05 December 2008

Temples, Waterfalls and Elephants

Well we have had a wonderful first three days in Laos in Luang Prebang. We have a great hotel for about 8 pounds a night, our room is set around a really pretty garden and we have all the mod cons of satellite tv, hot water and air con. It is lovely and hot in the day, with clear blue skies but as we are at about 700m it does get a bit chilly at night so we have been sleeping with all our clothes on again. I was going to donate my fleece to a good cause after leaving the mountains in Sapa, but that will have to wait as I still need it here!

Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos until the mid 16th century when it was moved to Vientiane on the Thai border. However the monarchy remained here and it was the royal capital right up until the 1975 revolution. It's quite a small town and only has a handful of streets, it has more of a village feel. Its really picturesque here with the town surrounded by jungle and hills, sat on the bank of the Mekong where it meets one of it's main tributaries, the Nam Khan. We spent our first two days just walking around town, chilling out, and checking out the restaurants, bars, Wats and night markets. There are lots of Wats (Buddist Temples) all around town. They are all very ornate and beautifully decorated in lots of gold and rich colours. We have included just a few of our pictures below from our visits to about 10 of the Wats and the Royal Palace Museum.

Today we had another great trip out. We hired a jumbo (a sort of motor bike front that pulls a trailer containing a couple of benches along) for the afternoon and set off for some waterfalls. The driver didn't actually take us to the waterfalls we wanted to go to but instead to Tat Sae. We were a bit annoyed at first but they were beautiful anyway. After a pretty rough ride in the jumbo we boarded a narrow boat to reach the falls. On disembarking we found they had elephants there too, quite a surprise when you aren't expecting them! The falls had crystal clear water and lots of turquoise pools deep enough to swim in. The mountain water was quite cold though. We both went in for a swim but I could only manage up to my waist but Si had a proper swim, not like him he is usually a bit of a wuss around cold water. So there we were bathing in the lovely jungle waterfalls with elephants walking past, not your normal Friday afternoon!

The boat we got back was very narrow and wobbly indeed, so we needed lots of concentration to not wobble and capsize it! On getting back to Luang Prebang we walked up to the temple on top of 100m high Phu Si which is in the centre of town. The views over town and the Mekong were lovely just as the sun was setting.

We have found a new beer to enjoy as well, we had Hanoi and Saigon beer in Vietnam, Chang Beer in Thailand and now we have found Beer Lao which goes down very nicely after a days sightseeing, especially as a big bottle only costs a pound and is enough for two. There is a really good cafe scene here as well. The French left behind a legacy of lovely fresh baguettes that you can enjoy everywhere and great coffee. We also found a top wine bar and as it gets cold at night they give you a little charcoal burner to put under your table so you don't get cold while enjoying a nice glass of red, all very civilised. We have decided to stay for a week as it is such a lovely place before heading onto Vang Vieng.

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