Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos

We fell in love with this town.
We landed at the airport which had about 3 or 4 gates, went through standard immigration, changed our usd to kip and found a taxi.. Our driver let us know they drive slowly there because their 'city roads' are more like our country roads back home.. Kids or any sort of farm animal may dart out, and there is nothing to protect the driver if he hits something.. If he hits an animal, he must pay for it.. 
Then we get to our hotel, Burasari Heritage.. Lao decor looks most similar to a Restoration Hardware store.. Our hotel was one of the most uniquely designed we've ever seen!  The adorable restaurant was a walk across the street overlooking the Nam Khan river where the occasional traditional long tail boat passed by and maybe even a swimmer or two.. 
The main street was full of open-air restaurants with lazy locals hanging out waiting for customers.. At the end of the street, at about 5pm, a night market started.. This night market was supposed to be the 'best in Southeast Asia' and totally met our high expectations! No begging!!! Typically, Asian markets are full of vendors telling you to come buy something from them as you walk by, but not in Luang Prabang.. The kind 'sabaidee' (hello) is stated, and if you want something, you just ask, haggle by showing eachother prices on a calculator, score something super cheap then move on to the next.. 
Luang Prabang has a strong Buddhist culture and has about 35 wats (temples). Every morning is an alms giving ceremony.. Locals set down a bamboo mat on the side of the road and sit on their knees with their prepared sticky rice.. All monks, about 200, in the town line up in their saffron robes and proceed to walk down the main street carrying bowls to collect a small hand scoop of rice from each local.. It's truly amazing to see..
Laos is also known as the land of a million elephants.. Obviously, there aren't near as many as there once were due mainly to the stresses of the logging industry.. Luckily, a lot of great rescues have and are still saving elephants from the horrid working environment.. I searched and searched and found a reputable sanctuary that we paid a visit to.. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to meet the majestic creatures.. We learned a little about them at first then got to feed them bananas while their mahouts finished their own breakfast.. A mahout is a person that stays with an elephant their whole life from about the age of 3 or 4.. They are together everyday, and the mahout trains the elephant, then they are bonded for life.. We sat on the seat on our elephants back while our mahout rode her neck, and we set out for the river.. Once we got there, the mahout let Joshua have his seat on our elephant's neck, and he got down to take pictures of us.. Later into trekking, the mahout asked if we wanted to trade spots so I could sit on her neck.. We walked through a village, and our mahout picked limes and handed them to me to feed our girl as we trekked.. It was seriously an experience of a lifetime and a moment we will never forget.. 
We could've stayed in Luang Prabang a couple more nights, but we had to head to Cambodia.. We will for sure be back to visit this lazy, tranquil town that stole our hearts!

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