|I haven’t really decided what to make of Luang Prabang. I am not sure what category the people are. I think there is a fairly good mix of all categories.
The Laos people are incredibly friendly. Yes they stop you on the street when you are walking along, but don’t hassle, and thank you, and wish you a pleasant holiday.
There are many temples here. It is amazing, and one would probably have to spend a couple of months if they were to see everyone. On our first night we decided to head to the night market to check it out. Our trip was stopped short because we bumped into Jack sitting outside a wine bar. We joined him for a most pleasant evening. Jack had chosen to make the trip by speedboat, a five-hour journey instead of the two days we took. We had thought about Jack on our trip because it we were cold in the relatively closed in boat, we wondered how Jack had coped on his speedboat. Life jacket and helmet was mandatory for the speedboat. Jack said it was horrible, listening to the roar of the motor and the thumping of the boat as it hit the waves. Jack was very interesting to talk with, and he has a very great positive outlook on life.
So travelling from Thailand to Laos by boat is not the most pleasant experience, but nonetheless is something that should be experienced. The scenery along the Mekong is truly amazing, similar in many respects to traveling by water down the Fraser River in BC. (Only not as rough) We would stop along the way to let locals off, and it seemed that we were in the middle of nowhere, just run ashore or butt into a rock on the riverside. Yet as we pulled away we could see the signs of villages and communities, and we marvel at how simply they live.
The next night we made it to the night market. At first it is quite impressive. As the sun goes down, the street is shut off to traffic and all the people set up their tents and their wares. After you awe and amaze yourself at all the new and wonderful crafts you realize that booth after booth is the same thing. Now of course Elaine, having that female shopping gene could check out each and every booth, but Cory with his male shopping gene, says OK, I’ll buy that, now I am done, let’s get out of here. It really is quite comical watching the two of them.
Despite their ideas that there is really nothing that they need, it was just too difficult for them to pass on the hand-quilted king size duvet comforter complete with 2 pillowcases. For $40.00 Canadian it will surely keep them warm when they return to Canada.
However, with picking up this little thing, and that little thing, it was time for another trip to the post office. They still had a few things that they had purchased in Chiang Mai, plus a few Christmas parcels to send.
Once again the friendly postal staff took over the wrapping. Elaine seems to be getting quite good at releasing control and trusting a perfect stranger to pack the parcels. I am afraid that when she returns to work, she might not remember that in Canada people wrap their own parcels before bringing them in, and if they want assistance from the staff it costs money for bubble wrap and tape.
The Laos money is called Kip and $1 Canadian dollar is equal to 8,000 kip. Elaine wanted to try very hard to get the parcels to Canada before Christmas so she went with the top option. The ATM machines here have limits on their withdrawals, and you can usually only take out 700,000 kip. Cory needed to do three withdrawals to have sufficient money to pay the post office bill. So for a very very brief period Cory and Elaine felt like millionaires. In Laos Kip they were. Most people tend to spend according to their income and Cory and Elaine were no exception, they spent like a newly found millionaire, and all they had to show at the end of it was 5 pieces of paper with tracking numbers for the parcels they shipped to Canada. Elaine asked about having a tracking number on the four smaller parcels and was told it would cost 20,000 extra. Hmmm… let’s see that is under $3.00 Canadian. She splurged. She still laughs because it seems that every country they go to will allow small packets or A/Os (postal term) to go by registered mail. Documents only in Canada, and the international registration fees are closer to 90,000 kip.
Temples, temples, temples, they are everywhere in Southeast Asia. It is not possible to have a temple without having monks. Young or old, it was quite a site to see the saffron robed monks walking along the streets. One of the recommended things to do in Luang Prabang is to get up early before dawn to watch and/or participate in the alms giving to the parade of monks.
It is a site to see, at first you catch a glimpse of the robe, followed by many many more, each with their “bucket” for alms. I say buckets because I am sure that they have a different term. Could one say they start out each day with a bucket list? The monks depend upon the kindness of strangers and locals for their food.
Elaine and Cory were still not warm, but to see the parade of barefooted monks walking along receiving packages of rice wrapped in leaves and other food, further chilled them.
Many times during this trip Elaine has had camera envy. She would love to have a digital SLR, but watching some of the people with them during the parade of monks gave her pause. Some people feel that there is the bigger camera rule, and your position for taking pictures is determined by the size of your lens. If you have a big lens, you can rudely butt in front of people, or get right in the face of the monks. If this is the attitude that comes with the big camera, I think Elaine will pass. As quickly as the monks approached they were gone. It is understandable because I can only imagine how they felt walking through the chilly morning air on the frosty street.
After this we were on our way to the airport to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It certainly seemed that after all the time we spent in Thailand, we were flying through the countries now.
For our brief time in Laos, we did enjoy it, however between our time in Chiang Mai and now here without a beach, I could definitely tell that Elaine and Cory were going into withdrawal. I hope they have a game plan for when they return to Canada. I think that we will return to Laos in the future, but with a different mentality, warmer clothes and a bigger lens. .