The French Connection in Luang Prabang

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Friday, December 2, 2005

Luang Prabang is a beautiful place. You can really see the French influence in the buildings and food (croissants and bagels for all!). We were woken at 4am by the monks ringing a bell across the road. The roosters then started crowing at 6am. Our sleep-in in a sleepy town was interrupted but we put in some ear plugs and slept through until 10am. After a quick breakfast (got to love the JoMa French cafe around the corner) we headed down to the National Museum. The building was built in the 70's for the King and Queen but when the King passed away, the remaining family where exiled to the North of the country never to be heard from again! Ironically the local Lao historians are very proud that their residence has been turned into a royal museum.

Phou Si Hill was interesting with a great view of the city and the Mekong River, but we were starting to tire of looking at Buddha statues and temples. We also checked out the Buddha cave and the Giant Buddha Footprint. The local monks had also caught some monkeys and had, sadly, tethered them to a rope between some trees. When Rick went over to take a photo of one of them, they attacked! Luckily he was just out of reach.

We climbed back down and walked along the river taking in the great views, the crops planted in the exposed river mud and the overall culture of the place. With some shopping in mind we headed to the Dala Market only to find it boarded up and closed. Oh well, they have a great nightly market on the main street so we figured we'd go to that instead.

We were in need of some money so we changed our Thai Baht over to Lao Kip. We've never held such a huge wad of cash in our hands. Talk about being an instant millionaire! Unfortunately the Kip is pretty worthless and it costs 20,000 Kip for a drink and 40,000 for a room. We are constantly having to count out great wads of cash for the smallest thing, not to mention carrying it all around. ($1 AUD = 7600 Kip). We feel sorry for the local shop owners as they have draws and bags full of notes they have to carry around. They also accept Thai Baht and US Dollar, with most receipts and invoices having all three currencies listed. This goes against the Lao law, but it doesn't seem to be enforced. In hindsight getting a lot of US Dollar, in various denominations, would have made our lives a lot easier.

With sore muscles and backs after such as cramped boat ride yesterday we decided to have a massage. What an experience! We were herded into separate rooms where the fun began. The massage girls didn't speak English so after some abbreviated sign language we realised we were to have a shower. Meg got out of the shower and unable to find a towel wrapped the bathrobe around her, wondering if she was supposed to be naked and waited for the girl to return. The girl returned and in broken English indicated to take off the robe and lie down on the table. Still wondering if she was appropriately dressed Megs did as she was told.

A wonderful (though slightly too soft) aromatherapy massage commenced. After about 30 minutes the girl told Meg to get up (still in her birthday suit) and indicated she should sit in a tent like structure to be steamed. Twenty minutes later and cooked to perfection the girl indicated to Meg she should lie down again and proceeded with a full body scrub and milk bath. Meg, still naked and feeling slightly violated worrying what the Lao girl thought about Aussies being so carefree, left the massage place a little stressed and feeling sticky from the milk. Afterwards Rick told her he had worn his Speedos throughout the whole thing. Who knows what we were supposed to do but it wasn't a very relaxing experience.

Later on that day we got the bad news that Rick's VISA card had been compromised in Thailand and used for online gambling. After a few phone calls (reverse charge from Lao is not available) he finally got through to Australia and sorted out getting the card cancelled. Thanks to David for firstly spotting this then helping sort it out.

We had a pizza for dinner and a drink to celebrate Emma's 18th birthday back in Australia. Then we headed back to the room for some sleep, before the bells start ringing and the roosters a crowing....
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