It was a very early start for us today as we wanted to see the Buddhist monks collecting alms but as they do this at the crack of dawn you have to follow suit or miss the ‘action’ as it were. I was really not sure what to make of this, the monks in their orange robes going round the watching crowds for foods, some people had brought rice others different kinds of foodstuffs and most, like us, were just watching the event. During it, some people were blessed but not all by any means and sometimes it seemed quite impersonal too which just left me with mixed feelings about it all. It was a rainy morning too so whilst we had our ponchos on – Liz’s was orange to match the monks – the monks were covered by their umbrellas.
The rain petered out and we snook off down one of the side streets to grab our morning ‘fix’ of noodley goodness on the World’s tiniest table, it was worth leaving a tip just in the hope that they could then afford bigger tables, back home I have seen bigger beer mats. The food set us up nicely for the short walk down the street and then the climb up Phu Si Hill to get to the top to see the golden building that we had seen lit up on our early start first thing this morning. I suppose everyone here sees the hill as it is the centrepiece of the town and at night the temple at the top is all lit up and golden.
The stairs up the hill were quite a climb but it was quite nice under the shade of the trees the earlier rains had been stopped now for a good while so it was looking like it was going to be a good day. A short ways up we came across little Wat Pahouak, the little place had some nice paintings which seemed to be in the process of being devoured by black mould. So on we continued and by the time we mounted the summit our little leggies were beginning to feel it but up here we had a good vantage point over the city. The views from here were good but the temple at the top was really nothing more than a small shrine so not as interesting as we had hoped, so after a couple of clicks on the camera we headed off back down.
Next, we wanted to go to the Royal Palace just across the way from the bottom of the hill but it turned out to be shut so instead we meandered off through more of the town on our way to Wat Xiang Thong. Luang Prabang has a really nice vibe about it, so it is an excellent place for a stroll. It stands at the crossroads of two rivers – our old friend The Mekong and another murky brown river, The Khan. The buildings have more character than you can shake a stick at and the pace of life there is a sedate one, well at least it was in this part of the old town, I could really get used to this. The Wat we were heading to lies on the left hand side of the Khan’s T junction with the Mekong and many of the buildings there are really old, the stroll seems to take you back to a former time when the place was the capital of Laos and had an altogether more regal bearing to it.
We soon enough though reached our destination and it was really excellent place to visit. The buildings there were really colourfully decorated and the place itself well maintained, someone was looking after the old place. It was one of those places that really chills you down after the long hot walk in the midday Sun. The gold patterns that adorned the buildings within the complex were really intricate and beautiful to look at. The roof of the Wat was an engineering marvel all of its own and although not huge was perfectly lined. The whole place exuded a charm and royalty that made you feel not quite at home but like the royalty there was somewhat accessible, if that makes any sense. As we wandered round the place we came across an old pooch looking somewhat sorry for itself, it had a circle of card round its neck, a device to keep the hound from nibbling away at some malady or other to its rear, it was funny in a not so funny way – poor pooch.
Although we were somewhat chilled out after our stroll round the Wat, the day itself had warmed up somewhat significantly so we needed a cold drink before we set off back to the Palace and its Museum again. So we sat by the river at a nice little restaurant and here we got ourselves a cooling banana drink whilst watching the river flow by.
Now feeling a bit more refreshed we ‘zipped off’ to the now open Royal Palace Museum, this was really nice particularly because there were not that many other people there. You cannot actually take photos on the inside there but it is still good to wander around and the outside was impressive enough. Once again here everything spoke of royalty and the locals visiting the place were being particularly respectful so we followed the line, which meant we spoke in whispers and peered at the exhibits keeping our hands firmly behind our backs and looking knowledgeable when possible!
After the Palace visit we were famished so needed to eat and eat something quick. So top tip for today – whilst there are loads of swankier restaurants in Luang Prabang, the small and often less expensive ones with the cheapest chairs and tiniest tables are the ones to get the best deals and often best food at. It was amazing the amount of good food you can get for pennies!
Now well fed and watered, we practically waddled our way back towards the hotel but on the walk we saw a museum-type thing called the TAEC – I think the letters were in this order but please do not hold me to it, it may actually have been another combination of the four letters! Now this was quite an interesting place and told us about the many different tribes that make up the population of the country. The bottom line seemed to be to me at least that the women here do everything. Not sure if I agree or disagree here with the sentiment as from what we have seen of the people in the fields there seems to be a greater proportion of men working here than any of the other countries we have been to where rice was being produced! Most of the exhibits though were interesting enough, it was just the short films, which were not actually that short, which we struggled to get on with but all in all it was a good pit stop before carrying on back ‘home’ to our hotel.
After a bit of a rest in our nice and comfy bed it was back out and like a man on a mission I went forth and purchased myself some ‘strides’. Pants that seriously put the loon back into pantaloons … lol. They were the kind of thing I would not have been seen dead in back home but here I was, a million miles from home so ‘when in Rome’! For all of my big spending, Liz could still not find a dress to buy, it was not that there was nothing to choose from, it was just that her shape or the dresses did not seem to see eye to eye and when they aligned – Eureka! – then it was the colour which was way off kilter – HELP!
By the end we were shopped out though, so to ensure that it had not just been mere luck the first time, we went for a bite at the cheap eatery we had stumbled across earlier in the day only to find all was good with the World and the food was still excellent and still very cheap – we could live like Kings folks!