An epic adventure to the lush, tropical and beautiful city of Luang Prabang through a boat ride down the Mekong River from Thailand. We started the journey with a very restful stay at the Sukhothai in Bangkok with great food amidst the heat, humidity and large city noises. Then we flew to the mountainous village of Chiang Rai which was where we departed for the opposite shore of Laos. With many people who did not speak English, we rockily made our way down muddy cliffs to scramble into a tiny teeny wooden boat which then sped off down the Mekong, dotted with little villages on the sides. We were treated to towering mountains filled with trees flanking the river, phenomenal fresh air and aching bodies.
Luang Prabang is such a complete opposite to modern life. It’s beautifully quiet and peaceful, with smiling people and a laid-back attitude. Everything moves slowly, the streets and air is clean and fresh and there is no one tugging on your sleeves hawking wares that is typical of many tourist cities. It was rather a shock coming from Melbourne and Malaysia and being such a city person, it took me three days to finally relax and enjoy that there is no rush. I rode my first tuk-tuk ( a bicycle rickshaw) and it was marvelous fun.
Part of the first day was spent wandering from temple to temple where there were intricate carvings gilded with gold, walking down side streets and marveling at the colonial houses. Every night the main street is blocked off for a thriving market where locals show off their hand made wares- gorgeous silk scarves and fabrics, one of a kind jewelery and other assorted lovely things. The food is simple but satisfying albeit sometimes very unexpected from what was written on the menu! What was abundant and seemed popular were these sweet and cold fruit shakes, readily available in every restaurant and road side stalls.
Nearby there is the Pak Ou Cave (about 2 hours away by slow boat), a cavern by the river filled with Buddha statues, and the Kwang Xi Waterfall (45 mins by tuk tuk or van) where one can swim in fresh water pools and be surrounded by untouched forests.
The countryside is virgin, with very small villages and people working and living with the land. The people live simply in wooden houses and thatched or corrugated roofs. Even without a common language it was easy to communicate with smiles and I loved playing with the children.
Our week ended with a delicious dinner at the hotel overlooking the town and mountains in the distance. Simply wonderful.