Day 31:  4 February:  Day off to explore Luang Prabang.

After the anxiety of the last couple of days we decided we deserved a little pampering.  So we checked out of our basic guesthouse and checked into Villa Ouis, one of the gorgeous wooden French colonial era houses in the old town, a spur of land at the confluence of the Nam Kham (River Kham) and Mekong River.  Our villa looked over the Nam Kham, a sultry green at this time of year, with mountains in the background.

We packed up early and went back to TTT where we picked up a spare derailleur on the basis that lightning could strike twice.  We then cycled across town and left all our stuff at the hotel until our room was ready.  We wandered along the old town streets and had a lovely breakfast at an amazing French style bakery.  We strolled further on to the palace museum, only to find it was past 11 so it was closed to visitors until after 1.30pm.  We therefore climbed the numerous steps up Phousi hill, the sacred mount in the middle of the town.  It was a hot and humid day but we sat in the shade and looked out at the very hazy view of the river and hills beyond.

Prayers offered at the hill top shrine

There are no clear views at this time of the year.  At this stage of the dry season the dust, pollution and the result of agricultural burning lies heavy in the air so everything looks shrouded in a hazy mist.  Apparently this builds up so that by March/April the air is really tainted and unpleasant (the same was said in Chiang Mai) until the April rains finally clear the air. 

We climbed down the other side of the hill past Buddhist temple buildings and Buddha statues.  Buddhism is far less in evidence compared to Thailand but in Luang Prabang we had seen lots of boy monks in their distinctive orange garb.  They look about 10 to me but I guess could be  up to 15. 

At the bottom of the hill we wobbled across a bamboo bridge over the river.  There are two of these bridges, which only stand for 6 months of the year.  Once the rainy season comes, the current is too strong and the bridges are dismantled.  It certainly did not feel very sturdy.

By the time we ambled back to the hotel, our room was ready and we were ready to retreat from the heat and humidity. The very pleasant and helpful Vietnamese man (manager?) even said it was a hot day! We knew we needed time to apply for our Vietnamese e-visa, which required us to state which border crossing we were going to use.  So we did some route planning to make our final decision then had a frustrating time filling in the e-visa form and working out how to upload photos of ourselves and passports so that the file sizes were not too big (easy when you know how!).  After several attempts (across an hour and a half) David had it cracked and had paid for his;and so when he did mine it only took about 10 minutes!

We then sat on the balcony watching the world go by and the view of the river while we read. So laid back we were literally almost horizontal!

Finally we stirred ourselves to set out for dinner. One of the people in our Gibbon Experience group had highly recommended the restaurant Manda de Laos saying that it was a really special place with the best food in Laos.  As this was our pampering day we booked a table.  We had linked up with Damien and Adrien again, who were also in Luang Prabang. They were in the other Gibbon Experience group and had got engaged while in their tree house. We really enjoyed their company before  so we invited them along to have a celebratory meal – for us getting our trike fixed but much more importantly for their engagement.

The restaurant lived up to the recommendation.  The tables are set up around some beautiful lily ponds, which are now protected. The lighting and the setting was beautiful, the food fabulous and the company delightful. A special evening to finish our time in LB.  Tomorrow we are back on the road, staying in basic guest houses or camping and eating one-pan meals.  But for tonight we looked out over this magical city which has been sympathetically restored and, due to the presence of the new trainline, will no doubt change under greater Chinese tourist influence going forward, but now was a mixture of Loa residents, Lao visitors, all manner of europeans (but fewer gap year students than the rest of Laos due to the cost) and some Chinese (many of whom seem to be in camper vans).  

1 thought on “Day 31:  4 February:  Day off to explore Luang Prabang.

  1. I am just loving these posts. Felt for you both bouncing along on the bus for 9 hours.. you are a tough pair. It’s making me very restless here in the UK making dead hedges, while you are having such adventures!! Enjoy x

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