Red Hot Chili Peppers from the Market in Luang Prabang, Laos

Exploring Luang Prabang: Highlights Around Town



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Luang Prabang is definitely a new favorite place for me. It’s a U.N. World Heritage city in the northern part of Laos on the banks of the placid Mekong River and near the Chinese border. Even better, it seems to have kept the unique charm that made it a World Heritage site in the first place! In a few afternoons of walking around the city, Steve and I came across everything from polite cab drivers, new tuk tuk designs, buddhist monks, one real monkey, a real communist, and a piratical couple from the States who have spent the last 30 years on the high seas.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    I thought it was a good omen that the flight attendant for our flight from Bangkok to Luang Prabang was holding up a copy of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" as we got on the plane. This was going to be an enlightening place, I thought.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Luang Prabang is one of the best maintained cities I've ever seen in Southeast Asia or anywhere else. The buildings fronting the road that runs along the Mekong River are freshly painted and look inviting. Even the drains on the streets are lined with brick and spotlessly clean. I think the people take a lot of pride in being listed as a World Heritage site by the U.N..

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Fresh produce was on sale all over Luang Prabang, we passed these ladies lugging some baskets full of greens for sale.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    There aren't many cars in Luang Prabang, so many people get around on an old fashioned bicycle.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Even when it's raining they will ride their trusty bikes and just hold an umbrella in one hand to keep the rain at bay.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    This fellow didn't need an umbrella, and might have pinched this bike from a troop of girl scouts.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Like Thailand, Laos also has tuk tuks buzzing around its streets..

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    The tuk tuks in Laos might be a little less fancy than the ones you'll find in Bangkok, but they seem a little safer.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Luang Prabang is also known as the city of elephants, although I think this might have been the only one I saw in the city.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    But this little fellow tugging on the lanyard to my camera seemed to be asking that Luang Prabang be renamed the "City of Monkeys".

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    The little monkey turned out to be somebody's pet, although I don't think monkeys are really known as good pets--especially this species.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    The flight from Bangkok was about an hour and a half to Luang Prabang, saving us many valuable hours via the land route. Unfortunately, we only had a week to spend here.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    This pepper on the sidewalk must have fallen from someone's basket.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Steve and I tried a few pieces of this fried french bread. It was really chewy (maybe from being fried), but it was tasty.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Steve pointed out that other developing countries should use Luang Prabang as an example of good tourism development. Shops like this one sold reasonably priced handmade artwork similar to what was sold each night at the awesome Luang Prabang night market.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    I bought one of these rattan Sepak Takraw balls, but it became pretty beaten up after three weeks of international travel in my bag. Although the game originated in Malaysia, it is also popular in Laos, Thailand, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Sepak apparently means "kick" in Malay and Takraw means "ball" in Thai, so even the name is multinational. After watching the game being played, and even playing myself during my Peace Corps training, I would describe it as a cross between volleyball and hackeysack.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Steve and I stopped at a local shop to have a snack of soup and these green beans with peanut sauce.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    The little girl near the Vanvisa Guest House must have wondered who the tall guy standing in the middle of the road was.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    These peppers were drying in the midday sun near the Vanvisa Guest House. I took a lot of photos of the brightly colored peppers in Luang Prabang.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Well, here's another photo of some more peppers from Luang Prabang.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    I haven't figured out what these things are yet, but I thought they made a good photo.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Wild onions are always on sale in Luang Prabang's open air produce market.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Steve and I were immediately struck by how soft spoken the people of Laos are. Normally cab drivers are among the most aggressive you'll find in any country, but at the Luang Prabang airport, our cab driver quietly asked "where would you like to go?". Without really thinking or practicing my pronunciation of our new destination, I replied "Wong Trabong". Steve pointed out that this was about like stepping out of National Airport in our nation's capitol and saying "take me to Mashington, CD".

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Frangipani flowers (known as dok champa in Lao) are common around all of the buddhist temples in Luang Prabang and is the national flower of Laos. (Thanks to Roth Kousol, Chan Southiseng, Vilaythong Syvilay, and Nick Phonesuthat for the information about the dok champa flower).

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    The buddhist monks in Laos always seemed to have an umbrella with them at all times either for shelter from rain or shade.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    As we crossed the bridge into Luang Prabang, I stared at this fellow on the motorcycle in his communist uniform. Not sure what it is about that color, but nothing quite says "commie" like that particular shade of olive. But in Laos, even the communist officials were friendly and welcoming even if sometimes they were hard to understand. Maybe they they wanted to impress us capitalist softies?

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Steve and I based our Luang Prabang adventures from the Vanvisa Guest House and antique shop. We were impressed with the various Laotian relics on display on the walls and in corners. But I think we were most impressed by this antique Apple Macintosh computer perched on its mahogany desk waiting for someone to stop by to play "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?".

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Like I said, the Vanvisa Guest House had some interesting antiques stashed in the corners.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    For $5 a night, we felt like we weren't doing too bad with this room that had nice mahogany floors and a good breeze from outside being circulated by the ceiling fan. The Vanvisa Guest House feels a lot like staying at somebody's house, which I think it pretty much is.

  • Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004

    Around Luang Prabang, Laos - October 2004
    Breakfast at the Vanvisa was a little bit pricey at $1.50, but definitely worth it.