Luang Prabang Walkabout

Groggy McGroggerstein arrrrrrrgh. It’s about noon. Out to the main area of Mano Temple House and get some recovery coffee in the tree house. I catch Drisdelle up on the night’s stupidity. MacKay comes out shortly after with the feel like death face on, “Been throwing up all morning.” Well shit, guess it’ll be one of those days.

We get the run down on MacKay’s no-flying ear problem. This may change things a bit. We’d wanted to save some time and fly into Chang Mai but that option seems off the table for MacKay now. “I could just meet you guys later in Burma or something”, this also seems less than ideal. Might have to skip tubing in Vang Vieng in favor of having more time in Burma. Hmmmmm well we’re not in the finest form for trip planning right now, best aim for a breakfast spot here in Luang Prabang and spend our time seeing the town.

We nab some waters and head out into the dusty streets. It takes a few blocks to hit the good pavement into the more scenic parts of town. On the way we step into a couple of temples to check them out.

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Temple #2 looked similar but had a slightly different vibe to it. Same Naga guardians in the front by the steps. Then a terrifying bloody cat thing. The front door was surrounded by some freaky stuff. I’m guessing it was a vision of hell or maybe the misdeeds you need to do in life to be eternally damned in these gruesome ways. We’d seen some stuff like that back in Ecuador and again in Taiwain. Religious and historic parallels are great. Same ideas rehashed from different perspectives throughout the ages.

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It looks like Buddha is just floating off to the side in all of these torture scenes. He’s all “Told ya so, bitches.” Or is he overseeing? What’s actually going on here? This is some weird stuff.

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We find a decent looking cafe called Delilah’s and get some seats. Good looking menu of Lao dishes and more standard fare. I get something called a Laap spicy pork. Nice little spot, this was a good find. While we’re sitting there some old British dude is trying to assimilate a local with his English classes. He sounds like a major tool, I feel bad for the poor girl naively listening to him. I’d say he was the only part I didn’t enjoy about Delilah’s

The plates come out and they’re just adorable. They’ve made little faces out of the rice and whatnot. Reminds me of the Hello Kitty dim sum place we went to in Hong Kong. Scarf it down and start to feel a little better about life. I find a small green parrot in a cage there. He’s staring at me terrified and unable to move or make a noise.

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This was the spicy pork Laap with some sticky rice on the side. Great presentation, it was delicious.

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We bounce around Luang Prabang going from temple to temple and coursing the main streets. What a beautiful place. Restored colonial architecture set into the lush jungle-y greens, quaint little streets, really laid back vibe, nothing too crazy or chaotic going on. It really has a great relaxed feel to it, easy to fall in love with the place.

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We stumble upon the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and take a spin around. The first thing you see is another gorgeous gold temple.

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LP was the royal capital of the country until the communists took over in 1975. The exterior of the building isn’t anything grandiose but inside it is lavish AF. All gold with a regal throne, mosaics made from expensive gems. A good collection of relics from various rulers in Laos’ past and a handful of rooms still set up with the furniture and paintings from historic eras. Not allowed to take pictures in there but I think Drisdelle douched it and has one somewhere.

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Outside was a statue of Sisavang Vong who was King of Luang Phrabang from 1904–46 and then King of Laos from 1946–59.

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Afterwards we head down towards the river. We find a fairly remarkable Wat and pay some Laobucks to take a closer look. It’s called Wat Xieng Thong, built in 1559. Up until communist rule this is where the Lao Kings were crowned. We step up to what looks like a temple but is actually the royal funerary carriage house. The exterior is all gold with impressive wood carvings along the door frame.

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The interior is dominated by a giant funeral carriage which is some 12 meters tall. This thing is badass with the hydra-like Nagas carved into the front but I don’t see how it’s ever going to get out of the room.

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The rest of the room is lined with royal family heirlooms and relics and a healthy collection of Buddhas and other statues.

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Naturally, just like in most ancient funeral chapels, there are also some bowling trophies on display in a case. So of course we make some jokes about the royal family hitting the bowling alley after getting totally plastered at Utopia (Circa: Last Night).

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The main temple is also impressive. Up the steps to some more wood carvings on the front door. Inside is a rare Reclining Buddha that dates back to the original building of the temple.

(Are we doing framing? Why are we not doing framing?)

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We do the rounds and then head out back down towards the river. Good view of where the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers meet up here. We find a cafe that overlooks it and take a break from our hungover walkabout to get a coffee and just enjoy the view as little boats make their way upriver.

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Afterwards, we head back into town to some of the travel agencies we’d passed by on walkabout. It was time to book our escape from LP. Given MacKay’s ear problem we’d decided on our walk that the best option might be to ditch going to Vientiane or Vang Vieng in favor of taking a boat up the Mekong and get to Chang Mai in northern Thailand. From there we can hit Myanmar and hopefully do that place justice before Drisdelle has to take off.

We find a travel spot that looks like it has fast boats and slow boats up the Mekong to a town on the border of Laos, a place called Huay Xai. A pretty Lao girl is helping us in a professional looking travel uniform. She explains that the slow boat takes a couple of days with an overnight stop in Pak Beng and then Huay Xai the next day. A bus picks us up at the border and we’ll get to Chang Mai in the evening.

The fast boats stop at Pak Beng for lunch and get to the border the same evening. Stay overnight in Huay Xia and grab a bus in the morning landing us in Chang Mai around noon the next day. This saves us a day and a half and seems like the better option.

While we are trying to figure all of this out we’re interrupted by a scuffling on the doorstep. A couple of dogs on the sidewalk just outside the entryway are… they are… well, a little white mutt has mounted a larger brown shaggy dog and is trying to give it the business. Only problem is that these are both male dogs. Shaggy doesn’t seem to mind though and the horny little white mutt is relentlessly thrusting at Shaggy’s backdoor.

Within a split second of seeing this the three of us explode into hysterical laughter. Travel Agent Girl is trying to maintain composure and stay professional. We can’t possibly. This is too funny, holy shit! The dogs hump their way out of sight to the left of the doorway. MacKay is now wiping away laugh tears. “Seriously?!”, Drisdelle goes over to take a closer look. I stay with the girl and try to finish our booking between giggle fits.

When the two curiously gay dogs, bone on bone, hump their way back up the sidewalk into sight again, not even the Travel Agent can hold it in. They scrape back into view and she loses it mid-sentence with a full laugh splurt. And now we’re all busting a gut again watching, and trying not to watch, this frantic and awkward live dog porn. Collectively it was the type of laughter that goes into a whole other range of high notes and is contagiously impossible to stop until the cheeks are sore and somehow you all at the same time come down from it. And the dogs just would not stop and so neither could we.

The Travel Agent was red with proximity embarrassment. Our business concluded quickly after this display and we were booked with early morning tickets on the fast boat to Huay Xai and a morning bus into Chang Mai. Back to Thailand!

It was getting on late afternoon now and Drisdelle and I decide to go back up Mount Phou Si to catch the sunset above the city (This is where MacKay, Pedro and I had tried to commune with the spirits just last night). MacKay was walked out and so he trucked it on back to the hostel instead.

There is a throng of people tackling the steps all at the same time at various paces. Drisdelle and I sidestep most of them and get to the summit. Seems like most of the tourists in town are here and the place is jam packed with amateur sunset photographers all angling for a position. We snap some pics off the side of the temple and make toward the direction of the actual sunset. Good view of the town from up there.

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Most of the people have converged on the West facing side of the temple and it looked like some sunset magic might be happening across the city, behind the mountain range, right above the Mekong. Except that one Chinese tourist has taken it upon himself to scale out onto the rock passed the temple to get a little higher. He and his buddy are out there snapping away in oblivious pride. Their heads are at about the same level as the setting sun and so everyone on the temple grounds looking to take pictures has no choice but to get these two assholes in it too. Hundreds of people.

And this guy is now taking a full 3D shot, scanning his camera up and down in slow sweeping arcs making sure to cover the entire area while he slowly 360 pivots on the rock. He’s completely oblivious to the hundreds of people yelling at him and telling him to get down. He’s just watching his screen capturing the whole area around him and grinning like a proud father while his creation is being made. The mood of the crowd watching this ranges from bemused to violent, but no matter how much verbal assault the guy just didn’t budge. And so he stayed up there until the sunset. And hundreds of people’s pictures suck because of it, mine included.

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Here they are. Couple of fucking selfish, oblivious dicks. It’d be nice to get the sunset in the top third but then they’re basically front and center of the entire picture. I thought the situation was pretty funny at the time but now that I’m putting this picture up, probably the only shot from this location I’ll ever take, I’m thinking I should have been throwing rocks at these assholes instead.

Not too bad when I got around to the side of them (#nofilteronanypicuponthisblog).

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When we come back down the night market is in full swing again. Drisdelle and I pick up a few little knick-knacks on our way through back to the hostel.

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When we get back all the guys are there kicking it in the tree house. They’d just gotten back from another waterfall. They tell us a story of some crazy monkey that was there that stole Robbie’s towel and was eating it. I guess there were some elephants there too.

And then Pedro came out and the squad was in full effect again. He’d also been throwing up all morning and spent most of his day in recovery mode. He’d gone up the mount as well but through a different way where hardly any tourists and found to go. Sounds like the spot.

We grab a few beers and spin up the stories from last night with the guys, reminiscing about Utopia and the ridiculous after hours at the bowling alley. The Polish dudes have moved on and their spots in our room are now filled with a couple girls, one from Paris and the other Berlin.

I hop on facebook for a second and my friend Travis has mentioned that his uncle owns an Australian sports bar here in Luang Prabang and we should swing by and say hi. Sounds like we’ve got a dinner plan! Travis was on the Mongol Rally with us years ago, we’d met up several times along that adventure (stories for another time). Truly an all round, stand up guy, so of course we’d have to go meet his uncle and kick it with some beers.

We finish up our beers and head back into town. We track down the Aussie bar and post up for some grub. Drisdelle decides to find a more local spot since we are speedboating it on out of here tomorrow. Fair enough. After a few rounds of SEA cuisine some more western fare is always welcome in my books. MacKay would probably eat every meal at MacDonald’s if it weren’t for our disapproving glares.

We inquire with the servers about Travis’ uncle, John. Looks like he’s already headed off for the evening, we’ve just missed him. Well that’s too bad. We grab some burgers and I throw together a little note for him. We finish up and one of the girls there wants to get a picture of us to go with the note I wrote. No prob.

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We head back to the hostel and unwind with another round of beers in the tree house area. Not going to get into anything too crazy after last nights stupidity. Plus we’ve gotta get up bright and early for some Mekong speed boating!

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