A Journey To Luang Prabang

Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in charming city, explore, Luang Prabang, monks, scooters, temples, Uncategorized | 0 comments

A Journey To Luang Prabang

A Journey To Luang Prabang

I’ve got to tell you, flying into a third world country is a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. We disembark right onto the runway. Steam ascends off the concrete from a recent cloud burst. Low grey clouds cloak the jungle from my anxious eyes. But I can smell it. The earth is hiding just beyond my sight, stalking, waiting for an unsuspecting moment to pounce out from beyond the cloak of mist

An attendant in a brightly colored sarong and button down sweater guides us to the visa office. The lines are short and quick. There are no bulky x-ray machines or grim faced guards to show you how to hold your arms while patting you down for invisible reasons.

I plunk down my passport, twenty five bucks and I smile for the camera. Like any good immigration officer, she glares back at me with steely eyes. I smile and give her a quick wink. She tucks her head quickly, holding her hand to her mouth trying not to smile back at me. After all Doug Eagen has just arrived in Laos. Whats not to smile about!

The sun finally parts the clouds just to the west of us.The jungle climbs out beyond the mist. Laos is unveiled like a magician bringing forth an emerald out of thin air. I had never dreamt such beauty could exist. My attempt at trying to act cool in front of our driver went to pot. I hung my head out the window like a good dog trying to catch flies with it’s teeth. “Yes, I cried out. “We are here!”

Our driver, who spoke incredibly good English drove us towards our destination. Turns out he can also speak French, German and Thai. So much for the myth of lousy education in poor countries.

We hit the main highway into town. Wow. It is not any wider than the quiet suburban street that I live on in America. It’s size though is where any similarity ends. Hills, temples, palm trees, shacks, fruit stands, chickens, dogs, cats, slews of motor scooters, trucks, bikes, flower stalls, children, and adults alike line the edges of the roadway going about there daily business. I was so happy I almost broke into a makeshift Julie Andrews song, “The hills are alive, with the sound of scooters!”

‘This place is totally cool’ I thought to myself. It was not unlike some other provinces of Thailand or Cambodia I had been too, but it feels much more laid back. We crossed the bridge over the Nam Kahn river , took a right and we are in the Unesco World Heritage sight of Luang Prabang.

My heart leapt and I squeeze my lovers hand. If romance were to play the part of a city, this would be the main stage!

The small city, carved out of the middle of the jungle, has been at the very top of my list of must see’s . And I am not disappointed with my choice. This is by far the coolest, quaintest, little city I’ve ever been too. I give myself an imaginary pinch. don’t wake me now. This is the day I’ve dreamt of for a very long time. I expected throngs of tourists, and am pleasantly surprised by their absence.

The old city of Luang Prabang is situated on a peninsula formed by the Mekong, and the Nam Kahn river. It is a thin strip of land only about a half mile wide by three miles long. But within these three miles we find restaurants galore, shops, markets, boutique hotels, a royal palace, textiles of every color imaginable, and over thirty Buddhist temples.

Just to give you a little history. This used to be the capitol and seat of power of the former kingdom before the communist take over in 1975.It had been colonized by the French in the late eighteen hundreds, but they have since moved on. Luckily they left behind there architecture for the rest of us too enjoy, along with their love of rich bitter coffee and crunchy baguettes.

  My smile sprinted  ten feet in front of me. Every bend and turn of the corner brought a new view, a new sensation, and a new look at how other people live their lives.       

Women ride by on bikes with baskets of fruit slung on sticks over their shoulders, and children in their laps. Wooden bridges cross the river into unseen jungle villages. Fisherman throw their nets in search of supper.

Palm trees wave over ancient temples and men playing cards on wooden boxes. Rice cakes lie drying in the sun on bamboo racks. Narrow stair stepped alleys give us a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals that inhabit this extraordinary place.

Overlooking the Mekong river we enjoyed a fine dinner of river weed, sticky rice, papaya salad, laab, and a fine bottle of French champagne.

After a stroll under soft streetlights we visit the night market just beyond the walls of the royal palace. Vendors from the surrounding villages and hill tribes line the street under bright red tents displaying everything from flutes, to watercolors, to intricately woven silk textiles.The sea of color extends as far as your eye will let you before your neck snaps you back to check the wares of artisans at the next booth.

After a long and delightful day in this land I had so longed to see, we turned in for the night. We leave the windows open, listening to the song the river plays through the night. Slumber came quickly, but was short lived.

I thought I was dreaming when I first heard the drums and gongs. It was  4:30 in the morning. Surely all the parties had been put to bed by now. I opened my eyes, and the lone light of  night shone down through the slats of the wooden shutters.Then the chanting begins. I look towards the temple across the street. Through the darkness  silhouettes of its  chofa fineals and naga balustrades illuminate in the light of the full moon.

  Rubbing my eyes I realize, this aint no party. This aint no disco. And this definately aint no fooling around. This is the monthly full moon buddhist ceremony that has been practiced here for many years. My eyes and ears adjust to the night. The drum beats, gongs and chanting hail from all parts of the city. I take a seat on the porch bench enjoying the cool morning air.

Beams from the full moon shine through the palm fronds and reflect off the ripples of the Nam Kahn river. Small charcoal fires glow from the alleyways. Cats stretch out along the rooftops, fences and alleys.

Roosters cajoled the sun to bring forth light, adding their own sharp cries to the deep chants of the monks. Talk about atmosphere. This place has it going on. I put my hands together and raise them to my forehead. I give thanks to all the moments of my life that have brought me here.

Over the whispers, and song of the city I hear my lover stir in our bed. Her eyes open. She smiles. I know today will be the day that I would ask for her hand. My breath is chased away by my heartbeat. Under the shadow of the night a tear rolls down my cheek. I am in the land of my dreams. Dreams that all come true.

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