A quiet little park
I happened upon this great little park right in the town center one day when D was sick at home in bed with one of our numerous stomach ailments. I later brought her back to snap some photos of the picturesque pond that offered up a nice reflection of the local flora.
Trekking with Osa (II)
For a relatively small fee (about $30), you will be driven to a small village somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Laotian mountains. It's approximately one hour away from town, so you will not see any tourists there at all. What follows is a rather demanding mountain trekking tour. Osa led our group away from the main road, through the fields and some low-grown forests until we reached our first stop, a village of the ethnic minority of the Khmou. That's were we had lunch - in the hut of the school teacher, a woman from Luang Prabang. After some fried pork meat, we left the little village and climbed up and down so many hills that I really cannot count them anymore... It's a wonderful landscape, jungle vegetation, high hills overgrown with banana trees... whatever you like. Accompanying these views are the sounds of many exotic birds. Our track led us to a Hmong village on top of one of the hills. This village was very interesting as Osa knew the chieftain (who was about to leave to go hunting squirrels in the forest!). So we got an insight into the village's daily life. As we were the first visitors for a very long time, the chieftain offered us a local specialty: beehive! It was the most horrible stuff I've ever tried, but to be polite I ate at least a little bit... It tastes like rotten fruit, by the way. After this village, we trekked downhill until we reached another Hmong village, where we stayed overnight. A very nice family was our host and they provided us with food and drinks (mainly Lao-Lao... :-)). The next morning, the sound of dozens of roosters woke us up and after a small breakfast , we went on. After some hours, we stopped at a marvellous waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It's a wonderful place to have a swim or take a shower under the waterfall...
Some hours later, we reached the main road again and the trek was over after some 16km or so. I had the sorest muscles of my life, but also one of the best experiences!
- Hiking and Walking
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Trekking with Osa (I)
A trekking tour through the Laotian mountains is a must!!! It was one of my best experiences in Laos in particular and South East Asia in general. If you are in Luang Prabang, a good place to ask for a guided trekking tour is Osa. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the place where he works, but I'll try to describe it as exactly as possible. The place is on Luang Prabang's main street (the street with the night market), if you come from Phu Si hill it's on the left side. Opposite of it, there's an Indian restaurant, and just in front of the door stands a massive wooden table. It' s first of all an internet cafe, but they offer trekking as well. Ask for Osa and he's gonna show you his tour offers. He'll also show you a brochure with opinions from previous trekkers - of course everything is very positive. I was not really convinced by that, but as the tour he presented me sounded great, I chose to go with him. It really was great! Check out the next chapter for a detailed tour description.
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Hiking and Walking
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 myself 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 very heartwarming and yet another of the wonderful travel moments I have had in SE Asia..
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 loosely 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 small 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 and resorted to the local practice.
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 great opportunity to glimpse the rural way of life in Lao.
Update February 2013.
I cannot believe I have overlooked this so ong. I was only putting one image to accompany each tip when I was writing them incountry as the internet connections were pretty slow and the idea was to add other images later on. somewhow or another I managed to forget about it and it was only whilst tidying up tips and photographs (my computer is much like my desk i.e. complete chaos) that I have today remembered what I need to do. Apologies for that.
Before anyone writes to castigate me about the small child seen with the beer, I should note here that I did not give the infant that beer, it was given to her by an elderly female relative and that mouthful was all she had. I certainly don't condone giving infant children alcohol. She seemed quite happy about drinking it and I suspect it was not the first time she had had a drop of beer. It wasn't for me to tell these people how to conduct themselves and I merely took the photo.
- Adventure Travel
- Budget Travel
This is the uniform for the students here.Luang prabang is the small town but i had noticed there are many school but highest in almost school there just only primary school about grade 6. And i also noticed it just only the boy can study in higher classes because they only teach in the temple and they have to be monks too.
But the great expectation of them is gratuate to become a guide tour.
" ..I got a top grade in my class..."
It was first sentence this little girl said to me in first time we met.
I met her at temple beside her school. So i asked her what is her favarite subject .She love to learn Franch language and then she had introduced herself by franch.( the student here have to learn FR is the second languge )
..wow i said and i thought it will be pity if she cant study in the higher.
I found it by chance and (what a pity!) too late.
In the middle of Sakkarine Road you can find a small shop of massages called "Lotus Massages". Here you can try:
- Feet massage, 3 USD
- Body massage, 6 USD
- Aromatherapy massage, 9 USD
I discovered it on my last night, and tried only the feet massage. You are sit on a "chaise longe" with your feet up. Then the massager sits in front and washes your feet: delicately, strongly, slowly, deeply. Then they wrap your feet in hot towels. Then they start with the right feet: palm oil, fingers massage, sticks massage, finger-by-finger massage... all that during 30-40 minutes! and then the same for the left foot!!
AND at the end you get a "quick" (more than 10 minutes) neck and shoulders massage... all this in a relaxed chill-out atmosphere... you go out of the shop floating!!!
I can't even imagine how the "aromatherapy" massage would be, but have the firm intention to go back and try it some day, LOL
- Luxury Travel
- Spa and Resort
Walk the Bamboo Bridge to Ban Xiengleck
Traversing the Kham River, on the southern side of the main town of Luang Prabang is this rickety old bamboo bridge - with posts weighed down with baskets of rocks! A small fee of 4000kip (.50c) is payable to tourists crossing, + an extra 2000kip if you have a bicycle, which is obviously largely for the purposes of either maintenance or a complete rebuild after the wet season.
We spent a few very leisurely hours wandering around over here through the village, the monasteries and along the dirt roads - very easy to feel completely transported from the increasingly busy Luang Prabang.
There was a lot of industry over there - including weavers and the lovely gardens along the river as you arrive across the bridge.
One feature of this visit was having a lengthy conversation with some young soccer playing monks - and leaving them with a great new stash of pens for their studies.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Visit the village.
Most visitors to Luang Prabang will visit the Pak Ou caves about 25 km upstream from the city and rightly so because they are a very famous sight hereabouts. The vast majority of these wll travel by boat because that is what the guide books tell them to do. A smaller proportion will go by jeep - minivan / tuktuk to the village of Ban Pak Ou (literally vilage at the mouth of the Ou (river)) where they will be hustled by the driver straight down to the riverside and onto the boat of whichever boatman they have an arrangement with.
I visited the place under my own steam, well, more precisely the steam of a clapped out Honda 100cc scooter which indeed looked as if it belonged in the age of steam! My tip would be this. Stop and have a look at the village. There are no incredible ancient wats (temples), not much on the way of places to eat or drink, although I recommend the little coffee shack at the parking place, and little of significance save the caves on the far bank. It is, however, a good glimpse of rural Lao life, for the most part untouched by tourism as they all tread the same path to the boats. I spent a lovely couple of hours here just wandering about, saying hello to the local people and, on one occasion, nearly exhausting myself in the afternon sun kicking a football with a couple of apparently inexhaustable youngsters.
Don't follow the herd, do yourself a favour and have a look round.
- Budget Travel
Stopping at little villages
Stopping at the villages that weren't on the tourist circuit - ie. brewing or weaving villages, which were really just wall to wall shops - proved to be a great part of the visit. We were usually greeted with a bevy cavorting naked boys (the girls tended to be much more modest) enjoying the water. Our driver took us up to his own village, and we left our purchases for the day in the boat - which was surrounded by children - safely there when we got back.
Our driver's house was a tin shed, which he said he built for US$1000 - loan from the bank. Very basic, but clean and clearly a source of much pride. We were given a drink which I though was possibly iced tea before tasting, but then realised that it was the colour of their water they had to drink. Politeness prevailed and I did survive!
- Budget Travel
Prison with a view
When we took our boat trip along the Mekong and surrounds from Luang Prabang, just happened to ask what this building was, and turned out its a prison. Not sure if its the ONLY prison in Laos, or just in this area. But, communication with our host was that this is where drug dealers and smugglers end up. Has a view, but a prison is a prison! This was only a few minutes away by boat from the town.
Mount Phousi from the Back Entrance!
The backdoor entrance to Phousi - as opposed to the usual route from Sisavangvong Road is via steps from Kingkitsalat Road - along the Khan River road. We found this quite by accident, and didn't know we were going to end up at Phousi! I am not recommending this as a shortcut back to Sisavangvong, unless you have serious mountain goat genetic links. Although its not straight up like the other side, it is, nontheless, just as hard work! Mind you, there are some interesting things to see enroute, and its a good alternative way down.
Experimenting in the Great Outdoors
White Elephant Adventures is a small nature sport company run by a Canadian man, Derek, and his Lao wife. The collection of other companies that bring you into the striking landscape outside of Luang Prabang offer fun and challenging activities, but White Elephant Adventures offers customized trips, allowing groups to get together and combine various activities into multiday outings.
I wandered into Derek's office in search of a basic waterfall visit with some kayaking or light trekking involved and he was in the process of getting a group together for an experimental outing including mountain biking, hiking, and rafting/kayaking. The focal point of the three-day, two-night tour, would be an overnight in an ethnic village that had only one previous contact with Western visitors, which had occurred only days before. I joined up and it turned out to be the most physically taxing outing I've ever undertaken and the most rewarding.
Please see my travelogue for more details.
- Budget Travel
It's called the jar makers village and it lies about 30 minutes from Luang Prabang. However, more than jars, people here produce the delicious Lao-Lao rice liqueur. The distillery is under the first hut on the right, at the entrance of the village.
here you can find a cluster of huts and wooden houses, and a brick one: the pharmacy - although I did not see much that it could sell. There's also a school: a floor, a roof, a few benches and no walls or desks. et the kids seemed very happy (and the teachers very bored)
Pak Ou caves
Pak Ou caves are two caves that are found inside the vertical limestone cliffs opposite Pak Ou village.
For a couple of thousand years they have been an important place of worship.
At the beginning people used to worship
the river spirit and gods, and when Buddhism spread into Laos they simply shifted god, filled the caves with buddha images and statues, and went on worshipping there. They are located across the river from Pak Ou village - or else about 25 km north of Luang Prabang
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