Friday, April 17, 2009
Alex and I tried very hard to catch the local bus to Louang Phabang, but they wouldn't let two white girls buy tickets - instead we ended up with a bunch of tourists on the VIP bus ... I was actually supposed to sit in the aile, because their was no seats left when we got to the bus station ... but I got lucky and snatched one anyways : )
Once we arrived, the Canadian from the day before and a girl from Hong Kong, joined us and we negotiated a group discount at a lovely hotel downtown.
Loung Phabang is surrounded by lofty, green mountains and cut by the swift Mekong river. A tiny mountain kingdom for more than a thousand years and designated World Heritage site sine 95, with many red- roofed temples and French-Indochina architecture. So far one of my favorite town in South East Asia - also because of my visit to Wat Xiang Thong - the most historic and enchanting Buddist monastery in the all of Laos!
Monkhood (not sure if this a word) is much different over here than in the west. Many young monks "serve" only for a few years, mostly because it will provide them with free education - maybe similar to our military service. The novice monks in Xiang Thong (mostly teenagers) were the most unusual that I have encountered yet. Many of them smoking cigarettes, listing to i-pods (Madonna, Bush, Everlast ...) and inviting foreigners to play a hugh drum with them ... really amazing actually. I was captivated for a good hour before I explored the rest of the city.
Originally I planned on booking a flight from here to Hanoi, because the two boarder crossings I considered taking, were not "advisable" for tourist.
There was another one I had heard about, far north which open up in 2007, but my 2005 guidebook didn't have any details ...
Somehow Alex and I decided to just continue our travels north, and I left Loung Phabang without booking a flight ...(we also didn't end up going to the waterfalls close by, everybody raved about). The morning we left for Nong Khiaw I got up early (5am) to see the local women supply the monks with food. Beautiful to see hundred of orange ropes in a row, passing by kneeing women, handing out food to them ...