Saturday, March 10, 2012

Temples and More Temples in Luang Prabang (10 FEB)

For a map of my travels, click here

Day 5 of the Luggage Crisis:  I got another text from Thai Airways, saying that my bag was in Yangon, and they wanted to know where to deliver it.  I called them and told them that not only was I not in Yangon, but I would probably have left Luang Prabang by the time it got there.  So we agreed that they would just ship it to Hanoi, which was my next stop.

My first full day in Luang Prabang was devoted to seeing Buddhist temples. . .and more temples. 

Actually, we started off by touring the Phousi morning food market, not temples.   I saw a number of fruits and vegetables I had never seen before--also a number of products made from every part of the buffalo.  Apparently buffalo hide is one of the local delicacies there. Another local delicacy is river weed, which is pretty much like seaweed, except they pluck it from the river and dry it. 

At the food market




Local delicacy at the food market--I think they're water bugs
All buffalo, all the time


Now, it was time for the temples, so we began our stroll down the main street in town (Th Sisavangvong).  Here are a few (but not all) of the temples--the reason they all seem to have "Wat" in their name is that "Wat" is the local word for "monastery temple" in Thailand and Laos:

Wat Mai Suwannapumaram

Wat Mai Suwannapumaram

Haw Pha Bang

Haw Pha Bang

Decoration at Haw Pha Bang


There is a wat on almost every corner, and at times I just couldn't keep track of them.  So, on occasion, I didn't know what wat I was at. (ba-dump)


A wat whose name I don't remember (sorry)


Next we went a couple of blocks away from the main street to see Wat Visoun, otherwise known as the "Watermelon Temple", and Wat Aham

Wat Visoun

Inside Wat Aham

The walls inside Wat Aham

The temple tours pretty much ate up the morning, and after lunch, I had a couple of hours to kill, so I returned to street walking and got the following shots:

Local monk going about his daily activities

Local housing in Luang Prabang

A local school

Here's a video I took during my walk around town.  It gives you a feel for the laid-back nature of Luang Prabang.  Note the wave and smile from the vendor at the end.

While I was walking I decided to see if I could do a little clothes shopping.  So far I had managed to get by with buying only underwear, a pair of socks, and a duffel bag.  I was getting a little tired of having to wash my pants and my sweat-soaked shirt every night.  For some reason, there was no shortage of women's clothes on sale at the night market, but nothing except (too-small) t-shirts for men.  So, I cam upon a store in the center of town that carried actual American-brand travel clothing like Columbia.  (Or maybe, Columbia knock-offs).  I found an XXL shirt that actually fit me, and only cost $25 (which led me to believe that maybe it was a knock-off, but at least they spelled Columbia right).  No such luck with pants, though--I would need to lose 20 pounds to fit into their version of an XXL.

At about 5:00 we went to Mount Phousi, which is a very large hill in the center of town.  At the top of the hill is Wat Chom Si, which is very nice, but all tourists are apparently required to climb the hill and take in the sunset.  The good news is that the view from the top of the hill is really nice; the bad news is that it is about 400 steps (the equivalent of a 40-story climb) to the top.  The even better news is that I was able to make it to the top without requiring oxygen.  When I did get to the top, I was sweating like a pig, and every tourist in Luang Prabang was waiting for me.  We spent the next 30 minutes taking pictures, mostly of each other.


View of Luang Prabang from Mount Phousi
Wat Chom Si
Some offerings at the Wat

Another view of town
View of Luang Prabang and the Mekong at sunset
At the top with a few close friends

After descending the hill (which was much easier than climbing it), it was time for another trip through the night market.

Night Market setting up in front of Haw Pha Bang

More merchandise at the night market
After my first pass through the night market, I went to a restaurant (Blue Lagoon) that my guide had recommended, and had the best meal of the trip--it was a plate with 4 different Laotian items.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop by.
The Blue Lagoon
Then it was back to my hotel via another trip through the night market.

Night market in front of my hotel


As usual, I'll close with a few random shots from the day:

Some unidentifiable fruits at the food market.

In Wat Mai Suwannapumaram

In Wat Mai Suwannapumaram

Another wat around town

I'm the one on the right

Confluence of the Mekong and Mae Kok rivers

Some local flora

One of many Buddhas around town

Another temple complex whose name I forget

Local transportation

A Lao stop sign

Rush hour on the edge of the town center

A few of my close friends at the top of Mount Phousi

On sale at the night market
Next--Into the Laotian Countryside


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