Day 11 - Sunday, Nov 2, 2003
Luang Prabang

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- Luang Prabang -

10:25 AM 10:29 AM 10:36 AM 10:36 AM Phou Si Hill 10:59 AM 11:01 AM
11:43 AM 11:44 AM 11:45 AM 11:45 AM 11:46 AM 11:51 AM 12:05 PM
12:12 PM 12:18 PM 12:19 PM 12:25 PM 12:26 PM 12:26 PM 12:30 PM
Three of us (Ruth resting again) breakfast at Café De Artes, walked along river (tuk-tuk/boat gauntlet), through market and past lots of wats. Walked up "sorry new road" and round Phou Si hill, then Wat Saen (prayer flag), Wat Sop [Doc?], and Wat Xiang Thong (the Golden City Monastery - main sim built 1560, King Selthathilat). In 1888 there were almost 50 monasteries - today just over 30.
- Lao Ramayana scenes and levels of "Buddhist hell"
- Aqueduct in rafters bathes Buddha, then drains out elephant head on the outside
- Flame tree mosaic - tree stood here when city was founded
- Red chapel with a very nice reclining Buddha statue in the Lao style
- Funerary carriage hall built 1962; carriage transported remains of King Sisauang Vong to cremation - 3 urns held corpse in upright fetal position, ashes of his dad and mom at front and back. Cremated king in April 1961.
Saw Will and another woman at Wat Thong. Found a boat driver who offered to take us to the Pak Ou caves for $4 apiece, but couldn't take us until after 1:00 after the official boat tour booth was closed. We agreed to meet him at 1:00 if we decided to go.
Then lunch and back to the river around 2:00.

More Luang Prabang Pictures

- Boat to Pak Ou Caves -

2:00 PM 2:01 PM 2:02 PM 2:02 PM 3:07 PM 3:09 PM 3:49 PM
3:49 PM
Miraculously the boat guy found us and led us to his boat. A long, thin, steel boat with plywood uppers and seats for six, which provided a comfortable, dry ride. He already had a young European couple waiting in the boat. Since we were an hour later than we'd casually told him, we never found out how long they'd been there or how long the guy was willing to wait.

- Tham Ting Cave -

3:11 PM 3:13 PM 3:13 PM 3:16 PM 3:16 PM 3:19 PM
It was almost exactly an hour to the Pak Ou Caves, where a big tour group was just finishing up. After the old people made their slow way down the stairs, we had it almost all to ourselves. None of the zillion Buddhas were impressive, except in their decrepitude, but the juxtaposition of endless ranks of Buddhas in an old limestone cave was pretty cool. Plus splendid views across the Mekong, and a little village (Pak Ou) at the foot of some steep karsts on the far bank. (Again, Dodo took loads of pix for Ruth including one of bats on the ceiling of the upper cave. They just looked like black freckles, so she deleted it.)

- Tham Phum Cave -

3:28 PM Trough for Washing Buddahs 3:30 PM 3:37 PM 3:41 PM 3:42 PM
And a pretty walk through jungly woods from the lower to the upper cave. Dodo thought the coolest thing was a big stone lion (concrete? From a wat entrance, maybe) that has gotten limestone on it and is turning into part of the cave wall. The Buddhas are ceremonially washed once a year so they're unlikely to meet the same fate - too bad!

- Pak Ou -

3:49 PM 3:49 PM

More Pak Ou Pictures

- Whiskey Village -

4:05 PM 4:21 PM 4:47 PM
The other tourist couple had wanted to "see some villages" so we did the standard tourist-trap stop at Whiskey Village on the way back. Snakes and scorpions pickled in lau-lao (Lao rice whiskey), and a taste sampling of 3 kinds of rice whiskey. Dodo bought a touristy $4 bottle of the stuff with a woven bamboo covering. It was just a double row of little shops and stalls like any street market, a short scramble up the steep river bank. Chickens running around; a few ranks of large old-ish clay jars (the former trade of the village, before they realized selling booze to tourists was way more profitable). Claire and Dodo looked at baggy pants but couldn't see how they worked; when Dodo put some on for her massage later, she was glad she hadn't bought any - huge shapeless hospital-scrubs cotton things with the crotch at mid-thigh! Dan bought a bead necklace for $2.

More Whiskey Village Pictures

The driver asked if we wanted to stop at the paper-making village too, but the female European tourist said "is it just shops?" and receiving an affirmative, demurred. We got back much more rapidly (with the current) and gave the boat guy an extra dollar tip.

- Back in Luang Prabang -

It was now the early end of happy hour, so Dodo didn't feel she was missing anything to go get a massage while Dan and Claire had their first Beerlao of the evening. One thing she did miss (she heard Dan's big laugh from the massage place next door): some Lao guys on the street were giggling over Dan's arm hair, so he lifted his shirt to show them his chest hair and they were completely astonished (Lao men being pretty much hairless, with occasional bad sparse mustaches).
Dodo's massage was great: deep muscle work on her legs and back (mostly legs) and a few yoga-like stretches that she got to relax into. Wearing PJ's but barefoot, with a footbath first -- surely for the masseuse's benefit as much as hers, but very pleasant. $5 for an hour! Ruth had the aromatherapy massage, with scented oils, and the masseuse skillfully avoided her injured areas.
We walked in fruitless search of Lao Veg restaurant and then went a block and a half the other way (3,000 kip tuk-tuk ride for Ruth) to get yummy Indian food.
Nightcap, then to bed fairly early.

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