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Temples, Waterfalls and New Friends in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is on a peninsula at the convergence of the Khan and Mekong rivers and is full of heavily decorated temples and orange-robed monks and golden Buddhas.  The days were sunny and warm and the evenings were cool and quiet (most of Laos has a midnight curfew which enforced to varying degrees).

LPB riverbend

Golden animal statue in the evening

man napping at a wat

Yellow chedis

Monk laundry

Golden nagas

Sunset from Phousi

Sunset from Phousa

Wat Siphoudthabat

Wat Siphoudthabat

Cow hide stretching for drums

Buddha at Phousi

Buddhas at Wat Xieng Thong

Handmade stencils at Wat Xieng Thong

gold stencil mandala

Lotus at Wat Xieng Thong

Buddha inside Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong door

hungry guy

old chedi

LPB street

Night market

Moped ferry

Big red ants

One afternoon at our guesthouse, three ladies who owned shops in the neighborhood showed up with shot glasses, dice and bowls. The shot glasses weren’t for drinking; they were for rolling the dice to play Ludo, which we later learned is a Vietnamese game similar to Parcheesi. We observed for a few games and tried to figure out the rules. They played fast and groaned and smiled at each others’ luck and misfortune.

Ludo ladies

Ludo board

Ludo from above

Alicia asked to join and did her best to not slow down the game. She was no match for the pros and in the end the ladies took her for about 30,000 kip ($3.75). You don’t need a common language to laugh and enjoy an afternoon together. (Watch a clip from the Ludo game here.)

Ludo payout

We also got to hang out more with Kevin and our boat buddies from our Mekong trip. We were spread all over town in various guesthouses, but got together for dinner a few evenings and negotiated with two tuk-tuk drivers to take us to a local waterfall for one afternoon.

Boat buddies out to dinner

Josh and Ashley

The Kuang Si falls are the prettiest we’ve ever seen. And we have seen. a lot. of waterfalls. this. year. We jumped off the lower falls into the ice cold water.

Kuang Si swimming hole

Lacey jumping off waterfall

waterfall jump

Trail at Kuang Si

small waterfall

Travertines

Wait, we haven’t even shown you the prettiest part yet.

Kuang Si waterfall

Kuang Si waterfall

Kuang Si vertical

Christmas was approaching, and we noticed a few decorations around Luang Prabang, but it just felt odd amidst palm trees and golden temples and jungle waterfalls. Our guesthouse put up a tree next to the household altar a few days before Christmas, and on the 24th and 25th day, a few people wore Santa hats around town. We went to our favorite “noodle lady shop” for Christmas breakfast and had a nice quiet day together.

Jaliya Christmas tree

Christmas noodles

Santa hat

Christmas was actually our second-to-last day in Laos, but we had a few more adventures before then…

Related Videos:
Northern Thailand and Laos (in December)
Ludo in Luang Prabang

14
Jan 2013
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Laos

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Motorbiking in Mae Hong Son Province

A man and his dog

North of Chiang Mai, there is a town called Pai. Apparently the journey to Pai used to take seven days by elephant before the road was built through the mountains a few decades ago. Now it takes three hours by minibus and either a strong stomach or motion sickness pills.

Pai walking street

Pai is full of backpackers and Thai tourists, rickety bungalows and boutiques and street stalls full of quirky, self-congratulatory souvenirs that proclaim the number of curves in the road one has endured to get there (762). There are unique caricature artists, and even some guy who runs around in full Jack Sparrow costume and sells postcards of himself. Not exactly a quiet place to escape to, but it’s an easy area to enjoy life.

Alicia and Satiya

Satiya's caricature of us

Little kitty at our bungalow

bungalows

tea vendors in Pai

Pai is also in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Mae Hong Son Province, which is considered one of the very best places in the world to motorcycle. A 125cc moped isn’t exactly a motorcycle, but you can rent them in Pai for less than $5 per day, so we decided to go for it. For several days, Tony drove us all over the valley, through villages, to the waterfalls, and down the rough gravel road up to the “secret” hot springs that is still in use as a village bath.

helmets

Pai Canyon

Sketchy bridge

Pam Bok waterfall

Harvested rice field near Pam Bok waterfall

Rapeseed field

Harvested rice field near Pai

Tony sliding down Mor Paeng waterfall

secret hot springs

Alicia at secret hot springs

On our last full day in Thailand, we decided to head about 40 km north to see Tham Lod, a large cave hear the Myanmar (Burma) border. We got a late start and the road wound tightly up and down the mountains. By the time we got to our destination, we realized we needed to turn right around if we wanted to make it back to Pai before dark. Then we passed a sign for Cave Lodge, which we remembered had been highly recommended to us by Kevin. We decided that the best thing to do would be to stay and see Tham Lod, spend the night at Cave Lodge, and then go back first thing in the morning.

Cave Lodge parking lot

Cave Lodge hammock

We hiked out to where the river exits Tham Lod, and got there just in time to watch thousands of swifts making their nightly return to cave at dusk.

Tham Lod

Swifts entering Tham Lod

This was the first time all year that our headlamps were really necessary, because we walked the trail back to Cave Lodge in the dark. We noticed what looked to be glittering dew all over the ground, but upon closer inspection, it was our lights reflecting in the eyeballs of every spider in the jungle. Jungles have lots of spiders.

spider in a cave

We were disappointed that we hadn’t carved out more time to spend up here, but were really thankful for our short taste of a pretty amazing place.

We woke up early the next morning and realized that while our decision to spend the night had given us the safety of traveling in daylight, we had sacrificed the heat of the day for it. Tony was wearing only a light shirt and shorts and it was a gray and damp morning and there was a mountain between us and the rising sun. But soon we were rewarded by amazing views of the mists in the valley below.

First view of the mists from above

hairpin curve in the road

Lone tree

tree - looking east

Lisu girl silhouette

By the time we made it to the top of the mountain we were nearly frozen solid and sprung for hot cups of instant noodles from the tourist concession stand. Some Lisu girls, who hang out at the scenic overlook to pose for photos in exchange for tips, were also eating their breakfast before they began their day.

Tony and the Lisu girls

slurp

The soup warmed us enough to continue and most of the rest of the way to Pai was in sunlight.

Burma is somewhere over there

Tony at the top of the mountain

reflection

We had to return the moped and leave for Laos that evening, but we’ll be looking for excuses to ride again soon.

28
Dec 2012
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Thailand

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