Thursday, August 11, 2011

Forgotten land

Since my first blog post during this vacation got wiped out, I'm going to make this time an exception and write all over again.

But first, lets talk Luang Prabang. We reached here yesterday- ~11th day of our break. We took a flight from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang, via Pakse. These were the most expensive flights we had throughout this trip at $200 per person one way. And that for two days in the city. It wasn't meant to be two days but there's only one decently priced flight out of here to Bangkok and that's early morning on day 3, which sort of makes this an expensive and very short stop. And that is the only part about this hop that isn't lovely.

Luang Prabang isn't the capital of Laos. It used to be the Royal Capital, but given the location, terrain and size, Vientiane was made the National Capital. Luang Prabang with its sleepiness, monks, temples and French vestiges, acquired the status of a World Heritage Site. Its mountainous on the sides and in the middle, and has two rivers, one on either side. The larger of the two, Mekong characterizes the city with its muddy brown but calmly flowing waters. On the other side, the Nam Kham is much smaller, and has a few old bamboo bridges on it.

We're staying at a colonial hotel, which has extended since before 1925. Its on the embarkment of the Mekong and offers a stunning view of the waters. As we enter, there's a small living room with the bathroom sink in it, and separate enclosures for the shower and the toilet. In the living room, we have a single settee, facing a large glass window from where I stare out at the river as I type this post. There's an internal staircase leading up to the attic where there's a big bed for the husband and me to cozy up. I'll leave a pic here.

This is undoubtedly one of the most incredible places I've visited. It re-affirms my love for South East Asia and more broadly, the 3rd world. These countries are very poor. Even the pockets of wealth and advancement you see in India, re starkly missing here. There's humility in the people and calm on the streets. The visitors here are mostly from Europe, some of Asia and Australia. The place is too far for Americans and not glamourous enough for most Indians.

Last evening, when we reached, we changed and promptly stepped out to see the place. We visited quiet cafes and quaint restaurants. There was a vibrant night market with local crafts and preparations. We dined at a French-Lao restaurant, with the much awaited Beer-Lao. The ease in the air reminds me of how I had imagined easy going to be but never saw a city which really fit the imagined view. This town does. A beautiful French woman lay back on the couch, with the Beer Lao in one hand and half a cigarette in the other, having sober but light conversation with her friend. Two Asian women, in long maxis with their hair loosely tied up in buns enjoying their French fare with a bottle of wine. Peepu and me sharing a Lao Curry and Pork salad over Beer Lao, talking about Monks and our love for the 3rd world. That was the ease.

We got back and had some Single Malt as well. And then we slept. This morning, we ate the hotel's complimentary breakfast, by the river. A simple and small ham and cheese sandwich with papaya.

We have two days here, but we haven't planned those out. Much like the rest of our honeymoon, we will probably walk a lot, trek a bit, taste local food, get wet in the rain (since it rains every goddamn day) and then just be merry!

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