Luang Prabang – waterfall, Mekong river and monks

One of the highlights of Luang Prabang region is the waterfalls. We chose to visit Kuang Si waterfalls, it’s about 40km away from the city. We took a bus that leaves the old town at 11 am, so we would not need to get up early that day. After all, the 10-hour jet leg takes a few days to pass over.

The waterfall was huge. First, we walk along the trails and bridges to enjoy several points of view. Then we went for a quick shower in the cold waters. The color of the water was milky white, beautiful light blue. I think it was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen in terms of colors. I had never seen a blue waterfall like this. To finish our visit, we had lunch in the restaurant in the park, next to the waterfalls. The food was delicious. We ordered pad thai and red curry chicken with coconut milk. In short, Kuang Si is really worth it, you can not miss it.

An important tourist and religious event of the city is the Tak Bat – Morning Alms Giving Ceremony. The practice of offering food to monks is common in Theravada Buddhist countries such as Laos and Thailand. In Luang Prabang, this practice happens very early in the morning, it is still dark night. Between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., the monks leave the temples and walk in a row to receive the food. Here, it was usually rice. In the streets around the temples (almost all of the old town) the locals put rows of small plastic stools for people to wait for the monks. Everywhere there are stalls selling cooked rice for the tourists and religious persons to buy in order to make the offerings. The common sense rules are not to touch the monks or interrupt their walk or take pictures with a flash. Many of the tourists respected the ceremony and were silent enjoying the ritual. Some Asian tourists (they seemed to be Japanese and Koreans) caught our attention because they were very inopportune. They followed the monks like paparazzi, taking pictures with flash and disrupting the ritual. I found it was strange because most of the countries in the region are Buddhist. I imagined that they would respect the ritual since it was their own religion. But their passion for pictures seemed to be far greater than their faith.

Before dawn the ceremony is over, so we walked to the morning market since it was too early and at that time we would not have breakfast at the hotel. It was interesting to see the variety of vegetables and meats that they sold at local stalls. I saw a lady frying a mixture with vegetables that looked like a fried savory cake. I asked what it was, she did not understand English. I decided to take a risk and eat without knowing what it was. It looked like a big fried cake made of rice flour with vegetables and some seafood. I loved it. And it made me warm. I was feeling cold of standing on the street seeing the monks during the night. In order to complete my day, I decided to do a massage, I chose the Traditional Lao Massage for an hour. It was a bit like shiatsu, I loved it.

On our last day in Laos, I wanted to go around the Mekong River. I had already been on the river before in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was amazing to know it was the same river. We rented a local boat – the very thin and long ones – and I asked to sail around the river. He insisted on taking us to a cave, but I explained that I wanted just to be on the river. We went to the meeting of the two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khan. We saw boats, the riverside population, the landscape… It was a short time of navigating, but I could feel the river. Then we decided to circle the historic center along the banks of the two rivers before returning to the hotel, to review the landscape from another angle. We passed the two bamboo bridges. One we had already passed to go eat at the Dyen Sabai restaurant. This boat trip was our farewell to Laos, on the same day we took a tuk-tuk to the airport towards Hanoi.

[Text, photos and video by Karla Brunet – 2019]

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