Laos - Land of the Million ElephantsA travelogue written by Bernhard Heiser
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part 3: Luang Prabang
Monday, Nov 30, Luang Prabang
In Luang Prabang immigration is very strict when it comes to officially
checking in and out of the province. So we first go to the immigration
office to get the in-stamp in our passport and then have breakfast at the
Khem Karn Food Garden. A beautiful garden restaurant with a nice view on
the Nam Khan river. Ken has a hot noodle soup for breakfast, I prefer bread
with butter and jam. Now it's time to look for a better place to stay.
We check a few guesthouses in the sidestreets of Thanon Photisalat, one
of the main streets in town. I decide to take a room for 9.000 Kip in Si
Khoun Muang Guesthouse, just round the corner from Wat Nong Sikhunmuang.
Ken is undecided yet, maybe he will come around later. The large room has two big windows in different directions, so there is always fresh air coming in. The view down to the Mekong is nice. The
room is very clean and furnished with a comfortable french bed.
Mekong riverside in Luang Prabang
feel at home here. If you go there, say hello from me to Louis, the friendly
owner. I relax for a while, listening to R.E.M., writing travelogue and
watching cargo boats go upstream. As I get hungry again, I walk down parallel
to the river and find a restaurant with a nice veranda to the Mekong. It's
a bit cloudy today, but suddenly the sun comes out and the scenery is put
into a warm, golden light. I head southwards and reach Wat That Luang.
On my way back on Thanon Wisunalat I take some good pictures of playing
children, a whole family riding a bicycle, shopkeepers offering their goods.
The light between 3 pm and 5 pm is really fantastic for that purpose.
There seems to be no internet available here. In a small computer store
they had a sign at the door "No Internet, no E-Mail". I leave a message
for Lucia at the Viengkaeo hotel, in case she will come here in the next
few days. To get an overview of the city, I climb the stairs to mount Phou
Si, passing the Tham Phu Si temple.
Walking tour to Wat That Luang
The entrance fee is 2.000 Kip. At the hilltop is located That Chomsi
with a large golden stupa. Maybe a dozen people are here, the Austrian
girl from the bus is here too. Some of them are waiting to take pictures
of the sunset. Unfortunately, there are too much clouds now. In the evening,
I meet again Dennis and Chris in a restaurant opposite the Rama nightclub.
Ken moved to the Rama hotel. After eating a very hot version of a chicken
salad with rice, I slowly go back to my room, taking the road along the
Mekong. A guy sits in front of his house, playing acoustic guitar, everywhere
around it's absolute quiet. I stop and listen to him while watching the
stars and the moonlight reflecting in the river.
Lao kids with grandfather
What a peaceful night.
Afternoon street life
View north from Mount Phousi
View on the Mekong from Mount Phousi
Tuesday, Dec 1, Luang Prabang
I wake up after sunrise, it is cloudy and still quite cold in my room with
glassless windows. While having breakfast in the guesthouse, I talk with
the young Canadian couple from the room next to mine. They plan to leave
for the Plain of Jars, but are still undecided which route to take.
I start my day with a brief visit of the Lao Royal Palace Museum, once
the residence of King Sisavangvong. The building was constructed during
the early french colonial era in 1904 and converted into a museum later,
when Crown Prince Sisavang Vatthana and his wife were exiled to northern
Laos. Portraits of the last King and Queen hang on the wall. In the throne
room, I'm fascinated by intricate wall mosaics on a deep red background.
When leaving the museum, the sky is blue and I feel the strong sun on my
| Kungsi Falls
I decide to make a trip to the Kungsi waterfalls. Yesterday I've seen
the meeting point where jumbo pickups depart. I walk over to the parking
lot opposite Phousi hotel. Hmong women sit by the roadside, sewing red
and blue geometric patterns. Two guys from Slowenia are already waiting
there for more passengers to show up. We wait another 20 minutes until
two Germans (Udo and Gabi) arrive and then share the 30 km-ride south.
We pass small villages lined at the dusty road. We reach the impressive
falls after 90 minutes. The water is tumbling over limestone formations
into turquoise-green pools. Bathing in those pools is not allowed, so we
follow the steep trail to the upper pools, where I jump in (not too cold,
but very refreshing) and find a small cave right behind the falls.
We spend about two hours at the falls and return to LP. We make an appointment
for dinner at the Phousi restaurant, which is located close to the museum.
Now, it's again the right time to take some pictures in the warm afternoon
| Garden at Kungsi Falls
Returning to Luang Prabang
My termination point is the same as yesterday on top of mount Phousi.
This place magically attracts people when the sunset is near. Today, I'm
well prepared with a bottle of cool Beer Lao. Ken and the two sweet Japanese girls from Kyoto are there too. The sunset ist perfect and we stay there talking for a long time. It's almost
full moon, so there is at least a little light when I walk down the steps.
With Gabi, Udo, Nirit and Aaron (the latter two are from Tel Aviv) I enjoy
an excellent dinner at the Phousi restaurant.
Mount Phousi sunset
That was my second day here in this relaxed, friendly and tranquil
city. The former capital of Lan Xang, Kingdom of a million elephants, still
possesses a noble mystique. Wats are on every corner, monks wandering through
the streets, palm trees line the narrow roads. Time seems to have a different
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