, 2007

Luang Prabang

Our 10:10am flight left at noon - the smoke in Luang Prabang was too bad to fly in. But eventually we got there. Then several of the people we got to know waiting at the airport - Enrica, a Japanese couple, and Christina - got a taxi together to a guest house in town. At the guest house Enrica and Christina discovered they were both Italians working in China.

Luang Prabang - what to say? I've wanted to come here since back in Peace Corps days, but it was tricky back then and I only made it to Vientiane. This has been designated a world heritage site - the whole town. It is full of temples. It is a beautiful little town, former royal capital of Laos, sitting on the Mekong. I'm not sure what it is - narrow streets, not much traffic (mostly motorcycles). I think it's the details - the buildings and the streets are nicely finished, clean, and plants and trees are everywhere and blooming. And of course the people are delightfully friendly. But this place has been discovered and is crawling with tourists. And it has obviously changed to accommodate all the tourists. It seems that every fifth house is a guest house and there are outdoor restaurants everywhere aimed at tourists.

Last night after watching the sun set over the Mekong and Luang Prabang from the temple on the little hill in the center of town, we met all the folks from the taxi ride and while looking for a place to eat, stumbled on the vegetarian buffet. Fill your plate for 5000 Kip (about .$50). The amazing part was the long tables filled with people from everywhere. There was a Canadian next to me who had worked summers in Cordova. Two others from Vancouver who are taking a semester abroad from UBC law school in Hong Kong. One of them started speaking great Japanese with our Japanese friends. Joan was talking to a customs official from Holland.

And then we walked down through the night market that was filled with displays of various local crafts. On and on and on.

Today we biked to see the grave of Henri Mouhot, the man who found Angkor Wat buried in the jungle. He died up the road from here of malaria at 35. It was really just a destination for us that seemed like a reasonable bike ride. We couldn't find the sign. We finally stopped at a little shop - a shack really - and asked. It turned out we could walk to it in 15 minutes from there. A young man led us to it. When I got back we met the headmaster of the school and visited a few classrooms and one of the men took me into the village to see his house. I have lots of pictures to print and send them.

And I have lots of pictures, but again, I can't figure out how to reduce the image size to post them in a reasonable time. I'll try a couple. Anyway, Luang Prabang is truly an incredible place. Don't know how long it can last with the influx of tourists, I know it must have been much more interesting 5 years ago. It is really an unexpected jewel of a town way out in the jungles of Northern Laos.

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