3 January 2013
We are given a fowl awakening at dawn regardless of having already decided against the opportunity to see the monks at their 4am devotions or the local market setting up. But we race out for breakfast in anticipation of seeing elephants coming down to the water on the other side of the river. We did see one but our illusions of these being wild elephants were shattered when we learned that there were 7 elephants but their keeper still had a New Year’s hangover so they wouldn’t be coming out to play. Our eager bag carriers hovered at every door ready to claim possession of any bag that came within reach.
Our hosts again prepare a sumptuous feast of local food fresh from the markets that we had been too lazy to get out of bed for. Today we have delicious potato soup, rice, bamboo shoot and banana flower veggies and laob or koi (traditional minced pork with herbs salad) finished off with fresh mountain pineapple that is bigger and smoother and oh so sweet.
We stop to visit the Pak Ou caves where for centuries people would place Buddha figures to bring them luck. There are over 4000 Buddhas in the caves and numbers are still growing. The first cave has about 2500 images and the second one (300 steps higher) has about 1500. There are some damaged figures and Sa tells us that they were originally made of wood with a golden heart and in the 16th century the caves were ransacked for the gold. Every Laos new year (14 April) people visit the caves to wash the Buddhas to bring them luck. This activity used to be led by the king but now that Buddha is housed in the museum. We had a feeling of being part of a long chain of history. The views of the river were spectacular from the top.
An hour further we reach Luang Prabang where the houses along the riverside have definitely gone up a notch or two. We haul our bags up the hill to the waiting tuk-tuks and set off in convoy to Thongbay Guesthouse which is down a bouncy dirt road off the main road. It is just lovely with cute little bungalows set in lovely gardens on the side of the river and is luxurious compared with the previous 2 nights. We all head for dinner in town walking through the night markets en route. I take my first 1,000,000 out of the ATM.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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