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Luang Prabang - thanks Somsai - This is a short entry. We were tired, hot, and lazy.
Luang Prabang, Lao Peoples Dem Rep
Jul 10, 2007 01:06 ( local time )
This may be our last post for the next week or so as we'll be traveling most of the time...
From Leslie: Hello All, This is just an update from the time we left Chiang Mai, Thailand until now. The Chiang Mai airport is the Love Field of Thailand- small with easy curb access so no stress involved as there is in the huge new airport in Bangkok. There was only the lengthy wait you'd expect for the Lao Airline counter to open and the somehow impossible task of reconfirming our tickets from Laos back to Thailand. Travelers are instructed to ALWAYS reconfirm your flight, which is, of course, impossible to do by phone, and often even in person at the airport so it's hard to know what to do. But I was able to find a nice lady once we arrived at the Luang Prabang airport who took care of this pesky detail.
So off we go in an airport van to the plane which is on a remote stretch of runway. For the first time on this trip, all the other passengers ar westerners- David is the only Asian. This is a good forecast of the tourism boom in Laos which opened for tourists in 1989 so is still relatively obscure for most travelers. The plane was a prop plane with about 50 seats on it- not very reasuring when it comes to safety. When a fellow passenger asked me if I could understand the preflight safety instuctions, I told her it sounded like "Pray hard" to me, which I did. Charles kept trying to be reassuring by commenting that the plane was made in Germany (yeah, like during WWII as David said) and were built to last, etc, etc. At takeoff, it really felt like the pilot and crew (if there was a crew?) were peddling like crazy and the plane shuddered into flight. After the deafening roar of lift off and the beginning of the flight, it was smooth and really fine. The inflight snack was 2 sugar dusted fishsticks on croissant with chili sauce, cake and 2 lychees. Yea for lychees!!
The Luang Prabang airport is so small that there's no need for a van - you just get off the plane and walk across the landing strip to the terminal which is 1 very small building. After slowly making your way thru customs and immigration, a Toyota truck from our guesthouse picked us up. I have to sign off so will pick up later. Love to all, Leslie
Plane from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang is two-engine prop ATS or something to that effect. Good flight.
Flying into Luang Prabang over forested mountains and as we come closer, some forested, some cleared, some terraced with padi fields. Mekong River below, with mountains off, off into the distance and clouds. The Mekong orange/brown with silt and as we pass through mountains the river is hidden behind green, now reappearing, tiny villages along the river and we're below the mountains, below a wat on a hilltop, coming down fast (but I'm miles above ...) and we're down and taxiing up close to a small terminal. Walk to the terminal, easy immigration. Photo: David, Magera, Ben
My internet friend, mozzies, recommended the Namsok Guesthouse, so before we left Chiang Mai, we emailed to reserve a room and arranged for airport pick-up. A pick-up picked us up and away we went into LP. The town is beautiful. I've only been in one UNESCO world heritage site before (Hoi An), which was nice, but this place is more than that. Almost all the buildings are French colonial or traditional Lao (wats everywhere) with wonderful greenery and flowers everywhere and all framed by mountains covered in trees and mist. A paradise!
We checked into Namsok - $15 for aircon triple with hot water and fan. When we checked in David alsdo reserved a room for his friends, Ben and Magera, who were due in around 3am from Hanoi. Dinner on a veranda restaurant overlooking the Mekong - laab, chicken with chilli, and tofu with cashews and vegetables.
In the morning around 7am, Leslie was sitting on the veranda outside our room around and Ben walked up - 48 hours after leaving Hanoi to Vientienne to LP - the last 13 hours on a people's bus (where after the seats are filled, they fill the aisle as well). Ay Caramba! Ben and Magera crashed, needless to say.
Leslie, David, and I had breakfast in a French cafe and while she and I walked around town, David went to the internet cafe across from our GH. Our initial impressions of LP held - nothing but beautiful buildings, plants, ahhh. Many travelers about - all ages, but mostly young and mostly European. So David was in the internet cafe across from our GH (sandals littering the entrance) and a message came in from Ben. "Where are you?" "At the internet cafe across the street from the GH." "Really? Me too." and they turned around and there they were. David and Ben and Magera hung out in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and HK in 2005; and now in Luang Prabang in 2007. Small world.
David, Ben, and Magera took off and Leslie and I had lunch on a terrace over the Mekong - roll on you mighty river. There were some people at the restaurant filming two ladyboys doing some kind of slapstick routine involving a lot of beer, throwing up over the railing, passing out on the table, and so on - except they were more like a couple of good old boys dressed up with makeup on than actual ladyboys. Leslie had spicy chicken and I had dessert: mango and sticky rice. The mango/sticky rice here is not as good as in Thailand - more rice, not as sweet, less mango. After lunch I went to the market and got more mango and Leslie
went back to the room for a nap. By the time I got back, drenched in sweat, she and David were sound asleep.
Sign at the bank: Please. Wearing the normal clothes. Thank so much for helpping.
Breakfast with David, Ben, and Magera - on the Mekong again. Happy me. It's gotten very hot here. We're slow walking. Lunch at Indian cafe: Tika masala, garlic chicken, garlic naan, raitha for less than $7. Leslie confesses that our several meals of Indian food here are to minimize our time in the Chungking Mansions in HK - where there is excellent Indian food, but too much strangeness. "Now," she says, "The only reason to go to the Chungking is to see Anna" (the woman at the internet cafe).
Really, all we've done here is hang out (and watched Wimbeldon). Tomorrow we're headed to Bangkok for one night and then HK for a couple od days, and then home.
Except for leaving David, we're both ready. Leaving him is easier for all concerned, because the day we leave, his friend Brandy is coming in and will spend the next month with him in Phnom Penh and hither and yon. They are leaving Asia together, so soon, soon, we'll all be in one place again. Photo below: breakfast on the Mekong (Ben, David, Magera)
In the evening before we leave I take a last turn through the night market - women softly saying, "Saibidii" - "Saibidii" - "Saibidii" - Down one of the streets children at a wat are chanting in Pali so familiar for these past 25 years. I make a small purchase, negotiating with the woman wanting to make her first sale of the evening. Reaching agreement on the price I find myself 2000 kip short. "Wait me 5 minutes," I say and off I go to the restaurant where David was eating with his friends at a table on the lane. I borrow some kip from him and pay the woman 3000 more than we had agreed on, making us both happy. She takes the money and starts hitting the bills softly against her other merchandise (for luck on this night) - slap, slap, slap, slap, slap ...
Our last morning in Luang Prabang - I awake early at 4am and with not a small amount of fumbling and rustling (waking both my roomates) I manage to fix a cup of coffee and head out to sit on the veranda outside our door. Sorry, roomies, but it was worth it (worth it to you, Leslie says).
Geckos chuk-chuking. The sky is lightening as the sun comes up off to the left - misty mountains straight ahead over rooftops of various colors/shapes of tiles (red, orange, brown) and metal roofs in different colors with palms feathering the sky and clouds flushed pink rising high and roosters greeting the day. A big drum at a wat off to the right beating slow and then faster and now trailing off. Now the same drum beat straight ahead (at the wat where teenage and pre-teen monks are usually lounging around the entrance, happy to exchange greetings) and now the same drum beat repeated off to the left and roosters cranked up crowing and the pink clouds fading to grey while wood smoke drifts lightly and the geckos still chuk-chuking and sparrows (tiny citizens of the world) cheeping. In the house next door a radio is playing some okay Lao pop-rock - "Baby I love you," I'm guessing. Shutters opening below - doors opening, closing in the building to the right, water running, dishes clattering, a woman and a man talking softly in early morning voices and I can smell sticky rice cooking. A couple of flights of birds flapping, flying low over the guesthouse. Dog starts barking next door.
Far off in the distance I can't tell if it's mountains or clouds or both.
Breakfast with Leslie, David, Ben, Magera, me - on the Mekong, of course - the Mekong rolling muddy, strong on by.