Oct 25 2007

Laos, Luang Prabang

Published by at 9:53 pm under Scott's Adventures,Uncategorized

We’re off again before dawn to catch our boat to Phenom Peng. I doze awhile, waking occasionally to admire the crooked Cat-in-the-Hat straw stilt huts in the lake. I can’t imagine how these survive a typhoon.

In town, we’re immediately accosted by about 10 touts trying to get us in their taxi – there so aggressive that Janise, usually unflappably cheerful, loses her cool and tells them to “back off!” It’s just as well we’re headed straight for the airport, P.P. hasn’t made a good first impression.

The flight to Luang Prabang is short and sweet, and as soon as we land, we feel the difference in the atmosphere. Laos is very laid back, quiet and friendly. We find a simple and clean guesthouse right by the Mekong River, and immediately fall in love with the town. The hotelier suggests we head up the river for the annual boat races, and as soon as we’re showered, a van and driver are waiting for us.

The boat races are packed. When the traffic finally grinds to a halt, we strike out for a 20 min walk to the action. People are here from all the surrounding villages, many in their town’s team colors, and all chomping on some kind of green weed (the seeds actually) that we can’t discover the name of, but tastes a bit like peanuts. The races down at the river themselves appear much less popular than the party by the road; I can only guess that the locals only show up to cheer for their colors, and then head back up to where the party is. We find a prime spot right by the finish line and cheer as two boats filled with about 15 paddlers each finish the 1km run only inches apart. Eventually we, and the few other clueless tourists around us are politely asked to move aside as we’re blocking the VIP box (what!?…) and we watch a few more races from a slightly less glamorous spot a little way up the river. Most races are fierce, and very close.

Having our fill of the river, Janise and I head back up to the street, and grab a beer and enjoy the party. I’m especially impressed with the dance floor: every few minutes, a new signer appears, and as soon as the music starts, people jump up from their tables and crowd onto the raised dance floor, swaying politely to the music; then, as soon as the song ends, they quickly scatter off the dance floor back to their beer and “peanuts.”

We start talking with a nice young girl from Germany who’s been in the Laos/Thai/Cambodia area for months, and I’m amazed that despite her time in country, she doesn’t have much more of a clue what’s going on than us (including not knowing what everyone’s eating, but happily shares some with us). She loves the area though, and appears ready to stay until the money runs out. We finish our beer and have a try bouncing on the bamboo dance floor.
Back in town, we wander down the main street near the hotel. I can see why this town is on the World Heritage list with monks wandering between the temples and lots of old French colonial buildings nestled between the local domiciles. It appears to be developing rapidly though, and I wonder if the charm will survive the tourists.

No responses yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.