Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gang of Four in Laos

Luang Prabang was the only place we had time to explore in Laos. It was nice to be in a small city again.

It's pretty laid back there.

Taxi driver on break.
Mitch, Scott, Monica and I hung out non-stop while in Luang Prabang. It was nice to have some new people around. We recounted a lot of our stories from the trip with them and created a few of our own.

One of the streets in Luang Prabang, running parallel to the river.
Getting ready to lay some bricks down. Those are feathers on the right (used to make mortar?).
There's a pedestrian bridge made of bamboo for crossing the river. The bridge has to be replaced annually because the bamboo breaks down from wear and tear and the rising river.

When we split up, our meeting spot was usually a restaurant/bar called Utopia, owned by a Canadian ex-pat.

Expansive bamboo deck for eating, drinking, socializing and just laying around.
One day we rented bikes for a dollar and rode out into the countryside. It was really hot, but I liked having the freedom to explore outside the city, getting away from tourists and traffic congestion.

I think they might literally be born on motorbike.

Back in downtown LP. Commie flag on the left.
No honking.
Cops wear Converse.
One morning, Monica and I set our alarms for 5:30 a.m. so we could see the local women give alms to the monks. Monica did a great job of describing the procession here.

Almost ready for them.
The presentation of the dish.

Some monks are quite young.
After the procession, we figured we should watch the sun rise, so we went down to the river.

There it is.
Then back to Utopia for breakfast.

Later that day, we met up with Mitch and Scott and the four of us went to the Kuang Si Falls via hired truck driver.

They sold Lao snake whiskey as a medicinal cure for rheumatism and sweat of limbs.
At the waterfall, they happened to have a big cage of black bears.

A 3D display of different types of bears:

The waterfalls were breathtaking--far surpassing my expectations.

The water was a creamy light blue shade. It was as cold as it looks.

I was amazed by the natural multi-tier layers of falls. I have no idea how something like this forms.

Just in case you were wondering...

We kept climbing further up, discovering more and more waterfalls, until we got to a really big one.
On our last day, we crossed the bamboo bridge to the other side of the river. It was pretty rickety and really felt like my feet were going to fall right through the bamboo leaf floor.

On the other side...

Six TVs.
Looks like veins.
At a temple...

"Monks Were Here. Feb. '12"
Tiny cat on big drum.
Monk bunks.
Using someone's hat and bike for photoshoot.
Before we crossed back over, we played around in the river a little.

Lots of green algae swept onto my legs and feet from the current.
Some local boys came down to swim. After seeing so much of this from the boat, we finally saw it firsthand.

The mid-day sun was shining strong and Monica and I were cruising on just a couple hours of sleep, but we decided to make the hike up the mountain to visit Phou Si Temple.

Long golden dragons on both sides.
I'm not sure what this is. An offering box?
One last view of LP from the temple on the hill.
I really liked Luang Prabang and I wish we could have spent more time there. They had amazing coffee--best coffee shake I've ever had. We also got really tasty soups on our last day in town. The traffic wasn't too gnarly and the city was quite beautiful (besides all the pollution and smoke clouding the sky). People in Laos are friendly, but I think they have a hard time with numbers. They told us our bus to Hanoi was going to take 24 hours, when in reality it took over 30. Details soon to come...