Monks, Mountains and Mekong Sunsets
Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Day : 172
Temperature : 30 degrees daytime, cold enough for your woolly thermals at night
Weather : Glorious sunshine and clear blue skies
Lovely, mellow, historic Luang Prabang. The journey here was long. Ten and a half hours long to be precise…but it was ok, because we had booked a "VIP Deluxe Bus" and were feeling smug. Once onboard however, we soon discovered that we had THE worst seats on the bus, with approximately half the leg room compared to everyone else. In fact, we had so little leg room that I could not physically get into my seat because the passenger in front had their seat reclined. Fortunately, the aforementioned passenger complied with my request to raise her seat back position
The bus gradually wound its way up through the beautiful, mountainous countryside. Eventually, as we got closer, we could see the outskirts of Luang Prabang in a valley below, surrounded by rolling, green, mountainous peaks on all sides. The Mekong River shimmered and glistened in the sunlight as it twisted and turned into the distance. The scenery was simply stunning. We arrived just after the sun slipped spectacularly beneath the mountains, and the sky became a kaleidoscope of colours. What a setting.
We checked into a guest house in the old French quarters, which as it suggests, consists of narrow streets and quaint French villa style buildings with pretty pretty verandahs covered in trailing bougainvillea. In fact, UNESCO have designated this area of Luang Prabang as a World Heritage Site
We packed our bags as quickly as possible. Well, Kevin packed, I grabbed my belongings and threw them into my rucksack in a manner in which I have never done before. It wasn't pretty. We marched out of the guesthouse, down the street and into the nearest “posh” looking hotel that we could find. Fortunately a room was available. We proceeded to inspect the rooms, firmly banging on all four walls to determine their makeup, the manager by now giving us very suspicious looks out of the corner of his eye
Feeling somewhat calmer at the thought of a better night’s sleep ahead of us we rented some bicycles and set off around Luang Prabang to explore the backstreets and temples of the area. I was quickly becoming smitten with this town. Yes, it was a bit touristy, but it had a certain class and charm to it. It was relaxed and laidback, and around every corner was a café or restaurant with table and chairs outside. Tourists were happily chatting over a coffee or lunch whilst Buddhist monks clad in their orange robes carrying yellow umbrellas wandered past. A couple of the temples were absolutely beautiful, with gleaming ceramic mosaics, beautifully painted walls and elaborately carved golden doors. We did notice that there were considerably more middle aged and elderly tourists here, often in groups, but it never had the feel of “package holiday hell”.
At sunset we climbed up to Wat Phu which overlooked the town. It was fairly busy up there with everyone eager to capture their sunset images. We stayed up there for about an hour and a half, until it was getting dark. When we returned to street level we found that the main street had now become pedestrianised, as hundreds of stalls were set up on the road for the night market. We were too exhausted to visit the market. We had an early dinner and an early night….because we had to be up at 5.30am the following morning….