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:

Exploring the well-oiled tourist heaven and UNESCO World Heritage City of Louang Phabang where the prices were generally two to three times higher and the female populace was two to three times fatter than anywhere else in this lovely country, a town which conjures 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 temples aka wats, decorated with mosaics and murals about the life of Buddha, and (ii) lines of saffron-robed boy-monks trudging under swaying palms through the morning mist (... any undesirable thoughts during the alms-giving ceremony about paedophilia and multi-level marketing were obligingly swept under the carpet; after all, this is the noble philosophy of Buddhism, the most revered alternative religion among many neurotic Westerners).

Climbing up the Sacred Hill aka Phou Si (entrance: LAK 20,000.- per foreigner), the geographical and spiritual centre of Louang Phabang, and enjoying stunning views of (i) the bustling city, which it crowns, and (ii) the shimmering rivers (Mekong and Nam Khan), against the backdrop of 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, utilising 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 our dirty linen for LAK 8,000.- or US$ 1.- per kg, washed and dried, in 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 Vientiane's Khoua Louang bus station, giving Vang Vieng a wide berth, thus arriving slightly jarred at Vientiane which looked more like a rambling collection of numerous villages, dotted with a few grandiose monuments, than the capital city of Laos.

2010 Map Konni & Matt

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