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Luang Prabang, Laos - Day 1

Our first day in Luang Prabang was spent wandering the city and booking things for the next two days. A busy day, but I really enjoyed it. When we had first arrived the city seemed like it was just teeming with people, but as you can see above it wasn't really that busy. At least not in old town. There were people wandering, but not as many as I had expected. This is the main road through old town, Sisavangvong, and it is closed to traffic during the day (so it is a pedestrian road). Lots of tour places and restaurants and stuff. The city is a UNESCO world heritage site so there are strict building codes which make it one of the nicest cities in Laos. To me it made it feel a bit richer since most of the buildings were in good shape and pretty compared to other cities. On this road in old town are all of the French inspired mansions that house businesses and such. 

I had been reading the guidebook the night before and saw that at the Royal Palace Museum you can go see the Royal Ballet Theatre which sounded interesting. Most nights they put on a part of Phra Lak Phra Lam, a long work, so we stopped in to get tickets for that in the morning. Above is Haw Pha Bang on the Royal Palace grounds.

And again from the front.

Like most of the wats it was very ornate. Lots of gold with intricate designs. Inside is the Pha Bang, the most sacred Buddha image in Laos.

After exploring the rest of the grounds it was on to the Royal Palace Museum. You can't take photos inside, and you have to be covered up. Like most places where you have to cover your shoulders and knees you can borrow wraps if you need them for like €2. There was a lady in line in front of us for tickets and she was not at all happy that she either had to buy the wrap for €2 or go get more appropriate clothes. It is one of those things that make me side eye someone. Like you are in their country, this is their custom, why didn't you come prepared or pay to borrow what you need? I don't think you can really complain your way out of being respectful.

Anyways the palace was interesting. When I think Palace I think like Versailles - super ornate and a bit over the top, but this one was very different. Just a different style so that was interesting. A lot of the walls were a plain color with a bit of furniture. Lots of gold details and there was one room that had scenes depicted with pieces of glass. I have a photo that will come up in a bit of a scene from one of the Wats that was similar. There were some gifts from other countries on display, like a piece of moon rock from one of the Apollo missions as well as a Laos flag that went to space and back on one of the missions - gifts from the USA.

Then it was off to wander the main street to see if we wanted to book a tour for the next day or just go out to the waterfalls or what. We did end up booking one that I will write about next time that included lots of things - a full days worth of fun!

Lots of Wats all over.

We wandered down the main street until I needed a break, then we sat by the water in the shade for a bit. I don't know if I was just getting used to the heat & humidity or if it just wasn't as bad, but it didn't seem as bad as in Vientiane. Still very sweaty, but more able to deal with it there. Above is the Nam Khan flowing into the Mekong.

Lizard came to say hello

There is a little electric car bus system in town. You can ride it all around even though the area is not that big.

Old town is like a small peninsula that sticks out into the river. This is the smaller Nam Khan that flows into the Mekong. We walked along that until we got to Tamarind where we signed up for cooking classes for our last day in town. More on that in two posts! It was so much fun!

Some rice cakes drying in the sun. They will be dried then fried and eaten with soup. You see lots of things being dried in the sun - these rice cakes, peppers, just whatever they want to dry out. It is definitely hot enough for it.

Then on to spy on Wat Xieng Thong, probably the most popular Wat in town. It was really pretty. Lots of colored mirror tiles sparkeling in the sunlight, which was pretty, but a bit hard to look at in mid-day (we were there about noon - just before lunch)

This wall was like the one room in the Royal Palace. Lots of color mirrored tiles making up scenes. Same color walls as well.

Then back though town & lunchtime!

We were a little late - we didn't eat until 1-ish so the streets were empty!

Lunch was delicious though (after we got the veggie version of everything. They brought out the meat one at first and were a bit confused - their English was not the best - but we got it figured out and they were very apologetic). The crazy thing is Raymond chose two eggplant dishes! He usually shies away from eggplant as he is very picky when it comes to eating it, but I love it so win for me. Really he liked it as well so...

After lunch it was wander back to the room for our mid-day rest. Later that evening we went to check out DARA market, which was circled by the front desk guy on the map he gave us. Not sure why though as it was pretty lame. We did wander around a bit on that side of the hill in town (in the morning we were on the NE side of the hill, we stayed on that side, so in the evening we took a wander around the NW side). Not a lot of fun things to see, just small convenience stores where we got some snacks and beverages.

Tiny Wat Pa Houak

Haw Pha Bang from the little park area a bit up from the street on the way up Phousi Hill. The tents are for the night market and were being set up as we sat and had our snacks and waited for the Royal Ballet Theatre.

While waiting we made friends with this little guy. Isn't he so cute?

Until finally it was show time! Not very many people came to the theatre. There might have been 10 of us which is a shame as I enjoyed it. Very different from anything else I have seen live.

The musicians - I really enjoyed the music. It was fun

First up was these ladies who did a dance. The one girl in the middle row front kept smiling so big like this was the first time she has performed and she was just so happy to be there. 
Then the story was a lady was kidnapped and the monkey army is sent to find her. They get tired along the way and stop outside the giant eagles cave. There is a big fight when the eagle investigates and tries to eat the monkeys. The leader of the monkey army talks to the eagle and tells him of his brother who was injured by the kidnapper and the eagle wants to get revenge (even though he is too old to fight). They head off and that is the end of the section we saw.

The monkey army getting orders to go find the girl

It was interesting and I am glad we went. I think they need better advertising for it though as we never would have known about it if I didn't read about it in the guidebook.

When we got out you could see lightning in the sky so a storm was on the way. We went to get some food and found the vegan buffet at the night market. As much food as you can pile on a plate for 10,000Kip (just over €1). Not bad. You pile everything on your plate then give it to the guy to heat everything up. It was pretty delicious and very popular. Most of this food was gone by the time we finished eating, and we didn't take a long time since it was starting to get stormy.

Most of the night market was closing up as they were anticipating the rain to come. Not a lot of people walking through the market. Then picked up some coconut pancakes for dessert (they were alright. A bit too coconuty for me) and you could see the people who were left scrambling to get everything packed up as they knew the storm was almost upon them. It just started raining when we got back to our room, then started pouring! We sat inside and watched the storm until bedtime. A good, but busy day in Luang Prabang.


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