Friday, Dec 24

After the incredible bus ride the day before, we decided to treat ourselves to a quiet first day in Luang Prabang. We couldn’t have picked a better spot. It’s a beautiful little city that spreads along the Mekong and meanders with the river for as far as the eye can see.

Since it was Christmas Eve, most places spotted some Chrismas decoration: either a tree, some tinsel, ornaments, singing Santas, etc. The Books and Tea cafe did something rather ingenious (exhibit A), so it wasn’t all kitch, fortunately.

Exhibit A :The Christmas dress

We walked from our hotel to the riverside – it is about a 20 minute walk before the dusty road and the roaring cars and mopeds make space for the river promenade. This one, too, is littered with cafes and street food and an array of boatsmen hailing falangs to board their vessels and ride into the famous Mekong sunset. We didn’t wait for the sunset and took some pictures of the river in the afternoon sun. I think they came out great.

Exhibit B: Mekong river promenade in LP
Exhibit C: Mekong river promenade in LP (2)

At Catharina’s suggestion, we had breakfast on the terrace of the Belle Rive Hotel with a wonderful view over the river.

Exhibit D: View from the Belle Rive

The food was good, and we managed to get breakfast although it was past 2PM. The lady who served us made sure we knew she didn’t think much of our eating habits; when I asked for the breakfast menu she said “We don’t want to, but we can make you breakfast.” I’ll file that under “lost in translation” – although she had the best English of all Laotians I have spoken to so far…

After our late breakfast we walked back along the river to the hotel where we had our massages. 

Feeling rejuvenated and just a little bit in pain ( Andreas had a massage done with hot bundles of tea and herbs pressed into the skin – sometimes they were rather ardent; I had a sports massage because I am an athlete obviously and the lady who performed the kneading decided to mix in some Thai massage elements and really stretched my calf muscles and hemstrings) we got ready for dinner.

We went to the Manda de Laos restaurant for their Christmas menu. We had been there the night before but we had only had a small snack so we wanted the full experience. Please find the regular and the vegetarian menu below. I must say that the vegetarian one was, in fact, vegan and extremely fond of tofu. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, but it sure had a lot of tofu. Andreas liked his menu, it was flavorful and  well-rounded. 

Exhibit E : The Tofu Menu
Exhibit F : The Not-Tofu Menu
The wine was not extraordinary but I ordered a “Tuk Tuk Grabber” cocktail and received this:

Exhibit G: The Tuk Tuk Grabber

I love fruity, sweet-sour cocktails and this one did not disappoint! Andreas had something called “Honey Jungle” but I don’t have a picture of that. It looked very normal :).

After dinner we went back to the hotel and decided to go to bed really early so that we can start the next day refreshed and have more time. It kinda worked…?

Sunday, Dec 25

Merry Christmas! We got to breakfast 10 minutes before they closed at 10AM only to find that most of the food was gone. We scraped the rest of the glass noodles off the tray, got the last pieces of melon and passion fruit and had a coffee. Somehow Andreas managed to score 2 cold omelettes, so we didn’t really go hungry. He is the best.

After breakfast I had a brief meltdown regarding my rapidly decreasing available wardrobe. It´s very hot here, most of my stuff is already worn and sweaty and needs to be washed. Also, the weather here is not like I expected. The mornings are foggy and chilly with temperatures around 20 Celsius. Around 11AM the sun breaks through the clouds and the temperature rises rapidly until it reaches 30-32 Celsius around 2PM. Then it starts going down slowly and, as soon as the sun sets, it lingers around 2o degrees.  Anyhow, we overcame this obstacle due to Le Buck´s everlasting angel patience and left the hotel around 10:30AM.

First we stopped by The Book and Tea cafe, where they show indie films every night and have an entire book shelf with international fiction and non-fiction. They offer the option to swap your own book for one on the shelf or get food or coffee for one or more of your books. We had Lao coffee there and a coconut milkshake with fruit.

Brief interlude: Next to our table sat a young Canadian guy who seemed to be recovering from a night of heavy partying. At another table was a Canadian family with a boy of about 8 who talked incessantly and about everything. I have no idea how it came about, but the boy ended up next to the hungover dude and proceeded to explain to him in the most tedious details one of the games on his phone.He had a very excited voice and everything he said sounded like Eureka! The dude was stoic.

Our next stop for the day was Utopia. This is a favorite hangout for travelers and foreigners in general in Luang Prabang. It`s a cafe/bar/restaurant with a mix of tables and lounges and colorful cushions on the floor around wooden tables. It ovelooks the Mekong, plays the Cranberries and offers food ranging from burgers to curries, as well as drinks. It`s a very pleasant spot and all guests were very quiet and mellow, two guys even played the guitar and sang somewhere in the back. It was quite hippie. 

Exhibit H: View from Utopia
Exhibit I: View from Utopia (2)

For the rest of the day we walked. We toured the old city that stretches into the peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan and took pictures of almost everything. We crossed a bamboo bridge and stuck our feet in the water on the other side.We watched as 3 Buddhist monks climbed the rocky Mekong shore across from us and jumped into the water in their bright orange cloths. We walked through parks and along the river promenade and fell in love with this beautifully exotic place.

Exhibit J: Monks in the Mekong
Exhibit K: Random restaurant
Exhibit L: Baby clothes drying

In the evening we visited the night market – there are worlds between the one in Vientiane and this one. Every evening around 5 PM one of the main roads in Luang Prabang closes and the street merchants bring out their products. For about 1km the street is filled with bright lights, silk scarves, dresses, jewelry, food, wooden carvings, lampshades in all colors, accessories, etc. The clientele is mostly made of tourists and you can hear all languages while walking through the market. 

We made a few small purchases, dined on a Laotian sandwich of ham&eggs (Buck) and fried rice (moi) and returned to the hotel.

Tomorrow we`re going to the Kuang Si Falls and on Tuesday and Wednesday we`ll be at the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayabouri. I can´t wait!