Sun 21st Oct – Fri 26th Oct
After a quick check in at the hotel, as a few are starving we head to the night market and the 15,000 kip all u can eat veggie buffet. This place is great and u can pile ur dish up as high as u can get it. Loads of delicious rice noodles and veggies…u don’t need to bother ordering meat. No wonder this place is rammed and so many backpackers talk about it. For a mere £1.30, u get an absolute feast.
It’s back to the hostel for a quick shower and change and we all head out to the famous bar in town – Utopia. It’s a cool place with funky lighting, cushioned sitting areas and great tunes.
It’s like being in a bar back home when u we’re younger and knew everyone as it’s pretty much full of people off our boat. This adds to a great atmosphere where everyone kinda knows each other n just get along, having a great night. The downside is that their 241 cocktails don’t seem to contain much of any alcohol and they shut at 1130! Be warned, if ur heading out late like at home (esp S Americans, u will have missed the party!)…they actually start kicking out at 1115 with the song Hit the Road Jack!
Not yet ready to call it a night, we’ve been told about a bowling alley that stays open late which is about 3km away. We pile in a taxi and half of Utopia have the same idea. Again full of the Mekong River boat possey! I remember playing a few games – badly and drinking whiskey and come. Outside there was archery but I know my limits and certainly wasn’t in the right state to be aiming and firing one of these!
Monday is a bit of a right off…I’m not hungover as such more exhausted and pretty much sleep away the day! We take a stroll through the night market and go to a lovely rooftop bar for dinner.
One of the must do things in Luang Prabang is to visit Kuang Si waterfall. There are different ways to get there – urself by scooter, a shuttle for 60,000 or gaggle with a tuk tuk driver. We paid 30,000 each. Not the most comfortable of rides and takes about a hour. Don’t worry about food and drinks – as in all places in these parts, there’s an abundance of eateries at the entrance. There’s an entrance of 20,000 kip to pay too.
There’s an added little surprise as u enter the park as there’s a bear rescue sanctuary there that houses at the moment around 42 bears. We get chatting to a volunteer who works there (detecting a South West accent discover she’s from Cornwall). She very kindly gives us the lowdown on the place and the animals, including the cute cub we can see through the window.
They are currently in the process of building a newer bigger place so they can take in more animals. Bears are hunted by the Chinese for their bile which I didn’t know about.
Bidding farewell, we make our way up the path to the waterfall which is stunning.
Stripping off and leaving our stuff, we pile in to the bloody freezing cold water! Once in it’s quite pleasant though. Being at the end of rainy season and a lot of rainfall the force of the water is extremely strong, swimming against the flow to get to the fall is quite tough. Once there I try and sit on a rock as fish keep nibbling at my feet and it’s freaking me out. Some of the others swim to the other end and sit on the ledge over another fall. I decide to go join them and it’s here disaster strikes! Walking along the water is only calf deep but I the level drops and I fall. The strength of the flow of the water as I get up takes me right over the waterfall edge. As I tumble, I crack my head on a rock and think I’m going to end up at the bottom! In only the few seconds that if happened, I am completely panic stricken. I manage to get my balance and scream for help! Sean manages to grab my hand and I’m helped out by everyone I’ve come with. With shaky legs and blood peeing out of my head, I manage with the aid of Texas to get out. Leesh and Teagan to the rescue with some tissues and wasted and they clean up the gash in my head! I settle my nerves with a beer and a fag and once the bleeding has stopped, feeling ok, we walk up to the next fall which is beautiful – and thanks to Rhys for carrying my bag. A few photos but I’ve kinda lost my photography mojo today
then we head back to get some lunch. U can go further up but the steps were gliding with waterfall water and after what had just happened, I wasn’t up for it! Today could have turned out very differently and I cannot thank the friends I was with for helping me….I’ll be eternally grateful to u all – Leesh, Teagan, Rhys, Texas and Sean – thank u so much.
The tuk tuk back seems to take forever and when we arrive back I can’t move my right thumb if my right foot. I’m in agony! It appears I whacked these parts of my body along with my head during my fall! I guess shock prevailed any pain and now it’s worn off. I decide I need to see a doctor but there’s a Chilean ER medic in my hostel and he very kindly checks me over and confirms nothing is broken and my head doesn’t need stitches. Just ply me with pain killers instead!
I manage to hobble out and we go to the Garden Bar. Again, we weren’t a fan of the 241 drinks and leave.
Wednesday is a bit of a nothing day for me. There’s so much I would like to see and do but I just can’t walk. I’ve strapped my toes to help slightly with hobbling around town but hiking and anything else is sadly completely out the window. I did manage to walk up Mount Phousi with Matt to watch the sunset.
Some lovely views up there but as it’s written on every list of to do’s for the area, it has become a tourist circus and there’s just so many people it’s not a pleasant experience.
Thursday, Matt, Sean and I go for lunch then Matt and I take a walk around the town, passed the river, watching all the preparations for tonight’s light parade.
In the evening it’s back to the buffet place…it’s hard to eat anywhere else when u can get such good food at this price! Then it’s on to the main street to watch the light parade. Every year in October, the Light Festival transforms the UNESCO city of Luang Prabang. Parades, lanterns and Buddhist ceremonies; this tradition is considered as the most enchanting event of the year in Laos. Called “Lai Heua Fai” in Lao, it is the occasion to show respect to the spirit of the river. The day is celebrated by illuminated boat processions handmade with bamboo and banana trunks, colourfully decorated with candles and money. The big boats line the beautifully lit streets, all hoisted on wheels.
They parade the street until they reach the river where each are then lifted and set afloat.
There are 51 boats in total this year. Locals and tourists alike can buy little flower or dragon floats that you light a can on and set it off on the river too to receive luck for the year ahead and to pay respect to the river. Rhys and Teagan have great dragon boats.
Behind each float are school kids, all excited for the festivities, singing and dancing. It’s such a sight to behold and I’m so glad I was in the area for this amazing yearly event. The temples of the main street are also beautifully lit, lanterns hanging, fairy lights and lanterns spread across the floor.
To add to the ambience, monks are hammering on the big gongs that are in the temples.
This has definitely been a trip highlight but best from so much walking, it’s an early night for me.
Laos is sadly famous for one thing…over 80 million bombs lie unexploded across its lands. The cause of this was a war not many know about. A secretly led CIA mission during the Vietnam war to block Vietnam’s supply line on the Ho Chi Minh trail. It is estimated that between 1963 and 1974, the United States dropped over 2 million tons of bombs on Laos. Many of these tennis shaped bombs that were meant to explode on impact, didn’t; landing instead in muddy bigs and rice fields. To this day, many un-dentonated bombs still lie in fields across the country. Farmers who rely on their land for work are mostly at risk along with children who fund them and think they are toys. 50 years in and the people of Laos are still feeling the effects from this war that was nothing to do with them. There is the UXO museum that I wanted to get to but cdnt, but is on my list for next time. Laos was definitely the forgotten country in the fallout of the Vietnam war. Obama did pledge 90b$ to help with the removal of these bombs but I don’t know how it’s progressed or what’s happening now Trump has the reigns. A very sad and tragic history for this poor yet beautiful country.
Friday is the last day we’re all together with different people heading to different places. After our goodbyes, I go for a coffee with 2 Spanish girls I met them it’s off to the airport. I’m now off to Vietnam.
Luang Prabang is a great little place that wasn’t originally planned but I’m so glad I went. It was made all the more better by the people I was with. A great few days with fab company.
Hopefully our paths will cross further down the trail…