Sunday, March 27, 2011

Laos first impression

I'm in my second country!!!
Yea, I made it to Laos! This country was the one I was most excited for, and now I'm here. Yippee!!

After crossing the border at Huay Xai into Laos, I hopped onto the slow boat from Huay Xai to Pak Beng to Luang Prabang. This slow boat traveled down the Mekong River from Huay Xai. The boat carried about 100 people and the first day we traveled for about 6 hours down the river through beautiful scenery. Lush mountain sides that were snaked through by the river, nice sandy beaches on the river, limestone like formations creating large sharp stark mountains. And the occasional Elephant, family having a picnic, or small village along the river. We stayed in Pak Beng that night (I split a room with 2 British girls, and we only paid $1.50 each!). The next morning the adventure down the river continued...for 8 more hours. Well this being the second day on a boat, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves, cards, silly games, reading, chatting, eating, drinking, and the best of all...watermelon bowling down the aisles!
The scenery continued to be amazing, but we finally arrived to the city of Luang Prabang at about 5 pm. This is the second biggest city in Laos, with a total population of 100,000. Yea! The total population of Laos is between 6 and 7 million only (San Diego has 1.3 million) In other words, Laos may big big on the map, but the population is few and far between.
This town was once colonized by the French during Laos' complicated and fairly recent history in world politics. So Luang Prabang has this leftover influence from the French, that makes for a really cool setting. French like architecture mixed with Laos architecture. Crepes being sold on the streets. Wine. Curbside cafes. Tucked maze-like alleyways. The signs have subtitles in French, and the Laos ladies address me as Madame.
What a nice little town. I planted myself there for about 5 days, and they floated by.
You could hike to the top of a hill in the middle of town that had a Wat and a great view of Luang Prabang below. You could see the Mekong and the other river Nam Rah, as well as the small city laid out before you. What a place for a sunset!
One of the days I challenged myself by taking a Laos cooking class. Now ask anybody that knows me, and I'm not like my Mom or Maija or my Grandma...I'm not a cook! I can do little things (I make a mean spaghetti and boiled egg, and prepare yourself for my expertly made microwave burrito), but this seemed like a good way to challenge myself.
So the Laos cooking class was all day. We started by taking a trip through the local market which is pretty large and offers everything from raw meat, to batteries, to 10 lb. bags of tobacco. We picked up vegetables, spices, and a few other ingredients. Once back at the school, we started by making the famous Luang Prabang salad which is based around their particular style of sauce, yummy! Okay I can make a salad, you can't burn that, you can't deform it too much...phew safe. But then I had to start cooking things :- /  I burnt the first dish, which if I remeber correctly was a meat and vegetable dish with noodles, those noodles got burnt in the wok. Oops. At least I was the only one who had to eat it. Then, we were shown how to make 5 traditional dishes, and then had to choose three to make ourselves.  So I moved on with a smile and made three dishes that turned out pretty darn well if I do say so myself. I made a fried eggplant, vegetable and pork dish. Also a chicken curry, and lastly another pork vegetable noodle dish. It was a fun day, and I enjoyed the other two people in the class. I'm very glad I did something different and something challenging, I liked it so much, I think I'll take a cooking class in each country I go to in Southeast Asia. The cuisine, and culture for that matter, is so different in all of them.

The next day I spent going to the waterfalls outside of town (a little more in my realm of familiarity). These were amazing sights to see. The waterfall park included a bear refugee, Laos having 2 of the 7 species of bear in the world. These bears were cute to watch playing around with eachother, smacking each other in the face and hanging around in hammocks- kinda reminded me of me and my brother. The I hiked up to the waterfalls. :-O Wow!!! The waterfalls were set in the Laos jungle and the color of the water was spectacular, a crystal clear blue that reminded me of the Caribbean. There was the main waterfall but also tons of smaller sets of falls up and down the river from that, some meant for swimming, others for gazing, and others had rope swings to jump into the water.  I hiked to the top of the waterfalls (which to compare were somewhat similar to Cedar falls in the shape) and was treated to a beautiful view of the valley and jungle. I was able track down a set of pools off the beaten track and had them all to myself to take a swim and read and enjoy the views. Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.
Another enjoyable thing about Luang Prabang was the Hmong night market, seemingly endless rows of stands selling clothes, knick knacks, silver, and all sorts of other pretty things to feast your eyes on and get your inner-hippie going. At the end of the market was what I dubbed the food alley, and ate here every night. You walked down the crammed alley full of fried chicken and meat, questionably looking floating meat dishes, and a buffet. For 10,000 Kip (just over 1 USD) you buy a plate and get to put however much you can fit of the delicious Lao food and take a seat among people you don't know and have a feast!! I was happily in food heaven (especially since I knew how to make some of those dishes.)
I really really enjoyed Luang Prabang and won't feel guilty if I stop by there again for another couple of days ;-p

But, I've moved up north. I took a minibus from Luang Prabang to Luang Nam Tha. The ride here I just had to mark on my scale. I've created a scale while traveling that pertains to bus rides or other forms of transportation. Known as the "Sport Bra Worthiness" scale. It ranges from 1 being a nice smooth ride in a luxury like bus where you could practically sleep the entire time (and wear a regular bra) to 5 being you need a sports bra, don't bother eating before you go, better not have to pee, you'll bounce 6 inches out of your seat and sleep...well you shoulda done that before! For my 8 hour journey from Luang Prabang to Luang Nam rated a 4.5 on the SBW scale. Laos doesn't put much money into their roads...

But I'm hear, and a little soarer in the tailbone for the worse, but not too bad. So off to explore some more...

Feel free to comment on the blog and say HI! I'd love to hear from people :-) Life is good. 


  1. Hey heeeyyy. Jenna here! I love your sports bra worthiness scale. Made me giggle. Glad to see you're enjoying Laos! You made me want to visit that town there that was a blend of French and Lao influence.

  2. wait until you get to Cambodia, I believe there are only two paved roads in the country (from Thailand to Siem Riep, and from Siem Riep to the capital!) % loved Laug Prabang, and me and Michelle went back multiple times. Make sure to get an oil massage... Only $5 for an hour!

  3. love reading your adventure. Glad your learning to do a little cooking. Maybe cook up a little lunch when you get back. Glad to hear your traveling with some friends you've meet. Sounds like your having a great time.
    Miss you here

  4. Living vicariously through your experiences!
    Want to go very bad

  5. Thanks for commenting guys!
    @ Jenna- I think you'd love it, the town is very fun and has style.

    @Beth- Oil massage it is. I'm heading today to Nong Kiaw - that little town north of Luang prabang you recommended. Looking forward to it

    @ Ger- Thanks. I'm trying to get up to Nancy's cooking skills- i think I have a ways!

    @ Cathy- HI! Great to hear. You know where I am ;-)


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