Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

//Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

After the Mekong river boat trip, I landed in a small city called Luang Prabang (LPB). I was enchanted. Not only did LPB sport some lovely colonial architecture courtesy of French imperialism, but also good coffee and omg … pastry! And chocolate! After a month of rice, noodles and vegetables, these small additions to my diet really put a smile on my face (and a few pounds on my body, too, but what the hell…)

Luang Prabang turned out to be one of my most favorite cities ever. It’s small enough to bike around easily and large enough to keep delightful surprises coming all day and night. Its great food is cheap and its temples profoundly beautiful and sacred. There are 2000 monks living here, and the people come out to feed them alms every day at dawn, lining up with offerings of rice, fruit, vegetables and flowers. Several times I sat silently behind young monks as they chanted Buddhist mantras in a spectacular wat (temple) at sunset. They also do this daily at about 4 or 5 am, giving the whole city sweet, peaceful vibration.

The night market here is the best I’ve seen. Row upon row of gorgeous handmade textiles, wooden sculptures, paper lanterns and golden paintings impressed me with their quality.  The sheer amount of stuff became overwhelming to me. I felt compassion for the women selling night after night in their stalls, nursing their babies and softly yet shrewdly making the best deals they could with tourists from all over the world. They have to set up their stalls every day and then take them down each night. It must be exhausting and I hope that families have a system to share the work.

Most Lao people are not financially wealthy, but they are rich in culture. The photos posted here will give you only a small fraction of the beauty and wisdom that emanates from Luang Prabang, their cultural center.

I have included here a few photos of the small village of Non Khiaw, where I hiked, biked and got a little sick, too. (I think I drank some unclean water. The runs passed after a couple of days.) I needed a break from LPB when masses of Chinese visitors arrived to celebrate their new year. In Non Khiaw I found my very best deal in lodging: a bamboo bungalow for $6 US per night. Food was fabulous in Lao, where you can eat a great meal for $2.50. The impressive mountains, curving green rivers, and smiles of the local folk really lifted my spirits.

This is the stupa atop sacred Mount Phusi, which over looks Luang Prabang.

One of the cultural centers where art, ritual and handcrafts are taught to preserve Lao culture.

One of the cultural centers where art, ritual and handcrafts are taught to young people to preserve Lao culture. The attention to detail, devotion to Buddhist principles, color and artistry are phenomenal in the many wats (temples) in the city.

Detail of the mosaic at Wat Xiengtong, a temple dating back to 1560.

Detail of the mosaic at Wat Xiengtong, a temple dating back to 1559. This portion is a rare example of Lanna artwork specific to this region.

Tree of Life, Wat Xiengtong

Tree of Life, Wat Xiengtong

LPB Night Market buffet, $2. The scene was noisy, crowded, international and exciting. I loved it. Great food!

LPB Night Market buffet, $2. The scene was noisy, crowded, international and exciting. I loved it. Great food!

The party hardy attitude on a T shirt. Kinds says it all...

The party hardy attitude on a T shirt. Kinds says it all…

One of my favorite trees at sunset, Mekong river bank in Luang Prabang

One of my favorite trees at sunset, on the Mekong river bank in Luang Prabang. Look closely to see the crescent moon.

Young monks were chanting at sunset at a beautiful temple. I sat in the back, on the women's side, and listened rapturously for a long time. The sound of young men chanting about compassion and the glories of the Buddha is something this world needs a lot more of. It moved me deeply.

Young monks were chanting at sunset at a beautiful temple. I sat in the back, on the women’s side, and listened rapturously for a long time. The sound of young men chanting about compassion and the glories of the Buddha is something this world needs a lot more of. It moved me deeply.

Traditional Lao dancer. Her hands were so fluid and graceful. She had a very peaceful, shy yet committed air about her, as many Lao women do.

Traditional Lao dancer. Her hands were so fluid and graceful. She had a very peaceful, shy yet committed air about her, as many Lao women do.

2016-02-06 16.29.00Kaung Si waterfalls – gorgeous!

Moon Bear sanctuary

This is a moon bear, who is now thankfully at home at a bear sanctuary. She was rescued from cruel poachers who were milking her bile for the Asian market.

The following photos are from Non Khiaw, a small town about 3 hours by bus from Luang Prabang through the mountains:

Beautiful Non Khiaw

Beautiful Non Khiaw

Cute little kids playing at my guesthouse. Their posse was everywhere, cruising around the whole neighborhood.

Cute little kids playing at my guesthouse. Their posse was everywhere, cruising around the whole neighborhood.

Nam Ou river valley from the lookout.

Nam Ou river valley from the lookout.

Mountains in the mist, Non Khiaw, Lao

Mountains in the mist, Non Khiaw, Lao

This bamboo home may be humble, but it's got a satellite dish!

This bamboo home may be humble, but it’s got a satellite dish!

 

 

 

By | 2016-03-26T05:02:37+00:00 March 6th, 2016|Uncategorized|5 Comments

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5 Comments

  1. diana hersh March 6, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Sounds like you really have your traveling feet on! Love seeing your pictures and hearing your beautiful thoughts Ana! I love you dear person.

  2. Rebecca March 7, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Ana, how wonderful to see through your eyes and read of your travels! I am thrilled for you 🙂 I miss you! I am so happy you are having such a wonderful adventure. What a girl scout indeed! Smart with the silk sleeping bag and down pillow.

  3. diana hersh March 10, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Thinking of you Ana! When do you head to Mexico? sending a ton of love to you…

  4. Bayla March 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    wonderful account and photos! Thank you dear Ana. xoxoxo

  5. Kate March 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Ana, I have finally caught up with your journey, so amazing and heartfull. I felt the same way about Luang Probang, I’m happy to know that it hasn’t changed too much and still weaves it’s magic. Quite an adventure you are having, both inwardly and out in the world. Safe travels and I look forward to connecting when you get back home. Thanks for sharing so beautifully. Love and hugs- Kate

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