Oct 26 2007

Luang Prabang, festival of lights

Published by at 10:53 pm under Scott's Adventures,Uncategorized

The weather’s beautiful, and we decide that it’s a perfect day for a trip up the Mekong. We rent a boat to take us up the river to see the Pak Ou caves. The river is quiet and calm, and we motor up it and watch life along the banks. There are lots of pretty huts (and the occasional mega-mansion) scattered between the trees, but It’s sad to see that with modernization has come with the curse of the plastic bag, and they litter the banks hanging off the bamboo stalks and sticking in the reeds.

Our trip includes a stop at the whiskey town (where they make some local firewater that tastes more like port than whiskey), and we take some time to explore a bit and stretch our legs. I’m reminded of the country towns in the Philippines, the only real difference being the silk scarves on sale here.

We travel a bit further up the river and reach the caves. The entrance is spectacular, and filled with hundreds of little Buddha figurines. We decide to hike to the upper caves, every few feet passing a small saucer-eyed child trying to sell us a small caged swallow (I wonder who the swallow racketeer is behind it all). The upper caves are deeper, but not nearly as awe inspiring as the lower ones. Back down the path, we see a French couple buying the first swallow they’re offered and releasing it – little do they know what lies ahead; I wonder if they’re homing swallows.

By the time we get back down the river, the town is buzzing in anticipation of the festival of lights. We’ve really lucked out with the timing of a second festival, and the firecrackers and candle lanterns are everywhere. We find a nice table overlooking the river just after sunset, and watch in awe as the river slowly fills with tens of thousands of floating lights. The most popular vessel is a small disc covered in flowers, incense and candles, but there are larger makeshift bamboo boats almost ablaze with their carriage of candles, and a few local riverboats decked out in Christmas tree lights. Fireworks pop and sparkle (and even starts a small fire in the jungle next to our table that our waiter deftly leaps over the railing to stomp out) and everyone is smiling and having a wonderful time.

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