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Wat Phou, Pakse and the wonderful Luang Prabang

June 19th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

After our lovely homestay trip we were all exhausted so it was the perfect time to climb a mountain to see a temple. So we got back on the crazy raft boat thing and made our way to Wat Phou. The temple was Ok and there was a reasonable view, but to be honest the most interesting bit was the stone for sacrificing people. Apparently two virgins were sacrificed per year, or at least I think thats right I may have made it up. The stone was in the shape of a crocodile and the young people sacrificed would volunteer themselves. Can’t say I’d do the same.
Anyway our next hotel was in Pakse, had previously been a palace and although I managed to attract a colony of ants by covering the bed with crumbs it was pretty nice. At night there was this amazing storm and all the palm trees were blowing all over the place in the wind. I’ve never seen a storm like it. Mad.
In the morning we headed to Luang Prabang a day late as our flight had been cancelled the day before and by the time we arrived we went to this place called Joma. Oh my god it was heaven. A real coffee shop! We spent a good few hours there. After dinner we headed towards the night market. I loved it. It was lit up by laterns all the way along and was just stall after stall of scarves, t-shirts, jewellry, slippers etc etc. And bargaining was insanely easy. I stopped to look at a skirt, asked how much it was and then decided against buying it but when I then tried to leave and she kept callig me back and pushing the price down and down. I felt like a ruthless bargainer. All the same I didn’t buy it.
The next day was an amazing day. We started off with an elephant ride through the mountains of Laos and I actually sat on the front behind its ears. Turns out I am not a natural at elephant riding and the guy actually had to hold me on with his feet. Patrick was though! As we were riding through there were loads of crazy insects all of the place, not nice, and the elephant we were on was very ‘naughty’ as the man put it. She kept galloping off in the wrong direction. I thought it spiced things up a bit.
The afternoon was magic and the highlight of my trip so far. We went to this set of waterfalls and me Carolyn and Andrew climbed up some big hill and looked at the view. We seemed to be making a habit of climbing up places for views. Very tiring. On the way back down an orange butterfly landed on my foot and circled us for a while until some big angry bug flew towards us looking ready to do some damage so I ran away. Anyway the waterfalls were like physically blue because of the minerals in the water and we were able to swim in them and when you put your feet down all the little fish would nibble at your feet. I tried out the rope swing but my poor arm strength let me down and I fell off almost instantly, however we were able to jump off a small waterfall about 4 metres high. It was epic.
Even dinner was exciting. We had Lao BBQ which was abit like DIY restaurant service where we cooked our meat and soup and stuff at the table. Afterwards it was market again and this time I was in it to buy. I bargained hard, too hard maybe and ended up feeling a bit guilty but bought many gifts which I am sure some of you will benefit from when I am home. Though the Aladdin pants I bought looked dumb, which I was well gutted by!
Next morning it was time to leave again though and me Carolyn and Lek got up insanely early to see the monks take food offerings, which was really really stressful with two women shoving food on our plates so we could put it into these pots that the monks had. We had to take off our shoes and kneel on a mat and I spent half the time trying to get my second shoe off whilst handing the monks food. Very awkward.
The morning market was very different to the night market, less catered to tourists. It was mainly food, meat and fruit, we even saw lizards tied up to be bought! We then went for a normal Lao breakfast of coffee and doughnuts. Lek was telling us how really early before work everyone heads to the coffee shops (nothing like Joma just open on the streets) and chat and drink coffee to start their morning.
After packing we visited the palace and royal cars. The most interesting part I reckon was when the guide told us a little bit about the impact of the Vietnam war on Lao, which at the time meant very little but after to going to Vietnam means a lot more. After that we headed off on our way to Vang Vieng, although not before ordering sandwiches and coffee from Joma!

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