Luang Prabang – Temples, monks and remote villages

Monks

Miya – Each country is certainly different…  We arrived in Laos with the assumption that there would be an ATM or money exchange place at Luang Prabang, after all, it is an international airport. Surprise! The ATM wasn’t working and the money exchange booth was closed due to a Boat Racing holiday.  So the immigration officer sent us and our passports with a taxi driver to the ATM in town to be able to pay for our entrance visas.  Then the taxi driver would release our passports and bring the money back to the immigration officer.  Funny right? That would never fly in the States…  Well, we loved our little, quaint bed and breakfast, which was in the center of town – a block from the river and a block from the main street full of restaurants.  We always manage to arrive in town during a holiday or festival and this time, it was the big Boat Racing day.  It was quite a festivity with Karaoke, music, games and crowds of people drinking beer, dressed in colored t-shirts cheering for their boat team of choice.  It was such a culture shock as I observed people eating meat off a stick and then literally spitting bits and pieces of the bad parts onto the ground as if it were nothing.  It was hard to spot a trash can!  But that aside, it was great to watch this local event hours after our arrival in town.  Luang was very manageable with everything in walking distance.  At night we hit up the fantastic and famous Night Market which was very clean, organized and filled with wonderful products from cute purses to paintings to rice paper lanterns.  It was the best market in Asia so far so I think we went 3 night in a row just to cover it all.  One of our day activities was a walk up the Phu Si mountain which led to amazing views of the city and had an incredible set of golden Buddhist statues nestled amongst the mountainside.  And as we made our way down the alternative path, Paulo and I stumbled upon a Buddhist Monastery.  You could hear the chanting of a large group of monks, all dressed in orange.  It was quite magical, as we were the only tourists around.  You could literally just wonder the streets of the town and see temple after temple.  Another day we got a little more adventurous and hiked with a guide amongst 3 hill tribe villages.  It was gorgeous, lots of rice fields and forest.  However at one point, we were walking through a trail that was BARELY a trail. I am talking spiky branches scraping my legs, mosquitoes circling my body, sweat dripping down my back and best of all, a big slip in the mud.  Oh well, I guess that was the price you pay to be able to reach these remote mountain villages.  After this intense 4 hour hike, we ended up at this vast waterfall with tons of natural swimming pools with emerald colored water.  Beautiful, the most refreshing water ever!  Upon our return to the tuk-tuk, we ran across 3 naked little local boys scaling the cliff and jumping off into the river.  It was really special to simply observe the life of the local Lao people.  They would sleep on mats (no beds), squat instead of sitting on the ground, take their shoes off before entering any home and carry incredible amounts of things on their motor bikes.  Paulo caught on camera a woman driving a moto with 9 huge bags of ice on her bike.  Impressive.  And every morning the monks would walk through the town collecting cooked sticky rice from the locals, part of their spiritual practice.  Luang Prabang was definitely a very special place!

*****

Paulo – Nossa próxima parada da trip foi em Laos, um país não muito conhecido da Ásia, mas que segundo alguns amigos que já tinham visitado, possui uma das populações mais receptivas e felizes do mundo. Começamos em Luang Prabang, uma cidadezinha bem turística e muito interessante, com vários templos budistas e monastérios espalhados pelas ruas. No dia em que chegamos era um feriado, no qual vilarejos locais se enfrentavam em uma corrida de barcos pelo rio principal que corta a city. Chegando no aeroporto, tínhamos que pagar uma taxa de entrada no país e eles só aceitavam dólar. Como a gente só tinha cartão, cheque de viagem e Libras, eles me deixaram sair da área da imigração para tirar dinheiro no caixa eletrônico. Como não deu certo, tentei trocar as Libras, mas a casa de cambio tava fechada devido ao tal feriado… Solução roots: O oficial de imigração nos acompanhou até um táxi, entregou os nossos passaportes para ele e falou para ele levar a gente até um caixa eletrônico e só nos liberar quando pagássemos a taxa… Demos risada e no final tudo deu certo – pagamos o cara, pegamos o visto e seguimos p/ nosso hotel! Logo em seguida, fomos assistir a corrida de barcos enquanto as ruas estavam lotadas com todo mundo bebendo, dançando e é claro de olho no rio. Nos próximos dias visitamos templos, experimentamos comidas tipicas e assistimos  os monges passarem pelas ruas da cidade de manhã bem cedo, recebendo arroz da população local, um ritual muito antigo, espiritual e tradicional por lá. Também tivemos a oportunidade de fazer um hiking até uma aldeia bem afastada da cidade, onde os nativos vivem em condições bem simples e longe, mas muito longe do estilo moderno de vida que a gente conhece. As crianças olhavam p/ gente com muita curiosidade enquanto a Miya brincava com eles, filmava e depois mostrava as imagens. Foi muito bom ter a oportunidade de interagir com os locais e passar em lugares que poucos turistas vão… Acho que a CVC não vende pacotes p/ lá. Hehehe À noite, a gente dava uma passada no Night Market, uma espécie de feira de artesanatos que fecha a rua principal da cidade. Foi difícil segurar a Miya que virou cliente regular durante as 3 noites que ficamos lá… No final das contas foi só alegria: Curtimos bastante natureza, absorvemos um pouco da espiritualidade do lugar e tivemos mais um grande aprendizado de como existem vários mundos diferentes dentro do nosso planeta. Acredite se quiser…

Boats

Boat Racing Day – Big holiday on our first day in the country

Temples

The city was filled with temples, monks and Buddha statues

Cave

An amazing cave on the middle of Phu Si mountain

Adventure

Getting to the tribe villages was half of the fun… Or not

Kids

Kids don’t need PlayStations to have fun

Visiting the villages was quite a learning experience

Boy and river

Two images of the same river

Waterfall

We had a great time in this waterfall after a huge hike

Night market

The night market – where major bargaining occurs

~ by The Local Way on September 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “Luang Prabang – Temples, monks and remote villages”

  1. Salve! Muito bom! Mr. Nights and Ms. Auau. Forte abraço daqui do Brasil da família Trematerra.

  2. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that
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