It has been said very many times on Virtual Tourist that this beer is excellent - now that we have had a very good sampling of this brew, we would like to add our support to the very positive ratings it seems to consistently attract! Why can't you buy it anywhere else????? Sitting at the outside tables of our guesthouse restaurant, and enjoyed a cold beer, watching the world slowly go by - and waiting for the markets to start!
How to entice kids to take photos
The folks of Luang Prabang get more gregarious and friendly as you move away from town. You will attract plenty of attention, especially from kids. I would advise that you DO NOT entice them with sweets and candies. First, you are doing your best to promote tooth decay. Second, you are breeding a sense of greed into these innocent kids. Third, well, we can't be carrying pencils and pens everywhere we go.
I love taking shots of kids as they are always very spontaneous. What I noticed is that, if you care to show them what you've taken (this works only for folks with digital cameras), they will be excited enough to allow you to take more.
I think it's a perfect barter trade. You get your lovely photos to bring home to show folks to and you gave these kids something fun they can enjoy at the very moment. It really doesn't take much to connect people.
Please be respectfull if you see in the local market, dog meet or cat meet or snke meet, they are use to that ,not everyone of them likes it but is they way of living. and if you have the chance try it...
The Laos Coffee is Stroooong!
We often asked for Nescafe to have a break from the strong coffee. The strongest we had though, was when we went trekking, when we were served the hot drink in glasses. After 2 sachets of whitener.....well, see if you can tell which cup has the milk!
Visit the far side.
The Mekong is a pretty large but easily surmountable barrier to travel, yet it seems tourists never venture across. I had hired a scooter and did just that, and I thoroughly recomend it to anyone. A mere 15 minutes on one of the numerous ferries and you really are in another world compared to Luang Prabang.
I had read in my guidebook that on the far bank of the Mekong there was a waterfall called Tad Hoykhua (Tad being waterfall). It suggested it was 14km West of Luang Prabang in Ban Pakleung. No problem. I will quote exactly from the guidebook as to the instructions I was given, "cross the Mekong by boat at Tha Heua (boat station) in Luang Prabang to Xiang Men village and then travel the rest by road. What could be simpler?
I took myself to the rather good Tourist Office in Luang Prabang to ask about directions or maybe a map, and the young man there admitted quite candidly and smilingly that he did not know anything about the other side of the river. I found this a bit odd but determined to go anyway.
I arrived at the boat station and the well meaning security guy was not going to let me onto the pier thinkng I had taken a wrong turning presumably. I mimed that I wanted to go over with my bike to Xiang Men and he looked at me slightly oddly. I was beginning to get the impression that this is not a trip often undertaken by tourists. Having been thus admitted, it was the work of minutes to get onto the "car ferry" and across to the other side. It may as well have been the other side of the moon, never mind the Mekong. After negotiating the almost vertical track from the boat on an underpowered machine I arrived in the village and it was obvious I was right, this is not tourist country. No paved roads, no road signs (in any language) and astounded looks all round. Halfway through the village one lady nursing an infant started shouting with glee and encouraging the child to wave at me and say "Saibaidee (hello / welcome)". I had to stop the bike and do the waving thing, it was heartwarming.
So then I had a problem. No map, no signs and no idea where I am going. Ideal, my favourite way to travel. I worked out West easily enough due to the position of the sun (old Boy Scout trick) and immediately proceeded to head East on the principle I had lots of time, I had a bike (of sorts) and I might see something interesting. The further I penetrated into what is effectively traditional rural Lao, the more incredulous did the looks on the other road users faces become. I use the word road advisedly because it was a boneshaking dirt track. I felt so totally alive. It is hugely liberating to be away from any sort of support network, completely self-reliant. If I had had a mechanical failure or even something so prosaic as a puncture, which would not be unlikely on those roads, I would have had to sort it out myself one way or another.
I had sort of hoped to find a village but as the miles went on it was looking unlikely so I turned back knowing I would have to retrace my steps. Back to Xiang Men and off the right way, West. Off the other road out of town, past the police station and then the road forked. What to do? Well, they say "ask a policeman" so I went back there and sat outside as there is no obvious public office or anything. Eventually a cop turned up (at least I think he was, he might have been the cleaner for all I know) and I hailed him. Asked for Tad Hoykhua - blank look. Ban Pakleung - blanker look. Maybe it was my pronounciation, maybe something else but he eventually settled on telling me where Ban Pak was. Thinking this to be a local way of saying Pakleung, I followed the directions, assisted by the fact he mentioned "resort" and I knew there were a few bungalows for rent at the falls.
I went along not a bad road for about two miles and the road forked again. With no-one to ask, I decided on the right fork as I thought the falls were more likely to be towards the hills than the river. Half a mile on and the road stopped. Now I don't mean it became rougher or petered out into a dirt track, I mean it stopped. One minute decent hard dirt track, the next jungle. OK, only half a mile wasted. Back to the fork and took the left turn, which led me to a village. After a few dead ends I met a smiling old man. "Pakleung?", I enquired and he smiled, nodded and pointed confidently along a track. I followed it and it led to, well, the same dead end as before. As I had not seen any other roads going West, I decided the fates were against me and I wasn't going to find my waterfall.
Back into the centre of the vilage to find all the youth of the town gathered and playing petanque / boules (they call it petanque in Lao) in what would pass as the village square. Well, sensing, if nothing else, a good photo opportunity I stopped the bike and wandered amongst them. A quick Beer Lao was secured and I sat down to watch the game. There was much shouting, friendly argument and general good humour about the games that followed.
Obviously I had not fathomed the rules (still haven't really) and eventually the inevitable happened. You must have guessed what is coming next. They thought it would be great fun to watch the foreigner make a fool of himself and I was dragged into a game of doubles. My partner was a youngish Lao guy and we played two other Lao guys. The women also play (very well) and mixed games are common but this was an all male affair and taken very seriously although with a lot of laughter. I was terrified I would make a complete mess of it but to my great surprise I found I have some sort of aptitude for the game. Shall we say I didn't make a complete fool of myself and played a couple of shots quite close to the jack (or whatever it is in French / Lao). It was great fun.
Many more games were played and the system, should you be asked, is this. The losing team buys a big bottle of Beer Lao. Now, this is not merely for the winners but a single glass is available and the beer is distributed in mouthfuls to victors, spectators and apparently any passing stranger! This is the Lao way, eating and drinking are always communal affairs, and they found it most odd that I wanted to drink a whole bottle of beer myself. By the end I felt a little odd doing it.
I mustn't have messed up too badly as I was invited to play several more times and we even won a few games. I got quite into it by the end but a glance at my watch showed that it was four o'clock and the bike was due to be returned by five so back down the road amidst many fond farewells, on the boat and back to Luang Prabang where the venerable old machine was returned.
If you are of an adventurous frame of mind, I thoroughly recommend you go across the river. There are no "sights" and indeed I only saw one Wat (temple) which appeared closed, but it is a grea topportunity to glimpse the rural way of life in Lao.
The photo is of the best of the lady players.