Around Luang Prabang

Roz, by some miracle as I felt as knackered as she did, turned up at 10:00 on the dot to go for a wander round the town with me. Out came the Lonely Planet, I flipped to the page with the recommended city walk and off we plodded. We stopped at the post office to send our postcard collections (postage is twice the cost of the card – ow) and then crossed the road to see the Wat Pha Mahathat.

There were no other tourists around so we felt a little conspicuous, but the area was so tranquil you couldn’t believe there was a major road so close by. Like every country in the area, their beliefs are very similar but their religious architecture slightly different. The buildings here are grand and – on the whole – well maintained and brightly painted. This one was no exception. I’m still not sure about the two monkeys in the wooden cage, though. That was a bit random.

We next turned the corner toward the “bustling Talat Dala”. It wasn’t exactly bustling. Actually, it was closed as the building housing it was being worked on. Ah well. We walked past and on to the Wisunarat and Aham Wats. Both were lovely to see and very different from one another. The latter has two enormous Banyan trees in the grounds which provided some welcome shade from the rapidly rising sun.

Next, we walked to one side of the Phu Si atop which is a stupa which can be seen glistening in the daylight or glowing in artificial light in the evening as it stands overlooking the city. The walk up isn’t too difficult and the temple area up there is well worth a visit. There’s a Buddha footprint, a cave, many carvings and a superb view down the valley and across the city. The upper section costs 20,000K to get up, though. Still, for a once-off experience it’s only a pound. The insect life up there is also abundant and worth taking a few photographs of.

Back at the bottom, we stopped for a pineapple shake then walked right to the end of the main street and onto the riverside. It was into early afternoon so we stopped for lunch as a nice little place with a lovely view (as if there’s any other kind of view around there) and nattered for an hour over a relaxed meal. No beer this time!

After completing our circuit of the main area, we did the internet thang and Roz slapped on some aftersun. Better late than never but red really isn’t her colour… at least not a deep, glowing, you could toast bread on it red especially when it’s radiating from her arms. Ow.

While I booked my Dubai flight, Roz sorted her bus ticket and we arranged a time for dinner. I’d also re-arranged a time with Aurelie so dashed off for a shower before she turned up.

Finally, we got the timings right and Aurelie and I sat down for dinner at the Indian next door to the bank. Her original claims that she’d wait till she met Laura later for food disappeared once she looked at the menu and we chowed our way through some delicious Indian fare.

Roz arrived an hour later and we walked round to Martin’s Bar where they were showing Flags Of Our Fathers. Roz ate, we drank and the film was enjoyed. One thing to note is that around the back area, beer is around 2000K (20%) a bottle more expensive than on the main street.

After the film, we headed for the Lao Lao bar where we met Laura. We also got a free shot of something far too sweet and inevitably called “Lao whisky” by the waiter when asked. Anything they serve in a shot glass is “Lao whisky”, no matter what colour it is, what it’s made from or how much you can drink before you go blind.

I also discovered another legal Laotian beer. Technically there are two – Beer Lao and the relatively new Beer Lao Dark. These are both pretty good and made by a government-run brewery with the monopoly on alcohol production. The third is Lao Bia and – apparently – legal as it’s a traditional brew made by a hill tribe from palm tree flowers. As it’s a “tradition”, the government can’t or won’t prevent it’s brewing and it does seem a small operation alongside the Beer Lao monster. Lao Bia is a deep red colour and rather sweet but pretty nice. It made a change anyway.

Partway through our evening, a loud buzzing was heard right above us and Laura jumped out of her skin. Above her, a very large gecko had caught a very large moth-like insect which was complaining very loudly. The gecko was definitely the largest I’ve seen outside of a cage or tank and had lovely rock-like skin. The little fella gathered quite a crowd of photographers before vanishing up the tree with his still-struggling prize.

From there we went to the Hive Bar where I managed to knock a tray out of a waiter’s hand (thankfully almost empty) and Roz ran out of Kip again.

Failing in my bid to talk the girls into going bowling (the alley is open until 4am, apparently) I once more walked Roz home and then headed back for my last night in my little room in Luang Prabang.

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