Royal Visit…..

Royal Visit…..

Today we looked into flights to Vientiane there are two companies we can use Lao Airlines or Lao Central Airlines. Lao airlines worked out best for us in terms of times. The tickets are booked for Saturday.

We had a wander around town, visited Phou Si temple (climbing around 300 steps to get there!), Buddhist footprint, other temples and a Buddhist monk school.

Phou Si
The main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It’s not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are particularly rewarding times to go up. There is a near-panoramic view from the top. There are 2 entrances from ground level: 1 on the north along Sisavangvong Road, facing the Royal Palace, and another one on the East, on Sisavang Vatthana Road. The northern entrance has about 130 steps up to the ticket counter, and another 190 steps to the top. The eastern entrance is longer than the northern one by a factor of 2 or 3, and is hence less steep and has more points of interest along the way, which are perfect excuses for stopping for a breather on the climb. Entrance fee 20,000 kip. Here there is a Buddhist footprint.

Temple at the ticket office
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looking across to the Royal Palace Museum
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The next steps up
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Views from the top
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the temple from the outside
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Another temple at the bottom
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Monks studying
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Afterwards we had a walk around town popping into the Big Brother Mouse offices (more information in my post for tomorrow) and Ock Pop Tok (a fair trade textile shop which is linked to the Living Craft Centre). The shop assistant was curious and asked what religion we are We told her, she then wanted Sangeet to tie a turban on her. She also gave us her email address and wants information on Sikhi.

Big Brother Mouse
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Ock Pop Tok shop, the lady liked Sangeet’s turban and wanted Sangeet to tie one on her.
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We then popped into saffron cafe for a strawberry smoothie.
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Red chillies
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We wandered around town for a while then made our way to The Royal Palace.
The Royal Palace (official name “Haw Kham”) in Luang Prabang, Laos, was built in 1904 during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong and his family. The site for the palace was chosen so that official visitors to Luang Prabang could disembark from their river voyages directly below the palace and be received there. After the death of King Sisavang Vong, the Crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family were the last to occupy the grounds. In 1975, the monarchy was overthrown by the communists and the Royal Family were taken to re-education camps. The palace was then converted into a national museum.
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On the way back through the night stall which was being setup we stopped at the vegetarian stall for a late lunch / early dinner. We were the first to arrive so were able to enjoy the buffet whilst fresh.

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In the evening I went to pick up the laundry from town and also had a one hour foot massage. It was a bargain at 40000kip (around £3)!

Was Singapore like this…..?

Was Singapore like this…..?

Today we rode a couple of bikes (courtesy of our hotel) into the city, the round trip is 6km. People here drive on the left. Cycling to town was very enjoyable, it gave us a chance to see everyday life. Passing by the market you could see all he traders with their home grown produce in front of them, a long basket of chickens literally overflowing from the basket, yet they put more in. Children and monks going to school. It also gave us a chance to actually see litter. We rode over a small bridge and the litter was thrown over the bridge. We started from the hotel and headed east onto Lao-Thai Friendship Road then headed north on Phothisarath Road which turned into Chao Fa Ngum Road that turned into Sisavangvong Road and finally turning into Sakkarine Road.

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People here are curious as I do not think they have seen many people with turbans if any at all. They will look for literally two seconds before getting on with their everyday lives. People here unlike most other people elsewhere in the world do not involve themselves with other peoples business. It does not matter to them how people look. As long as people are friendly to them that is all they ask. They say ‘sabaidee’ (hello) to you with a smile without any ulterior motive!

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Whilst on Sisavangvong Road we enquired at various tour companies for a boat trip to the caves, prices varied from 50,000 kip to 60,000 kip….I know only 10,000 kip which is about 80pence but I am a Scrooge!

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We then headed onto Souvannabanlang Road, parallel to the Mekong River.

On the side of the road we could hear men laughing and what sounded like jesting at each other. We stopped to see what was happening and they were playing French boules. The game looked like fun, just wish we knew what the guys were saying. The atmosphere was amazing and very jolly.
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We walked up some stairs to
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Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang

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An amazing temple. Wat Xieng Thong (or Temple of the Golden City) is a Buddhist temple (wat), located on the northern tip of the peninsula of Luang Phrabang, Laos. Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including a sim, shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees.
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Back down by the main road there are a number of steps leading down to the Mekong River. We walked down to see this amazing river. The Mekong is a river in Southeast Asia. It is the world’s 12th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi), and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi), discharging 475 km3 (114 cu mi) of water annually.
From the Tibetan Plateau this river runs through China’s Yunnan province, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1995, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the Mekong River Commission to assist in the management and coordinated use of the Mekong’s resources. In 1996 China and Burma (Myanmar) became “dialogue partners” of the MRC and the six countries now work together within a cooperative framework.
The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in this river have made navigation difficult. The river is a major trading route linking China’s southwestern province of Yunnan to Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand to the south, an important trade route between western China and Southeast Asia.

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I am in need of a laundry, yes it is time for washing again, in an alleyway I saw a laundry service which just looked cleaner and more professional then the others, there charges are 10,000 kip for a kilo….will pop back later as I do not have my the laundry with me…….well what do you expect, me cycling around Luang Prabang with my dirty clothes?!?!

We then cycled towards Kingkitsarath Road, which runs parallel to Khan River. Here we stopped at
The Varanda by Villa Nagara

For a can of sprite…..we were overdue a trip to the ATM so only had 20,000 kip. The can cost 10,000 kip, about 70p.
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Selling artwork
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Afterwards we cycled back to the hotel so we could pick up the clothes for the laundry.

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Back at the hotel we spent a few minutes where I devoured some ritz crackers…..damn they are good!

We then got a tuk tuk back to town, it dropped us off near Wat Xieng Thong, we walked through the temple to the other side which is closer to the laundry. After dropping off the clothes we walked towards the night market. Yesterday I was fortunate to hear the monks chanting and I wanted Sangeet to experience this. So we walked to the temple and caught the last few minutes of the chant. The monks came out all looked at us and one said “Indian?”, I said Sikh. He was intrigued and sat next to me. His name is Kum Chi….not sure on the spelling. We chatted for a while asking each other questions…us about him being a monk and he asked us about Sikhi, England and football! He could tell I do not like football. He said he loves the sport and supports Arsenal. After about an hour of chatting we said our byes and carried on walking towards the night market. Sangeet browsed the stalls whilst I went to the ATM. We met back at the stalls and decided to go to the vegetarian stall for dinner. I really enjoyed.

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Before entering the shops, people leave their shoes outside
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Chatting with the monks
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Afterwards we took a tuk tuk to the hotel, the driver asked for 40,000 kip I said for the last two days I have been paying 20,000 kip. After playfully trying to negotiate more knowing it was not going to work, he agreed 20,000 with a smile.

Later I decided to go for a walk. It was dark but it still felt safe. I walked passed shops shutting up, families gathered around the television, other families around a big dinner table just talking, stalls holders cleaning up their area. Also a sports club where people were playing badminton and pool. I wonder if Singapore was like this 30 years ago.

Luang Prabang is AMAZING…..

Today we had a movie bonanza watching Jack Frost, Thor and Bridesmaids. Later I took a tuk tuk into town while Sangeet rested at the hotel trying to get over her Dengue fever.

As I was walking towards the other side of town the handicraft night market was just setting up. Set up begins at around 4pm. It was fun making my way through whilst the stall were being set up. The locals are very accommodating and do not mind you getting in their way at all.

The streets are very clean and there are no signs of any beggars. The locals have a real sense of pride for their way of life and traditions. I recommend that everybody comes here before it gets too commercialised.

I walked further and could hear chanting coming from a temple. The atmosphere was amazing all the monks chanting together, creating one powerful vibration.

Afterwards I walked back towards the night market picking up snacks from the shop, this included sprite, pineapple juice, peanuts, soy milk, ritz (which I am addicted to) and coco pops, so as you can see all healthy!

Halfway through the stall I went back to the vegetarian stall and picked up two take away boxes, not bad for 20,000 kip. Whilst walking towards the tuk tuk drivers I bumped into a German chap we had met yesterday.

I got a tuk tuk back to the hotel, the driver asked for 40,000 kip we agreed on 20,000 kip, the hotel agreed with me and said it is a good price.

In the evening whilst we ate our food we watched Santa Clause….so as you can see a very relaxed but enjoyable day.

Market day…..

Market day…..

After a good breakfast of fresh fruit, I spent a number of hours on the blog, takes a lot of time, uploading pictures to flickr then doing the write up. Hope you guys are enjoying it!

A lady weaving on the hotel grounds, this is to promote a local company called Living Craft Centre
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A closer shot
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Pictures of the hotel
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Hotel gardens and beyond
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The hotel provides free one way transfers to the city centre by tuk tuk. We passed through the Living Crafts Centre, where you can see local weavers in action aswell as other crafts of the region. The tuk tuk waited for us whilst we had a look around, we then headed over to the city centre.

Living Crafts Centre
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Information about the sources of various colour dyes
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The shop
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A lady using dyes to print the materials
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Back on the tuk tuk

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We saw an amazing temple in the middle of town. It is within the grounds of the Royal Palace museum.
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Walking on the Main Street
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Afterwards, we had a walk past the shops, we stopped at one to pick up coco pops and ritz crackers, as we were both peckish!
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Luang Prabang is an amazing city, clean, safe and the people are very friendly! The locals do not hassle you (a welcome change from our experiences the last few weeks) and the place also feels very authentic – the locals seem to be just getting on with their normal daily lives. Tempted to spend the next few weeks here. This place will change as tourism here is really starting to take off and major high speed train links from China will soon pass through Luang Prabang and Vientiane (2014) so now is a good time to visit before it changes and loses it’s charm.

As I was getting very hungry we stopped at

Tat Mor Restaurant
Sakkaline Road
Luang Prabang

I ordered fried rice
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Sangeet decided to wait to eat as the night market was due to open in a couple of hours and there is a vegan food stall there.

As we walked back from the restaurant the night market had started, about half a mile of stalls on the street, under cover. The shoppers will ask if you want to buy anything, if you say no they do not bother you again. Halfway through we found the stall that sells a vegan buffet for 10.000 Lao Kip about GBP£.80p! Sangeet ate there and we chatted to some other backpackers in the very social dining area. Later we bought a few gifts from the stalls then we headed back to the hotel in a tuk tuk.

The Ock Pop Tok shop
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Night market
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The 10,000 kip food stall
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Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (literally: “Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra)”, is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The population of the city is about 50,000.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.

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