Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monks with Umbrellas

Prior to getting on the slow boat we decided that after being crammed on to a boat for 2 days straight we'd need a few days in one place to relax before moving on again.  A UNESCO World Heritage Place and described in our trusty LP guidebook as "a tonic for the soul", Luang Prabang seemed like the perfect place.

We ended up spending 5 days here and really enjoyed it.  When we first arrived on the boat we were greeted by the usual cluster of touts attempting to get us back to their guesthouse.  As we hadn't done much research we didn't have anywhere in mind to stay so we shopped around with a couple of the touts to see what was on offer.  We eventually chose one that looked decent and decided to check it out.  The place was ok and we spent the first night there (Lee even watched Man U v Liverpool on a little TV with some of the guesthouse staff) but it was a bit basic even for us and was located a bit far from the center of town so we decided to look for somewhere a bit better the following day.

After stopping into a few places we finally found Chanhthaphone Guesthouse, a great guesthouse on a little side street just off of the main road where the popular night market is held each night.  Our room was immaculate and the bathroom was nicely decorated and large.  The shower was amazing - the best we've had in southeast Asia, possibly the whole trip.  The owners were also lovely and they had a cute little dog called "Dodo" which Courtney played every time we were either coming or going.  We got the room for about $9 a night which is a pretty good deal in Luang Prabang as prices have been rising sharply the last few years as tourism has grown.

It might not look luxurious but this bathroom was amazing!

We spent most of our time walking around town exploring the old quarter and soaking up the laid back atmosphere.  Laos was under French rule until 1953 and the French influence can definitely be seen in the architecture and cuisine of Luang Prabang.  Beautiful Chateaus are interspersed with huts constructed of wood and corugated iron and gourmet French food is served alongside traditional Lao dishes.

Talking of food, there are tons of restuarant choices in Luang Prabang but our favorite place to eat was the narrow alley just of the main street with the night market.  During the day it was lined with empty wooden tables but at night it was packed with street vendors serving all kinds of delicious local food.  Pretty much any appetite could be satisfied here.  Our favorites were the all-you-can-eat vegetarian place (put as much as you can on a plate for about a $1) and Sum Noodle which had delicious bowls of noodle soup made by Mrs Sum herself.  The soup cost about a $1.20 but Mrs Sum's smile was free.

                                                                                    Mrs Sum's Noodle Soup

Monks with Umbrellas
Another enduring image of Luang Prabang is the Buddhist monks with their umbrellas walking around town.  All Lao men are expected to enter into monkhood at some point in their lives and it, judging by the amount we've seen, it seems like all of them go to Luang Prabang to do it!  It's so interesting to watch them going about their business.  Courtney is fascinated by them and has been inspired to learn more about Buddhist monks just by being around them for the last few days.  Tomorrow morning we're getting up at 5am to watch the morning almsgiving, a ritual involving people giving rice to the monks.

Kuangsi Waterfalls
On our 3rd day in LP we rented a tuk tuk and headed out to the famous Kuangsi Waterfalls.  The waterfalls are about 32k outside of the main town and it cost us about 60,000 kip ($8) to get there and back.  There are several falls with the biggest being about 180 meters high.  We hiked up the very steep slope to get to the top of the biggest fall (probably not worth the hike in the end), crossed at the top and then back down the other side.  The best part of the day was swimming in the beautiful turquoise pools at the bottom.  There was a smaller waterfall near the bottom that we jumped off a few times and also a rope swing that was great fun.  A great way to cool off.


  1. This photo of the two of you is the most beauteous one yet! I get the feeling that this place and its waterfalls and monks are a bit magical...

  2. What can I say? Nice one!