luang prabang (part 3)

Posted in laos, luang prabang by moonwire on August 27, 2009

So I’ve spent a week in Luang Prabang and have definitely caught up on French baguettes and some red wine. I decided to rent a bicycle again as I enjoyed it so much in Chiang Mai and though I enjoyed it here, too, it is not really necessary to have one as this is a very small town that can easily be done by foot. There isn’t all that much going on here, either. I did want to get ‘out of town’ a bit, but not too far as the rain can come on suddenly and ferociously, however, that brought another set of problems… the roads. Or lack thereof. I wanted to check out what was on the other side of the Nam Khan river so I crossed the little bridge. Well, soon enough the road stopped and all that was left was just a dirt road with rocks. Quite steep as well so it was hell trying to get up there. Also, a different kind of world. While the ‘downtown core’ of Luang Prabang is pretty, just outside of it is where the real poverty starts and makeshift houses of corrugated sheet metal and plastic are everywhere. Lots of dust and sand. Not a pretty sight.

What amazes me here, and I’ve seen this everywhere in South East Asia,  is how hard the women work. While a lot of men drive their tuk tuks (basically motorbikes with a carriage attached to either the side or the back), they also like to take breaks and you see them sleeping on the benches of their tuk tuks all the time. The women are often the ones running the guest houses, restaurants and little shops, and doing the shopping while taking care of the kids and sweeping the sidewalks. Most of them don’t have a real stove, they do it the old school way with fires. I cannot imagine.

My days were low key here. I’d usually wake up at around 5 or 6 am and go out to shoot for a bit. Then I’d have brekkie at this tiny little restaurant run by a lovely young woman. Warm baguette, eggs and black Lao coffee. After brekkie I’d usually go for a ride on my bicycle. By that time, at around 9, it would already be too hot and bright to shoot. I’d go back to my room to chill a little. Then in the afternoon I’d go for lunch and ride around some more or sit in the shade by the Mekong river. Back to my room to take a nap, then back out with my camera for a few hours and eat at one of the veggie buffets at the Night Market. Great concept. You pay about 60 cents for a plate. Load it up with a whole bunch of dishes and eat it at a long table with everybody else. The food wasn’t spectacular, but it was cheap and cheerful enough to keep me happy.

After I walked around the old part of the city some more I would usually go back to my room with a Beer Lao (which is light and crisp) and read til I went to bed at around 10 PM. Yes, that early. There’s nothing going on here at night. Most bars close very early and well, I didn’t feel like it anyways.

I finished a bunch of books here. One of them was ‘The girl in the picture’ about Kim Phuc, the girl in that famous shot by Nick Ut, who’s running naked down the highway after getting hit by napalm. After reading ‘The rape of Nanking’ I didn’t want to read anymore depressing stories but I’m glad I did pick up this book. Interesting read.

So, I’m off to Vientiane, the capital of Laos for I think a day or five to a week. I haven’t booked a hotel yet as I’ve found it’s actually cheaper if you just show up. Also, I want to check out the bed before I take anything. After roughing it in Chiang Mai and here in Luang Prabang as well with not such good rooms and beds, I’m ready for a bit of comfort. My back is starting to hurt from sleeping on ‘concrete’.

Some more shots for your viewing pleasure:

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