San Francisco Glacier in Chile

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Laos

For one of my teaching breaks I decided a trip to Laos was in store.  Kade and I took a day train ride north (overnight one back) from Bangkok to Nong Khai, a Thai town literally across the river from the Laotian capital, Vientiane.  Nong Khai itself was a great little place to relax, and had a fabulous and rather large market right along the bank of the Mekong River.  Soon we crossed the border into Laos, and our first few days were in Vientiane.  After sightseeing a few days, we wisely took a friend's advice and bought a roundtrip ticket to Luang Prabang, the cultural capital of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   The flight in was amazing!  I did have a window seat!  Not since Ubud, Bali had I been to such a relaxing place.  In fact, the place had an overall vibe that reminded me of Ubud.  And for those who know me, that's the ultimate compliment!





 
One restaurant really stood out to us.  I believe its name was Park Houay Mixay.




Nam Khan River, Luang Prabang

We bought at least a half dozen of these locally made silk pieces.  The very one Kade is examining and the one hanging in the center are ones we purchased.  I ended up giving a couple to my mom and one to my sister.




the former Royal Palace


Rented this in the capital city, Vientiane.  There's a funny story behind this motorbike!  This is the only picture of the set that's in Vientiane.




And, from my archives.

Allen and Kade's Visit to Laos
December 2002 
 
Laos is a very interesting place.  The beautiful scenery is truly, truly magnificent.  Cities are built at the base of mountains and on the banks of rivers.  Looking out the window of the plane was an experience in and of itself. 

Laotians themselves are very friendly, caring people.  Unlike some other places I’ve traveled, I never felt that the people in Laos were trying to take advantage of me.  The people have developed their tourism industry in a way that preserves their culture while, at the same time, actively welcomes tourists. 

Naturally, Laotion architecture was influenced by the French, since for many years Laos was a French colony.  One entire city in particular, Luang Prabang, which is in the northern part of the country, is a World Heritage Site.  If you want to escape to a charming town with streets made for walking, Luang Prabang is it.   While you’re walking, you are sure to pass numerous bakeries, cafes and some really good Laos restaurants that serve local as well as international food. 

If shopping is your cup of tea, the capital city Vientiane and the cultural capital Luang Prabang have morning and night markets that sell produce, electronics, crafts, cosmetics etc.  Luang Prabang even provides river tours that take you to some of the outlying villages where you can observe weaving.  Not only did I enjoy experiencing the tranquility of the village life, I found some really high quality silk tapestry.  Kate and I bought about eight items altogether.  

Laos sightseeing is largely based around some stunning Buddhist temples that date back hundreds of years.  Some of the temples, especially in Luang Prabang, are situated on top of mountains and hillsides that provide unbelievable views of the towns and mighty Mekong River below.  What’s most fascinating is that there are these cobblestone staircases that weave themselves up the mountain, past several rest areas that have smaller temples or meditation areas.  By the time you get to the top, you will have gotten tremendous exercise and you will have seen young monks who often are chatting with tourists or simply doing their daily rituals.  

If you like museums, you can learn a lot at the National Museum in Vientiane and the former King’s Palace in Luang Prabang.  When visiting, though, be prepared to get a different version of history than what we’ve been taught.  The Laotians (with help from big communist giants) are really proud of repelling the French and later defeating the Americans who got involved towards the end of Vietnam. 
                                                                     
Silk we bought





And now 15 years later
  

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