Laos 2011 – Labour Day

The late Easter holiday meant we had back to back three day weekends as Labour Day is May 1st. Therefore, since we had a day off of work that meant we HAD to travel, as in it was absolutely necessary.  We were not about to let a 3 day weekend happen and not use it as an excuse to travel.

So this time we were off to the city of Luang Prabang in Laos, a new country for both Carrie and I and a very unique experience relaxing in a land largely forgotten by the outside developed world.

We transferred through Bangkok to get to Laos (we had to actually go through immigration so add that stamp to our passports) as Laos is one of the few places that does not have a direct flight from Singapore due to the size of the airports there and in some ways this is a good thing. We spent the long weekend really enjoying the laid back atmosphere of Luang Prabang and it felt like Luang Prabang was almost tourist free compared to so many other major cities in Southeast Asia, which is amazing considering Luang Prabang is one of the two major cities to visit.

We thoroughly enjoyed the following things during our trip:

The slow boat up the Mekong River. Seeing the life along the river with the fisherman, cattle, farmers, and small villages was fascinating. The river really facilitates everything from eating, washing, and playing as well as commerce. It was captivating to be on a small, slow boat up the river.

Pak Ou Caves – the boat ride up there was the highlight above, but the caves were a really unique place. It was a pleasure to see a Buddhist pilgrimage site that was simple, unique (both the setting and decoration), and had so much historic character.

Waking up very early to give alms (Tak Bak in Laotian), where people give food to the monks so that the monks can eat for the day. It was a touching ceremony to see despite the rainy weather for two of the morning we were there. The residents of the town devoutly got up and prepared food and then kneeled down to pass food to the monks as they passed. It was over almost as quickly as it started, but it was a great way to start the day. The colors, the sounds, and the peacefulness of the ceremony blended in perfectly with the dawn of the morning. Even the mistiness of the rain added to the feeling of awe as we witnessed something something so pure and solemn, magical even.

All the Buddhist temples – they were all unique and all with a different charm. Some had exquisite carvings and intricate metalwork, others were simple but historic forms of lotus flowers, and most had numerous Buddha statues and monks roving around the grounds. It was magic to experience them during different times of day from early morning to late evening and to see them really being used and not just for tourists.

The breakfast at our hotel, Lotus Villa, was superb. Actually the entire place was nice but the highlight was the breakfast (warning the menu is confusing and it almost got Carrie to order everything on the menu the first morning).

The food in general which was a unique mix of cultures from French to Thai to uniquely Laotian food. It was refreshing food with fresh ingredients and simple flavors. I also really like the Beer Lao.

The night market – now I am not much of a shopper (mild understatement) but the wares were very unique, obviously hand made, and the merchants were not pushy (unlike other places in Asia), and like everything in Luang Prabang it was not overly rushed and ended early enough for us to enjoy a few beers at restaurant and still wake up early to see the Tak Bak.

Crossing the bamboo bridge was really fun. The experience of walking across a large river on just bamboo was exhilarating and the bar/restaurant on the other side called Dyen Sabai was magical with the setting in bamboo and platforms that were perfect for relaxing in the shade to avoid the afternoon heat.

The photos below are a large collection of our three days there with some insights into a truly magical weekend.

Our Boat on the Mekong
Fisherman on the Mekong
Playing in the Mekong
The view of the stairs to Pak Ou Caves
Inside Pak Ou Caves
Inside Pak Ou Caves
Inside Pak Ou Caves
Inside Pak Ou Caves
Whiskey at the Whiskey Village (otice the snakes inside)
Beer Lao and Fresh Spring Rolls on the Bank of the Mekong
Local Fruit Stand
One of the many Buddhist Temples
Inside the Temple
Inside one of the temples
Inside one of the temples
Tak Bak in the rain
Carrie getting ready to cross the Bamboo Bridge
Dyen Sabai on the otherside of the bridge
Handmade Mulberry Paper Lanterns (a locally made product)
Monks walking in Town
Laundry Day
Motorcycle Riding with an Umbrella – one way to avoid the sun
Plane on the Road
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