Loitering in Laos

Back in August, I briefly visited the capital city, Vientiane. This trip, I stayed in and around the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang. It is located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers.

Every year bamboo bridges are built over the Nam Khan, only to be removed during rainy season. The Mekong is most commonly crossed by boat.

North of town, near the mouth of the Ou River are Tham Ting and Theung, better known as Pak Ou Caves. Overlooking the Mekong, the caves are one of the most respected holy sites in Laos. A boat is required to reach the entrance.

Every April, the naga vessel is used in the washing ceremony. Inside the caves are thousands of Buddha statues.

On the way back to town, I was able to enjoy a little lao-Lao at Ban Xang Hai. The village is very touristy but the whisky making demonstration was interesting and the tasting was worth the stop. I was relieved that the samples did not come from bottles containing critters, although there were many for sale. Cobra with scorpion seemed to be the popular blend. Later that evening, I went with iconic aw lahm with sakhan, or chili wood, for dinner. The meat was buffalo and it was one of the best meals I had in Laos.

Riding the ferry across the Mekong was like an adventure in time travel. Most homes did not have electricity, plumbing, or gas appliances.

Cooking was done on wood or propane cook stoves. I was offered a sample of the delicacy du jour… honeybee larvae.

Other less exotic samplings included kaipen and khao lam. Kaipen is also advertised as Mekong seaweed or river weed, which is… green algae. It was seasoned with sesame seeds and tomato. Khao lam is rice steamed in bamboo then grilled. Being fresh off the grill, I had to wait for mine to cool down before I could eat it.

Hmong Tribe Village

Many hours later, with no remaining memory of the khao lam, I was both relieved and excited to reach the top of the mountain and the Hmong village where I’d spend the night.

I followed the locals to find the showers.

Dinner was prepared by headlamp in the kitchen and mosquito netting was hung in the bedrooms.

Kids

This trio followed me about until someone climbed a giant tamarind tree and started shaking the pods loose. Once it started raining fruit, I was of little interest to them.

Hog Heaven

While the kids collected treats, I found other entertaining company.

By chance, I discovered the shaman performing a cleansing ritual for one of the families and was permitted to enter the home and observe. A rather unique experience but quite a lengthy one. I stayed for about 20 minutes but the shaman carried on for hours.

The return hike down the mountain and over the neighboring one was ridiculously long but there were many new moms to see along the way.

Back in Luang Prabang, I sought out other sources of amusement. Well, the bear was actually at Kuang Si.

Kuangsi Waterfalls

Kuang Si Falls is a stunning multi-tiered waterfall.

Kuangsi Waterfall Top

My pictures do it no justice… the cool clear water was a refreshing break from the Laos heat.

Sunsets

A trip to Luang Prabang would not be complete without a walk up the 300+ steps to the top of Mount Phousi for a look at the wat and a sunset view of the Mekong.

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