Laos D2: Luang Prabang City Tour, Pak Ou Caves, Sunset

PSX_20190623_012012Giving alms to the monks in Luang Prabang, Laos
Today we started our day early at 6.15am to see the monks receiving alms from the locals (and few tourists). Our tour guide, Mr Southone, asks us whether we want to see the the ritual in downtown, where it is more crowded and packed by tourists, or the relatively less popular one on outskirt of the city. We choose the latter.

We arrived just on time, two buses were dropping off the monks and soon after they started marching from one end of the road to the other. Alongside the pedestrian walkway, locals and few tourists are lining up on a carpet with bowl of sticky rice to donate. The whole process completed in less than fifteen minutes and toward the end of the line, we were giggling in private because some of the locals were overestimating the amount of rice they have and underestimating the number of monks. However, we later learned that all the alms would be collected together before being shared back to the monks for the breakfast.

Then we headed back to the Sanctuary Hotel, where we 90 minutes to leisurely enjoy our breakfast. There were the usual international breakfast menu being served, e.g. eggs, pancakes, juices, and few local taste such as fried noodles and fried rice. Although the weather was humid and hot, it was a pleasant way to start the day.

PSX_20190623_041939Mekong River (Luang Prabang) in the morning

We started our city tour at Royal Palace Museum, which is open only from 8.30-11.30 and 13.30-16.00. There, we learned the previous Kings reigning the country and the history of French occupation in the country. Pictures are not allowed inside the museum and you have to leave your bags in the office nearby, so do prepare a small clutch to store your passport and money. It is also not allowed to enter the museum wearing shorts above the knee and teared-jeans. However, they provide a sarong to borrow for 5000 Kip ($3).

In the same complex Wat Mai temple is located, a sacred temple that is currently hosting the golden statue of Prabang. We then move to the Arts and Ethnology Centre, a very small site displaying the traditional clothes of few tribes in Laos, their musical instruments and the weaving tools they are using to create fabric. There is not much to see, but the place is close to Wat Sene, Wat Visoun and Wat Aham, our next destination.

DCIM100GOPROG0104588.JPGA pond in Royal Palace Museum, Luang Prabang

It was about 11 am and we only have two more destination in the city, so our tour guide asked if we wanted to sit and relax for a while (we do!). Our driver dropped us at Mekong Viewpoint Café, an outdoor patio on the side of Mekong River, where we have a refreshing bottle of coca-cola under the sun. Recharged, we continued our tour to Wat Xiengthong, a temple located within five-minutes walk distance from the cafe.

PSX_20190623_041842Mekong River from the Viewpoint Cafe, Luang Prabang

We have our lunch at The Belle Rive Terrace, an open-air restaurant facing the river and located next to the boat dock for Mekong River cruise. We tried Orlam, a coconut milk based dish similar to a mild curry. With our tummy filled, we walked down the stairs to go for the Mekong River cruise with final destination to Pak Ou Cave.

It took 90 minutes to arrived at Pak Ou and another 90 to go back to the city. During the journey, we saw local activities in the river, the construction of a railway bridge by a Chinese company (one of One Belt One Road project) and simply the beautiful landscape. We also stopped at several villages selling liquor and textile products, called Ban Xiengkhong,Ban Xiengklek and Ban Xanghai

PSX_20190623_042632Local fisherman in the Mekong River

PSX_20190623_042445Children playing in the Mekong River

PSX_20190623_042527Land reclamation in the Mekong River

Once we arrived at the Pak Ou Cave, young children were swarming toward us selling completely random things: small fishes inside a plastic bag and crackers. There were stairways to hike before arriving at the cave, where thousands of small Buddha statue is installed facing the mouth of the cave. The site itself is actually quite small, so we do not stay for long. The view from the cave, however, is amazing.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4628.JPGOur Boat docking at Pak Ou Cave, Laos

PSX_20190623_042346Our Boat docking at Pak Ou Cave, Laos

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4629.JPGPak Ou Cave in Laos

We headed back to the city around 3 pm from Pak Ou Cave. I spent most of the time sleeping on the boat, feeling tired after half day of city tour. On the way back, I was reminiscing of my past travel and listened to my favorite, go-to travel song by Jo Stafford, “You Belong To Me”. Here’s the lyrics:

See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sun rise on a tropic isle
Just remember, darling, all the while
You belong to me.
See the marketplace in old Algiers
Send me photographs and souvenirs
Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to me.
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you’re home again
You belong to me.
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
But remember, darling, till you’re home again
You belong to me.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4611.JPGMe on the Mekong River cruisePSX_20190623_042617Mekong River Landscape, Laos

We arrived at our hotel around 5pm, leaving us little less than two hours to prepare for the sunset. After the whole day soaking under the sun, we decided that a shower is overdue, especially if we wanted to have our dinner at fancy restaurant. For the sunset, we went to the only 4-story building in Luang Prabang that happened to be a rooftop bar. I could say that there weren’t many people on the top, with only two other tourist drinking beside us.

The sunset was beautiful. It was very… ugh, tropical. We waited until it was dark, so that I could take photograph of the night market with all its lights turned on. Initially, we were planing to go to La Belle Epoque, one of the top fancy restaurant in the city. But we were so tired to go far away from the downtown area (although tuk-tuk is widely available) that we went across the street and dined at Avani+ Main Street Bar & Grill. I had a pork chop and my mom had a spring roll and noodle, both of which was decent and fairly priced. Tomorrow, we are heading to another city called Vang Vieng, 3-4 hours drive away from Luang Prabang, which is the highlight of this Laos trip for me.

PSX_20190623_105941Luang Prabang during the sunset from Indigo Cafe Rooftop Bar

PSX_20190623_181527Luang Prabang night market from Indigo Cafe Rooftop Bar

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About Kevin

Kevin is a research analyst at a macro research firm and a private fund manager since 2012. He holds a Master of Management in Finance degree from McGill University and has passed all levels of CFA and FRM exam. Kevin is an avid traveler and photographer, with a record of 33 countries visited in 2019. He is a freelance contributor at Getty Image and is running two website in his spare time, journeyman.live and putamencapital.com
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