3/25 – We awoke to the sound of birds outside our window. The ceiling fan circled overhead. What a peaceful, easy feeling – we’re not in China anymore! Yay! We were too tired to attempt supper last night, so we got dressed and set out this morning to explore Luang Prabang. The day is overcast and in the 80s – perfect tropical weather. Flowers abound. Our guesthouse is quiet, with tables outside. There are signs reminding us to remove our shoes before climbing the stairs or entering a room.
Our quiet little street ends at the Mekong River, a flashback name for those who remember the Vietnam war. We walk to the main street, where a row of food stand vendors vie for our business. Sabaidi! the women call – hello! They offer all kinds of baguette sandwiches, crepes and coffee – the former French colonial influence is evident. There are lots of young European backpackers and Chinese tourists here. We see our Chinese friends from the bus, and sit down to have a chicken avocado baguette and a fresh fruit smoothie. It’s been a month since I’ve had bread – it tastes so good! The currency here is the kip, and 10,000 kip equal about $1.25. To make it easy on my brain, I start removing four zeros to calculate prices. Food and fruit are very reasonable here – $3.00 total for the smoothie and the sandwich. Fortified, we cross the street to check out the nearest Buddhist temple. Luang Prabang is home to 33 temples or wats, and support of the monks is very important to the people here.
After an afternoon nap, we head back out to find some supper. There are all types of eateries here – Thai, Lao, French, Chinese, and even a Spanish tapas place – from white tablecloth restaurants to street stands. We find a little cafe and order chicken with basil and rice, and the local beer, Beerlao. We are given forks – it feels strange to not have chopsticks… Every evening at 5pm, the main street is closed to traffic, and the night market sets up – hundreds of vendors selling everything from clothing, toys, silks, jewelry, artwork of all sorts, to pastry, fresh fruit and spring rolls. Very laid back, no pressure. Bargaining mandatory. Here are Buddhas painted on turtle shells.
A relaxing first day – we like it here!