L-O-V-E Spells Laos
Jeremy and I fell in love last week, and not just with each other – though that happened too. We fell in love with a little, old place known as Luang Prabang (pronounced with soft “a”‘s – for all us nasally Americans out there). Maybe it’s a sign that we’re getting old and boring, but when we were warned that Luang Prabang (LP) had an eleven o’clock curfew we were actually excited.
LP is a low-key city of about 50,000 residents nestled between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Despite having been recognized as the capital city of Luang Prabang Kingdom, then later the French Protectorate of Laos, this quaint town has retained a modestly posh ambiance. The people of LP have also retained a strong pride in their cultural traditions. Each morning at 6am sharp, locals congregate in front of the temples or sit outside their doors to give alms to the monks.
To preserve and respect this morning ritual, the municipality has declared a strict nighttime curfew. Shops and restaurants begin to close up around 10pm, so all employees can be home on time. Walking the city streets at night is so serene, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment – completely engulfed in the rich, humid darkness. We indulged in this lackadaisical lifestyle for nearly five full days. It’s hard to say what I loved most.
It could have been the striking beauty of the monks, wrapped in their bright orange sarongs against the hazy green backdrop of the mountains. Or it could have been the dozens of adorable riverside balconies offering cold beer and fried seaweed snacks. We marveled at the immaculate streets, sidewalks, gardens and riverbanks, and couldn’t get enough of the brilliantly pink sunsets no matter where we stood.
And then there were the temples, boutiques, and the markets! Who doesn’t love morning to night fair-trade shopping for elaborate handcrafted goods? For Jeremy, it could have been the bakeries on every corner boasting freshly made chocolate croissants, crunchy baguettes, and…give me a moment whilst I wipe my drool…warm, doughy bagels. Oh yeah, and did I mention the random elephant parades?
All of these things I loved most about Luang Prabang. Every aspect of their life was full of pride and purpose. LP in a word is simply: liveable. Liveable with a side of endless charm. No one is hassling you too much to buy something. Nobody’s begging on the streets. All over town there are reminders to respect local culture and customs, and people – local and foreign, young and old – abide.
After taking our first two full days to soak up all the tranquility, we finally got off our butts and on a bike to go to Kwang Si Waterfall. As LP is located in a lush, hilly region of the country, nearby waterfalls are plentiful. However, due to it being the dry season, Kwang Si was the only one in “operation.” It took an hour on our little scooter to make it up to falls, but the ride was beautiful and the water was beyond words.
Blue does not describe the color of the water. Nor does clear, turquoise or aquamarine, but oh-my-Buddha were they remarkable. The color of these swimming holes and the perfectly tiered falls is proof of the awesomeness (to use the word literally) of nature. We hiked up to the top of the tallest falls to build up a sweat before jumping into the mystery blue. And while most of the crowds hung out by the large falls, Jeremy and I splashed around in the lowest pool in peace.
After a full day at the waterfall, Jeremy and I had another early night to savor before heading out on a two-day trek. With the sun steadily lowering, we raced up the steep central hill to Wat Chom Si to snap another twenty or so sunset photos and then raced back down to the Mekong to take some more. Over one of the best meals thus far (mushroom Laap and seaweed & sausage soup with sticky rice), we began planning for our second home and retirement in this newly found city of our dreams.
Feast your eyes on more beautiful shots of Luang Prabang here!