Back in Southeast Asia. I expected the door of Luang Prabang airport to open and there to be dozens of taxi drivers waiting to make some good money with the newly arrived tourists.
The doors of the airport did open but there were no taxi drivers. Maybe on the main road, we thought and started walking. The road was empty. And we walked. After some time, finally, a taxi driver found us and took us to town. It would have been a long walk.
In the Old Town of Luang Prabang
It seems as if time stood still in the old town of Luang Prabang. White painted colonial houses line streets where every now and then a bicycle passes. Monks in orange robes stroll through the courtyards of carefully renovated and painted temples. Bamboo bridges, which are built anew every year at the beginning of the dry season, cross the calm river and link the villages with the town.
The Night Market
Every evening, vendors set up their stalls – sometimes just a blanket on the ground – for the night market. Patient and calm they wait and let people inspect their goods. They only start the usual “please buy, you’re my first customer today, you bring me good luck”, once you already hold something in your hands. It’s really unusually quiet on that market. But it fits perfectly into the calm atmosphere of Luang Prabang.
Quite a bit louder is the narrow street where all the food stalls are. All kinds of delicacies are on offer: Vegetables, fish, meat, rice, noodles; some cooked, some not yet. People squeeze their way through the narrow lane, inspecting the food and deciding what to eat while others, with a bowl full of freshly cooked food, try to find a free spot at one of the tables.
Mount Phousi is a hill in the middle of Luang Prabang with a temple on top. It’s the spot for sunset. The views would be great but there are so many people on the hill that it’s difficult to even have a view other than of all the tourists trying to get a sunset picture. Or at least a glimpse of the red sun.
At the beginning of the stairs that lead up the hill, women sell small birds, always in pairs, in tiny bamboo cages. The first thought when you see them and hear their desperate chirping is most likely, I should buy a pair to set those poor birds free. Well, that’s exactly what they’re here for: For people to buy them and set them free on top of the hill. It’s supposed to bring good luck and happiness. Just not for the birds. As long as people continue to buy the cages, the birds will be caught and sold. Sometimes it’s better to think twice before thinking of doing something seemingly good.
Due to the sheer amount of people, I couldn’t really see the temple on the hill. After sunset, however, we went down the other side of the hill and that was definitely the more interesting way, with more temples, stupas, and Buddha statues.
Luang Prabang is a wonderful place. I can’t really tell what I was expecting but I know I was positively surprised. The town is beautiful and the well maintained buildings and temples are a pleasure to look at. It’s a quiet place, people are friendly, the food is good, and the surrounding landscape amazing. Luang Prabang is a good place to spend a few relaxing days.