Lovely Luang Prabang

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Monday, February 11, 2013

Luang Prabang was the right place at the right time for us. It is a quiet city with no shortage of charm and we found a delightful place to stay (Villa Chitdara). We liked it so much we stayed in this town for 4 days each at the beginning and ending of our time in Laos.

Filled with temples and monks, this World Heritage Site's most intriguing attraction is the 6:30am daily 'alms’ where the monks walk in silence through the streets while locals and some tourists give them offerings of rice.  There are times, as well, when needy children collect rice from the monks.  Jim was fascinated/obsessed by this ceremony and got up almost every morning to photograph it.

We met a few of the novice monks.  Vixsai chatted with us one morning before starting alms.  We were standing by the fence that separated the street from the temple complex and he was sitting under a nearby tree.  Much to our surprise because we had constructed a notion of complete silence and separation from the monks, he said ‘hello’ to us.  We spoke for a few minutes and he invited us to come back later in the day for chanting.  Another monk, Done, who I met while volunteering to read and converse in English at Big Brother Mouse (an organization dedicated to bringing enjoyable reading to the lives of the Lao people) became fast friends.  We remain in email contact with both of these kind and wise young men. 

I had read about Big Brother Mouse in December and knew then that I wanted to get involved with this organization (  We located them early in our days in Luang Prabang and decided to sponsor a book party for a village school.  By donating $250-$400, the organization then offers a book party consisting of games, treats, books for each child and for the school library.  The donor is invited to attend the party and experience the impact of the donation. That was a highlight! The children were so excited to receive a new pencil and paper, to play some games, read books, enjoy a glass of juice and a cookie and, finally, receive their own book.  Many parents attended and were having almost as much fun as the children.

One of the highlights of our time here was connecting with Lori, someone I coached gymnastics back in the early 1980s and had not seen since 1989 when she was still a teenager.  She lives in Calgary and had read one of my postings about our travel on Facebook.  She posted that she was going on vacation in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and it looked like there was a possibility we would be in Luang Prabang about the same time!  Given that both of us travel in similar ways in that we don’t plan too much in advance and tend to go with the flow, we were lucky to be able to have a lovely dinner with her and Brent, catching up on the 24 year gap of our lives.  Bumping into each other the next day, together we returned to visit the novice monks and observe their chanting.  The monks were asking how we knew each other and didn’t understand what kind of a teacher I was to Lori so I nudged her into demonstrating what gymnastics was.  Yes, Lori can still do a smashing handstand, pointed toes and all, of which a novice monk in Luang Prabang now has a video on his phone. I noticed he didn’t bother filming my cartwheel <sigh>.

Which leads me to the topic of age....I turned 55 while in Luang Prabang and although I cannot believe I am that age and never thought anyone else would believe I am that age, it turns out that especially to younger people, I look old.  I am called ‘mama’, men do not look at me longingly, I could be the mother of almost everyone who works in the tourism service and they don’t hesitate to tell me that.  It’s very different than 28 years ago when Jim and I travelled for a year.  Yet, other than extra weight, some aches and pains, a lot of wisdom I feel like the same young woman and I continue to be surprised that others see me so differently than how I see myself!  I don’t know if this is a sign of a lack of self-awareness or youthful bliss.  I’ll go with the latter!

Please note that this blog entry is dated Feb. 11.  We are now on March 1 and in Africa where, between limited access to Internet and power outages, we will have more difficulty doing our posts.  Stick with us though.  We will do our best to post.  We still have a few more posts to catch up on!

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Nora Detlor on

Oh Donna, you couldn't have said it any better about how I'm feeling also about turning 55...I still feel like 18 but look like an old mama, sometimes feel like an old mama too. You're lucky you can still do a cartwheel.....I'm afraid to try!! LOL
Love reading about your adventures......please take care and have fun, my young adventurer!! you'll always be the same age when I first met you....JRHS in grade 8.xoxo

Trish O'Brien on

I loved reading all of that..... Luang Prabang was one of our favourite places and it was great to re-live some of the memories. What a great organization the Big Brother Mouse sounds like, and so great to be able to be there to participate in that event. Makes the traveling particularly significant. Thanks for sharing your reflection about age! I just turned 45 in January and have many similar thoughts. Focus most on the wisdom you've gained - that's what I think is pretty cool. Can't wait to hear about your time in Africa!

Sue Walker on

Once again,
These photos take my breath away, WOW what an unbelievable experience.
I Think about you both always
Love Sue xo

Leigh Miller on

Those photos really touched me! Thank you for sharing! As a teacher - the book party just melted me..

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