|Among the 30 Buddhist temples
found in Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong (the Golden City Temple) is the
most impressive. Built way back in 1560, it is still only the second
oldest continually operating wat in the town. After a couple visits,
we found that the monks started to recognize us and even wanted to chat
after a while. They were full of questions about Canada and our regular
lives back there. I wonder whose lives were more intriguing?
|Our initial plan was
to spend two or three days in Luang Prabang before moving on, but we soon
got caught in the gentle pace of the town. It was an easy place to
walk around, interesting old architecture and many friendly people.
We didn't feel like we were being hustled there. Most people smiled
and said "Sabadee (hello)". We felt welcome, and ended up staying
for eight days.
Mornings were particularly quiet, except of course for the ol' chicken alarm starting up about 4 am. Everybody, it seems, has chickens. Then the monks would be up chanting around 6 am, but we sort of got used to that too.
In Laos we encountered not only a new language, but also a new script and alphabet, different again from Thai, and also indeciferable to our untrained Canadian eyes. Most of the signs here were in Lao and French. I thought we were doing pretty well knowing a few simple but important phrases in Lao, like "Hello", "Thank you", "Where is the toilet?" and "May I take a photograph?"
It was always cool and overcast when we ventured out for breakfast. The mists over the Mekong would burn off around 9:30, and then it would really warm up. We explored a little further each day, and also did a few excursions out into the countryside.
Luang Prabang was small enough that we often ran into some of our fellow travelers from our slow boat trip, and we would often make arrangements to get together for dinner. Having a wider social life and more extensive visits was lots of fun too.
There were lots of little coffee bars and sidewalk cafes. At the Scandinavian Bakery you could even find current English language newspapers from Bangkok. Most people were checking to see if Iraq still existed.
There was no doubt we were in a pretty remote corner of the world. We didn't find out about the bombing in Bali until about three days after it happened, and only then from worried friends back in Canada who were hoping we were okay, and someplace else.
The tragedy in Bali has prompted a lot of discussion among international travellers here. When we ran into our friends Marta and Emily a week later in Vientiane, they had changed their plans to travel through Indonesia and were heading back to Thailand to visit a few national parks. Carol and I are scheduled to go to Bali in late January. We'll see how things look after the dust settles.
|Even in residential areas of town
you'd find street vendors and food stalls. This woman was making
little mini-pancakes on a charcoal burner down the street from our guesthouse.
|Rock climber and legal assistant Pauline Fafard, from Victoria, was one of the few Canadians we've met on the road. Turns out she was born in Regina and her dad is cousin to Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard. Small world, eh!|