Bangkok, Cambodia and Laos
10.07.2012 - 11.07.2012
The past couple of days in Luang Prabang have been pretty full on, so a bit of a long posting tonight.
Compared to southern Laos, the weather is even more humid (not sure how that is possible), and you can definitely see the start of the tourism effect up here. South was full of sleepy villages with the odd tourist or two around, but Laung Prabang has a lot of restaurants and guest houses catering to the seemingly increasing tourist trade, and at times it seems there are more westerners than locals here.
Yesterday following a visit to the ethnic museum to learn a little about the Laos people, we headed for the Kuang Sii waterfalls for a swim and also to visit a bear enclosure where bears have been rescued from poachers. The waterfalls were really nice, and swimming was awesome to cool down and chill out for a bit. Some people reading this will be pleased to know that I may be maturing as I declined to have a go at swinging off a rope from a tree into the water. We will see if that maturity continues when the tubing option is on the table later in the trip. I did however lose my sunglasses whilst swimming, so I had to buy a replacement pair at the market. I bought some Oakley glasses, which I'm certain are genuine given they cost me 40,000 Lao kip ($5).
That afternoon we chilled out in town, then grabbed a six pack of beer and climbed the 300 or so steps to the top of Mount Phousi (yes we were giggling like children when our guide was explaining the name of the hill too) to watch the sunset. We arrived early so took a seat and had a really fun time taking the piss out of each other and drinking our beers watching the sun set.
This morning we rose early to go see the monks walk through town for the daily offering. After this we walked back through the morning market which is basically food trade, and it was a bit gross at times (live frogs being skewered, rats cooked on skewers, congealed pigs blood for sale with no refrigeration), but on the plus side I bought some really nice little rice and coconut pancakes which were delicious.
Later this morning we then headed out across the river to the elephant riding. Here we wandered through the jungle on the back of elephants seated in a wooden seat for about an hour. After a brief break whilst the elephants had some lunch (and we had a swim and a beer) a few of us took the elephants for a bath in the river, or more accurately they took us.
Riding bareback on an elephant with nothing really to grip on to and sliding down a mudbank to the river was probably one of the scariest things I have done in a while, and more scary than skydiving and bungy jumping. The elephants then fully submerged themselves in the water and rolled around with us sitting on their backs trying to hold on. It was a great core muscle workout and a lot of fun, one of the many highlights of the trip.
Then finally late this afternoon I went to a cooking class with another member of our group to learn some local cuisine. We were shown 4 dishes and got to cook 2 of these then eat the spoils, all for $20. We made Pork Larp (a minced pork salad) and Panaeng Gai (chicken and pork in coconut sauce with chilli paste), which both turned out really good. The second dish was my favourite, and I can't wait to cook it at home.
I finished the night wandering through the night market back to the hotel, buying a few little gifts from local handmade fabrics, which are beautiful here in Laos.
Tomorrow we have a long drive through the mountains to Vang Vieng for our second last night in Laos.