Luang Prabang ~ Kuang Si Waterfalls

Charter a tuk-tuk or mini van to take you the 40 minutes to this paradisaical locale. First, we hike up the hill, and meet the bears, rather playful and seemingly happy. They are the Asian Bears, sometimes called Sun Bear or Moon Bear, depending on the color stripe on their chest. These guys were climbing and scratching and fun to watch, but that cold water was calling to my sweaty backpacked back.

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It’s not long before being greeted with the dream like waterfalls and miraculously colored blue water. I had seen no pictures of this before, so it was all a wonderful surprise.

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I dove right in…

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Quiet, cold water mixed with that soothing sound of flowing water created an atmosphere of cheek hurting smiles.

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After soaking for a while, I took a walk higher into the trees. I met a guy on the trail and we hiked talking about mutual interests such as The Mighty Ducks’ movies. The jungle trees were dense and old.

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Because of poor planning, I was only able to spend a much too brief half day here. I could have stayed longer. Such a pleasure even if it went too fast. It was like that 5$ truffle you buy at the mall, you only get one delicious bite, but it’s usually one to remember.

Buddha ~ Luang Prabang’s Ornate Temples

There are over 30 temples in the quaint UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang, Laos. Many are small courtyards, some are hidden from plain sight beyond trees or houses, others on distant hillsides, but most are within the city center. I took a walk on a dreary, rainy day and snapped some photos of the many seated Buddhas.

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I know lots of people find themselves on “temple overload” whereby they feel that: “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” As you can see, beyond the golden tint, and enlightened eyes, they don’t really look all that similar. Perhaps I just enjoy the search and the joy of finding a place with good energy. The only problem with Luang Prabang’s temples is that almost all of them cost money. I spent about 100,000kip (>12$US) going to all these temples.

Sunset peak is found on the local hill giving expansive vistas of the countryside.

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Luang Prabang ~ Muay Xai Restaurant

I actually have no idea what the name of this restaurant was, but it was something like that. It’s on one of the side streets. Among the myriad of bugs swarming the halogen lights, we dined on some more traditional Laos food.

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Simply titled: Rice noodles with Beef–balanced and not oily. (<3US$)

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Vegetable Stew: Full of dill, eggplant and green beans, not spicy and tender, but strange chicken pieces. (<5US$)

Luang Prabang ~ Tamarind

It’s a famous restaurant in town that prepares completely traditional food for reasonable prices. I stumbled accidentally, in a dazed post massage pleasure stroll, into this restaurant. They offer cooking classes and have a three page history of Laotian food at the back of the menu. I got a good vibe from the place.

First, I ordered the Beer tasting platter. It’s just a big Beerlao, but it comes with a plate of nibblins, Laos nibblins.

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Starting clockwise at the rice cake, under it was a sweet potato cracker, pumpkin seeds, dried ginger, dried mushroom, dried banana, sesame seaweed and salty peanuts in the middle. Perfect finger food with a cold beer.

The next dish was called “Five Bites.”

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Starting clockwise at the amazing Luang Prabang sausage, (and ignoring the sticky rice) lettuce wrapped around peanut paste and lemongrass, minced pork in dill and coriander, pickled cabbage, and water buffalo beef jerky. I couldn’t have picked a better lunch for my taste buds. Total satisfaction for under 10US$.

Recommended*

Vang Vieng ~ Ha Long Bay on Land: Full of Natural Beauty: and Tubing!

Deep amid Northwestern Laos, within the old growth forests and the Nam Song river, nestled in a valley of grandiose limestone hills, a tourist hot spot has arisen: Vang Vieng. It gained notoriety a few years ago when, within a 3 km tube session, it was possible to consume at a minimum, if you stopped at all 12 bars, all with free shots upon entry, you can see how an afternoon could just slip away. Not shots of that irascible tequila, or the maddening whiskey, or the swashbuckling rum, but the home made LaoLao. It’s a highly potent rice wine. Those shots were on top of any Beerlao that you consumed during the hours floating the river. Somehow, amid all the drunken buffoonery mixed with an unpredictable river, dozens of people managed to die every year. There were rope swings, zip lines, deck jumps, mushroom cocktails, uppers, downers, Fear and Loathing in Laos Vegas. But, that binging paradise couldn’t last, and now the memories exist only in the rotting, empty bars on the slopes of the river. Although the drug and liquor fueled haze can be seen in some of the tubing patrons’ eyes, the town seems to be moving into the realm of respectable town with the possibility to party. Outdoor activities abound and are sure to please. I had an amazing rock climb and a slow kayak ride (it’s the dry season). Food comes in a few varieties, fried meat, fried rice, fried noodles or Pad Thai. I ate some great Indian as well as a nice schnitzel with sauce, but it’s not made for the gourmand tourist.

The surroundings are surreal. Its setting is a miracle in green. The mountains are between 500-1500 meters high, and almost every morning you could expect to rise and see this make-out session of cloud and rock.

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This was the view from my 4th floor balcony.

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This was the view from my tiny hostel balcony.

There were a few temples and I had some fish-eye fun with the paintings.

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I got to do my first real rock-climbing up ancient limestone cliffs.

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Bob was working on prepositions and he approached me for help. I think he knows the difference of “in” and “on” now.

This place was way more than I expected. The landscape was so irrepressibly intriguing and benignly beautiful. The villagers apparently willing to tolerate our behavior for going shirtless and watching Friends and Family Guy all day. For some reason, a few bars have all ten seasons of Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Rachel’s hi-jinks and innuendos. It was such a comfort being so far away from anything familiar and having those 6 perfectly cast goofballs on the tube set ’em up and knock ’em down. “How you doin’?”

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Leaving on the bus, winding through the mountains, heading toward Luang Prabang, I found these misty mountains in a quiet drizzle.

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Vang Vieng ~ Breakfast

Vang Vieng ~ Breakfast

It’s a tourist town. The party people tube, the adventurers ride 4 wheelers, the vigorous go rock climbing, the hungover/lazy go to the chill bars and watch Friends re-runs. No matter who you are, this was your breakfast most days. There is a glut of street vendors advertising any combination of meat, cheese, avocado and egg; as well as sweeter treats like crepes and shakes. I tried to switch it up one day and had a muesli and yogurt. I was hungry within 20 minutes.

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Vang Vieng ~ Blue Lagoon

Vang Vieng ~ Blue Lagoon

It’s a tiny little swimming hole the color of watered down Powerade. Water cold and refreshing, with a rope swing and multi-level tree jumps, washes away trail dust. The cave in the cliffs above is accessible only by a steep, slippery, sloped stairway. A gold Buddha lays on a golden dais inside, among the dew dropped boulders of this former hideout for Laotian rebels. Beer and chips for sale. A wonderful setting amid a resplendent jungle town.

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