luang prabang

Posted in laos, luang prabang by moonwire on August 23, 2009

Sabaidee! I took a plane from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in Laos on Friday afternoon. It was a tiny turbo prop plane and I felt a bit uneasy about it first but it was totally fine. It was noisy as hell, but I enjoyed the ride. We didn’t fly too high so I had great views of Northern Thailand and Laos, which is mostly mountainous jungle but it got really cool when I could see the Mekong river.

In flight entertainment magazine from Lao Airlines.

It only took an hour and we arrived on time. Immigration and getting my visa was pretty quick and painless and before I knew it, I arrived at the Spicylaos hostel. This hostel is located in an old colonial building and it has lots of character. It’s not a big hostel; just 22 dorm beds and 4 double privates. I chose one of the privates. I don’t think I can deal with the dorm thing anymore. Still, people stumbling into their rooms at 1.30 and then proceed to talk loudly while there’s no glass windows (only mosquito netting) is not my idea of a good time.

Anyways, I had just booked it because I expected delays and didn’t feel like lugging my pack around town in the dark, but I could have easily done that here. There are so many guesthouses; it makes me wonder how they are ever going to fill them. Today I looked around for another place and I found one, close to the Mekong river. The room itself is not impressive at all. A tad dark, but it has a little patio area and a small common area with couches where you can use wifi. I have seen some really gorgeous places overlooking the Mekong and I’m thinking if I’m going to stay for more than a week, I will check into something really sweet for the last 2 nights or so.

French toast at Joma Bakery. One of many bakeries here…

So, Luang Prabang. I cannot believe this place. It’s probably the most touristy place in Laos (and maybe even on South Asia’s main land) as it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The architecture is mostly French colonial. It could easily turn into some Disney theme park, but it’s not. Not sure if it’s because it’s not the high season, so it’s not overrun with tourists. Of course, there’s a night bazaar with the usual stuff, though quite a bit more upscale than the one in Chiang Mai. More silks etc.

Anyways, these kinds of places do not interest me, though there’s something redeeming about them: food stalls. Lots of them. And even better. A lot of them sell crepes and Lao sandwiches, which are just baguettes with the filling of your choice and they’re cheap and yummy. I never even knew about the baguette thing. I pretty much assumed, after Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur and Thailand with the exception of Chiang Mai, that good breads are not to be had. Well, I’ve had them. I also noticed there’s a Lao version of Khao Soy, the spicy broth noodle dish I had in Chiang Mai. Yummy.

So far, I’ve basically spent trying to get a feel for the place. The lack of street names doesn’t help, but Luang Prabang is actually very small so it’s hard to get really lost. The Mekong river is an excellent point of reference.

The food frenzy from Chiang Mai has continued. They don’t have the granola veggie traveler’s cafes here, but I can’t complain. Lots of bakeries, which makes me very happy.  But my favourite place so far is probably a bookstore/cinema/tea house/restaurant called ‘l’Etranger’. Good coffee and sandwiches and an amazing collection of books at a very reasonable price. I am oh so tempted to just take it really easy here and spend a day or 10. A bit of exploring in the morning and late afternoon and for the rest just laze around with a book and a cup of tea. This is definitely one of my favourite places so far. I love the relaxed vibe and it’s very photogenic. Haven’t shot much as I got up too late this morning and in the afternoon I was walking around with a dead battery in my GRD, but I certainly will make an effort here.

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