Today we hired a couple of bikes from our hotel and took ourselves off for a leisurely bike ride around Luang Prabang and cycling about this town on a Sunday is both a very safe and a very relaxing way to spend a few hours. The roads in the town are not exactly deserted but the place is nice and quiet enough to get about.
After a bit of a ride along the main road away from our hotel we stopped at Wat Mahathat which was a really ornate place and it had a couple of long canoes outside. It had sets of doors which were silver and gold on a black background and it really looked amazing especially the intricate detail of the people pictured. It was here that we got talking to a couple from China who seemed very nice he was an English teacher and explained to us that if we enjoyed travelling and did not mind teaching our native language then there was plenty of work to be had in China as schools there are crying out for people teaching English, definitely food for thought.
After a short bike ride we reached our second Wat called Wat Manoram and this one was even more ornate and decorated being gold on red and on the outside of the walls various scenes were painted in blues and greens and such colours and it all looked really very striking. It also seemed to be guarded by what looked like terriers made of gold – strange protection for the place! In the ‘complex’ there was also a building that looked like a school as well, although being Sunday there were no pupils about there were one or two monks who we assumed were also the teachers that were milling about the place.
As we journeyed on through the town we had to keep stopping quite frequently for drinks of water as the day was not only hot but it was also unbelievably humid as well. I think that even had we just been stood standing still we still would have been dripping with sweat let alone travelling at our excessive speeds on the bikes! One place we did stop though was the Monument of President Souphanouvong and here we could admire the flowers round the monument but as there was no shade we did not dare stop too long.
Well we carried on for a good while and went across the bridge over the River Khan but we could find no road signs or such that meant anything to us let alone signs for any attractions so we had to turn around and head back. So we found ourselves back by the Mekong in the area where the restaurants and bars were, so there was only one cure for our hot and sweaty feelings and that was a drink of something cold. That decided we stopped at a very nice riverside cafe which overlooked the intersection where the River Khan meets the Mekong. Whilst sitting watching the surrounding hills, the two rivers and the rocks it occurred to us that we could see the rock that was one of the stars from the fables told at Garavek last night. The story was about a guy who dies of heartbreak after seeing the love of his life dead on the far bank of the river – romance, rivers, rocks the story had it all! Today’s visitors to the far bank were far more lively and far more monky as they were monks giving their smalls a washing in the river, at least that’s what it looked like from our vantage point anyhow. No idea how they do it but the colours of the clothes look so vibrant and yet the water of the river so murky – maybe it is murky from the dirt and colours of all the clothes washed down the length of the river – who knows! Anyhow we sat and drank cool fruit juices and even treat ourselves to a fruit salad – a very fruity affair indeed before we were cool enough to saddle up and ride off back into the town.
We zipped into town to buy some provisions and the bus tickets for tomorrow’s journey to our next location before setting off back to our hotel both of us dripping with something that resembled a mix of oil and sweat! We rested in our room for a while and then came back out to eat our best Laos meal yet, chicken wrapped in banana leaf, prawn spring rolls, Luang Prabang salad and a noodle soup which was all very very filling but all so very very delicious too. After we had eaten, on the way back for our last sleep in this lovely town we saw a young monk kneeling on the steps of his Wat under a light and reciting his prayers, it just summed the entire place up for me, beautiful simply beautiful. To this day there seems to be something magical and royal, a kind of aura if you will, about Luang Prabang and I am sure some of this place will stay with me.