15 Jul - 25 Jul 2010 Louangphabang

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)
Spacious and clean double room (no. 201) with large private balcony for only LAK 80,000.- or US$ 9.75 per night. Cute and helpful staff.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Philaylack Villa in Louangphabang, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:

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Exploring the well-oiled tourist’s heaven and UNESCO World Heritage City of Louang Phabang, where the prices were generally two to three times higher and the (female) populace two to three times fatter than anywhere else in this country, which conjured up nostalgic daydreams of Laos: (i) a wonderful patchwork of restored traditional Lao houses, hints of European architecture (reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochina) and golden-roofed wats, decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha, and (ii) lines of saffron-robed boy-monks gliding under swaying palms through the morning mist (... any undesirable thought during the alms-giving ceremony about paedophilia and multi-level marketing was obligingly swept under the carpet; after all, this is the noble philosophy of Buddhism, the alternative and certainly most revered religion among many neurotic Westerners).

Climbing up Phou Si aka Sacred Hill (entrance: LAK 20,000.- per foreigner), the geographical and spiritual centre of Louang Phabang, and enjoying the stunning panorama of the city it crowns, the shimmering rivers (Mekong and Nam Khan) beyond and the jungle-clad mountains.

Ticking off one temple after the other (our favourites: Wat Pha Mahatthat, Wat That Louang, Wat Manolom, Wat Xiang Thong, Wat Visoun) during our morning/afternoon strolls through Louang Phabang and noticing interesting details: (i) a stairway flanked by some impressive and undulating seven-headed naga spewing from the mouths of snaggle-toothed makara at Wat Pha Mahatthat, (ii) comic-like interior murals with Chinese, Persian and European characters at Wat Pa Houak and (iii) an ornate boat shed housing the monastery’s two longboats, used in the annual boat race festival at Wat Saen.

Getting our muscles kneaded and our joints flexed during a Lao full-body massage (60 min for LAK 40,000.- or US$ 5.- per person) which owes more to Chinese than to Thai schools, utilizing medicated balms which are rubbed into the skin, and realising (Matt only) that a Lao foot massage (60 min for LAK 40,000.- or US$ 5.- per person) is a strictly below-the-knees affair (as opposed to a Thai foot massage).

Laundering for LAK 8,000.- or US$ 1.- per kg (washed and dried) at our friendly guest house.

Taking the government express bus (LAK 120,000.- or US$ 14.70 per person, including pick-up from our hotel) and rollercoastering for 15 hours through some of Laos’s most stunning scenery (including quite a few road-blocking landslides, caused by the onset of the monsoonal rains, which had to be removed by work gangs of villagers before our bus could move on) along the 400-km long mountainous old Royal Road aka Route 13 from Luang Phabang to the Khoua Louang bus station in Vientiane which looked more like a rambling collection of numerous villages, dotted with a few grandiose monuments, than the capital city of Laos.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Click below and see more Konni & Matt Pictures
Photos 2010-11 Northern Laos

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