Thursday, 3 January 2013

Luang Prabang


In the morning I booked a mini bus to the next town, and in the whole minibus, which was the largest mini bus I've ever seen, there were only 2 people! Why would they go with 2 people? Wouldn't it be better for them to pay us a bit of money and ask us to leave an hour to 2 later? These mini buses go every hour, if not every half an hour. They burn all this fuel for nothing! :( I heard the road passes through mountains, decided not to take the chance and popped in a sleeping pill (i.e. motion sickness pill). I slept the whole night, then I slept the whole way in the bus stretched on the back 4 seats till 2:30, then I zombied around the town for a bit, and went back to sleep at 8! I took a hostel this time, and there were guys who came in drunk at 10:30 and started shouting, I woke up, and hissed back at them "Common, is it your first time in a dorm? If you want to yell, there are tables outside!". Besides being ticked off by their disrespect, I was scared that if I'd wake up now after sleeping the whole day, I wouldn't be able to fall back asleep. But luckily that didn't happen, and I happily slept till 10 :)
Luang Prabang is a very nice green town surrounded by lush rolling hills (ha! no rice paddies this time :) ). The French loved this city, and build many villas in here, giving Luang Prabang a very colonial town feel. It has very expensive restaurants (Lao expensive that is, vacationers (as opposed to backpackers) would have a blast in here!), with extremely nice decor and inventive menus. Even I on a first lunch out went to a bakery and ordered a frozen cappuccino and a sun dried tomato bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon ... very unbackpacking-ly of me! :) This town is actually on a world heritage list, but I really don't understand why. There is a theory that there were so many temples, and so many got ruined, that it was given the status to hopefully save the rest of the temples. The temples aren't that nice though, and cost quite a lot to get in. When I went on my sightseeing tour, I wasn't impressed by the temples, but rather enjoyed the walk quite a bit, except the annoying tuk-tuk, tuk-tuk, sabadiiii mmaaaaaassaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (massage) calls.
It was so hot, but instead of buying water, I bought a coconut. I asked him how much it was, and some guy told me 10,000. Hm 10,000 seems quite a lot, but whatever, I was too hot to bargain. I barely finished the coconut when I gave the seller 10,000, and he started giving me change, and the other guy, just told him that 10,000 is fine. I'm like hey, give me the change, but he left. I wasn't too pissed off, it's only a few cents. But that guy continued talking to me, asking me where I'm from and if I want a boat, I told him that he's a liar and I don't want to talk to him. I wasn't angry at him at all, just wanted to make my point. In South East Asia (maybe in other parts of the world too), saving face is soooo important! You don't want to make people embarrassed, and even if you hate something, say food, you still should eat some, cause the owners/your hosts will be embarrassed. That's why they'll give you fake directions even if they don't know where it is, because again, they're embarrassed of not knowing. Seems kinda stupid to me. Anywho, there were a lot of guys there, most of them playing some game, and I made sure that I made him embarrassed in front of them, and of course they all wanted to know what's going on, and even though I didn't understand anything, I kept hearing the word "10" coming up quite often.
Next day I took a boat trip to some caves. The river is very beautiful, but pretty soon it got quite boring. Half of the people fell asleep, the other half were reading a book. Gave me a chance to catch up on the Vietnam LP :) We stopped at some village where they make whiskey, but of course it was so touristic, there wasn't anything authentic about this village at all. From every identical shop that everybody set up everybody was yelling "Miiiss take a looooook", "Somethiiiiiing?" Annoying! Other than that we've seen naked kids swimming, and then arrived at the caves, which weren't too impressive. For some reason EVERYBODY went to the lower cave, and when I saw that, I went to the upper cave, it was pretty cool, because I was alone in this dark cave all on my own, shining my flashlight at some Buddha statues. In one cave there were 4000 Buddhas ... fun, fun, fun! I think Buddhism is a nice religion. They're pro peace, forgiveness, non attachment, preservation of nature, all the good stuff, until I read a plank in this cave that said that women must be reborn as men to obtain nirvana ... and suddenly I'm not a big fan anymore :)
I think this motion sickness pill still affects me, because when I got back, I got completely knocked out for 3 hours.
In the evening I met a girl in the common area and we decided to go to dinner together, I went to the room to get money, met some guy there whom I invited, when I returned she talked to some other guy and at the end, the 6 of us went to have dinner together. We discovered a market that has a lot of buffet stalls with all you can eat buffet for $1.25 :) And in the morning we discovered a sandwich place with avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, chicken and pork, also for $1.25, it was almost impossible to shove it in the mouth :) It all goes in much smoother with a vast array of juice mixes. You pick a glass, and they'll blend whatever is inside of it. Yum! Then we did all the touristy things, climbed on top of a hill for the city views, went to a royal museum and finished the day with a chick flick eat-pray-love which guys enjoyed so much :)
Got news from people coming from Vang Vieng. The Australian government intervened and demolished all the bars on the river, a few months later we found out that now they've also demolished bars in town! That doesn't make any sense. There are more people dying on the full moon parties in the Thailand, thank god they didn't come that far.
Next day we went to a waterfall. Near the waterfall is a rescued bear sanctuary. There are some horrific signs of bear poaching around the place, and the bears are not capable of living in the wild anymore. Although the enclosure looks big and looked after, they seem bored and one bear walked back and forth for hours, he was doing it when we got there, and still was doing it when we were going back. That bear in India did the same thing ... maybe it's a bear thing? At the waterfall there was a cool swing. The swing was alright, but to get to it is tricky. First you have to cross a stream with fast current, then climb up a very slippery tree with nothing to hold on to, and one of the wooden "steps" broken and moving under your feet, then lean on a branch and reach for the rope. Awesome! :)
Luang Prabang has also a famous tourist "attraction" of daily monks making rounds in the morning gathering food from the town people and endless tourists. People - to get merit, tourists - to get pictures. This activity though comes at a cost of waking up at 5:45am!! First day I woke up, I expected the town to be covered in orange, but there were only maybe 15 of them, looking bored out of their minds with only tourists filling their food baskets and sticking cameras in their faces (yes, I was one of those :) ). The experience for me was just as boring as the monks must have felt. In the evening John and I went to a theatre for some traditional dancing. Oh man that was so boring, again, no imagination with the choreography at all, and the story can just blow your mind. One guy was praying in all the four directions, and then there was an annoying lizard who kept making sounds, the guy thought how much nerve that lizard has to bother him while he's praying, he wanted to kill the lizard but missed and hit the mountain which broke down, and unfortunately to him it was someone's home. Then someone offered his daughter's hand in marriage for a person who can fix the mountain, and fixing involved some heavier praying. What a beautiful plot :) I wonder how much they pay them, because there must be at least 30 dancers plus orchestra, plus people who operate the whole thing, and they run the show if 20 people show up at 100,000 each ($12.5). They probably drive our tuk-tuks in the morning!
In the hostel there was a small argument and I wonder what's wrong. I asked one guy and he said that he's tired of travelling with his "friend" because he makes no decisions on his own, does no research, has no clue about anything. He said, I just got out of army, I want to have fun and don't need that responsibility. Well what do you know, that guy talks to me for a bit, then finds out that I go to Vietnam and goes and buys a ticket on the same bus as me ... oh oh! I was looking for hostels in Hanoi, and passed the laptop to him asking him if he wants to look for any, he's like "No, I don't feel like looking for anything" ... oh oh! It's much more fun to travel with someone (for a while), but at the same time I don't want anybody hanging himself on me. I need a plan! Act aloof and hopefully he'll soon get bored of me... Plan worked! :)
John and I woke up at 5:45 to see the monks again. Last time I couldn't fall asleep, I think it might be an unconscious thing of the brain not letting me fall asleep in case I'll miss something important. It's been like that all my life, before the exams, before plane flights, but before monks? I'd rather sleep and miss the alarm rather than not sleep to make sure that I don't miss the monks. I decided to talk to myself. I lied in bed and said "Everything will be alright, the alarm rang every time and every time I heard it, now relax, sleep tight, good night", that night I slept, and I slept every night since. It's like the brain and the unconscious brain are 2 different people, have to make friends between them :)
The monks were ok, I was just happy that I got more pictures, this time I really bend the corners of proximity between ladies and monks, oh well, they are a tourist attraction, right? We then went to a cooking class with world class chef. First we chose the recipes that we want to cook and then drove to the market to look at the ingredients (the helpers did all the shopping). I just kept pointing my finger and asking what's this, what's that? Oh sorry, there is no word in English for that was the most common response. So many spices and jungle berries, I wonder how to use them in cooking. The chef told us that say in soups, leave the garlic and onion skins on, they're the ones that have a lot of aroma. And from now on, I'll definitely be adding coconut cream and lemon grass into everything, it's just too delicious to miss out. So anywhere you have a broth, you can add coconut milk, and lemon grass you could add anywhere garlic or ginger would go. We made 7 different dishes, but our favourite one was spring rolls :) Good that we can get them at any corner in Canada :)
Time to leave Laos ... sad again :( Took a bus to Hanoi, what a terrible bus, and it was VIP. There was no toilet, so I couldn't drink anything, the seats were extremely narrow and I was tossing and turning and wishing for the bus to arrive sooner. Thank god that I accidently discovered space underneath the seats that's meant for luggage. There was only like half a meter of vertical space, but it had a mattress and I could finally stretch out. 25 hours of boring bus ride with no TV and bad music ... just horrible!

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/LuangPrabang

3 comments:

  1. Yana, it was great to catch up on your travels. I became fond of Laos after we left the border. And we had the same terrible experience with the buses. Their VIP buses were so bad you had to wonder what the worst buses looked like.

    I LOVED Luang Prabong; I think a lot of it had to do with the architecture. We stayed in a hotel overlooking the street parallel to the river and it was beautiful...and the food was a nice change.

    I can’t believe Vang Vienne got wiped out--by AUSTRALIA? How did THAT happen? I’ll have to see if I can find anything on the internet about it.

    Happy travels! Keep posting.

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  2. DAAAAAAAAAAMMMMNNNNNNNNNNN! what has my country done now!
    I will tube and pub crawl in Laos this year by hook or by crook.

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  3. I really liked Luang Prebang. Wished I was there longer to visit the restaurants. Just a cool place to chill.
    Don't forget your purple sticky rice. That was yummy.
    AHEM!!!! No sad faces when leaving Luang Prebang :)

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