Wednesday, February 9, 2011

LAOS! (Luang Prabang Day 1)

WE'RE BAAAACK! We returned to Beijing veeeery early this morning, and albeit sleepy, felt very relaxed and rejuvenated; Laos was just what the medical student ordered :)

After a few flights and 9 hour drive, we arrived in the northern mountain town of Luang Prabang late Monday night (PS: because you probably don't know much about Laos, as we didn't prior to last week, click on the highlighted words to find links to their Wikipedia pages). We woke up Tuesday to a delicious breakfast at our adorable guest house. (Thank you, France, for colonizing "Indochina" and bringing good bread and toilet paper to this country). Then it was off to the Pak Ou caves via 2 hour boat ride on the Mekong River. We saw lots of beautiful scenery and local fishermen:
Relaxing on the river :)
The Pak Ou cave is where the king prayed when he was in town. This was our introduction to Laos' Buddhist heritage, which we learned about throughout the trip. The cave was full of Buddhas, Buddhists, and tourists.
Entrance to the main cave; this is what our boat looked like!
The Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers merge here (can you see the difference in water colors?!)
After riding back and stopping for Lao noodle soup, we were off to the Kouang Si waterfalls. The trail leading to the falls begins with an Asian Black Bear rescue center, which was random and slightly strange. Further along, there are the three tiers of waterfalls; the water was incredibly clear and the scenery breathtaking:
The drive to/from the waterfalls was through the mountains, which is both scenic and long-winded, as the roads are often unpaved/full of potholes/extremely curvy. A short, 20km drive can take over an hour! Luckily, I was able to capture pictures along the way :)
 70% of the population are farmers, so there are rice paddies everywhere!
Most Lao homes are made from bamboo and are on stilts because of flooding during the rainy season.
We returned to Luang Prabang just in time for the beginning of the night market. This place was a zoo of hand-made textiles, paintings, and just about anything else a tourist could ask for.
Luckily, our Chinese bargaining skills came in handy and we were thrilled with some awesome purchases: a bedspread, 4 pillowcases, a few silk scarves, several sets of chopsticks, and a painting all managed to make their way back to Beijing with us...not to mention a few gifts :) 
The bedspread is green with this pattern in white in 3 rows of 3 squares
Afterward, we walked over to the food street, picked up some spring rolls and 2 huge BeerLao beers, and relaxed on hotel balcony. A perfect ending to a great day.

PS: We spent the night in Kunming, China between flights, and saw this [clearly dated] ad:
Ben, we dedicate this to you and all other Cav fans/Lebron haters out there.

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