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Monday, November 13, 2017

Laos (Day 23) Wandering In Zen Town


We woke at 5am to see one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony.


The kids slept in, so just me and Rob made our way down the quiet road. We purposely stayed at the peninsula end at the nearest wat in order to avoid the tourist crowds that flock the town. We watched the procession of monks and observed the Tak Bat (giving of alms, morning collection of food from the faithful) in the still of the early morning. 





Afterwards, we managed to find an open cafe and nearly tripped over each other excited to try our first Lao coffee ☕️. Rob had an interesting science experiment - siphon coffee. Kid-free, we took our time enjoying this rare "date". 






The anticipation for this siphon coffee :)

Buzzing from our special morning, we returned back to Mekong Riverview to collect the kids for breakfast. They have the perfect outdoor location for this complimentary breakfast. Very tranquil setting to wake your senses with a bite to eat. 



Now, we were ready to tackle the town's morning market. It was still so early that there were no passing tuk-tuks, so we had one called and off we went in our first tuk-tuk in Laos.  Tuk-tuks are the preferred mode of transportation.




We were dropped off at the edge of the morning market and set off to explore the aisles of goodness.





Wow - we wished we had come straight here for morning meal instead of having the hotel's breakfast (we knew our plan for the next morning!). 










The kids FULL stopped here for a long time. They didn't say a word.  Just stared at the swirling eel. Hahahaha. I just stood to the side until they were ready to move on. Love moments like this.



Found the local library! They have a charity at the library for the village school children. And now, we have a souvenir book to bring home!


After the morning market, we went to see Wat Xieng Thong ("Temple of the Golden City"), a Buddhist temple and a symbol of great historic importance as it was used for coronation of Lao kings. I had made sure we each dressed with our knees covered, but for some reason missed the shoulders of the children. Thankfully, there were scarves to rent and I thought they made the girls look really nice against the temple. Both girls loved their scarves so much that they purchased some at the market (ok, many) and then wore them everywhere. 


Filming at the temple, but not sure for what - kids tried to get in the shot :)





Wat Wanderers! My little explorers entering one of the structures of Wat Xieng Thong, "Temple of the Golden City". In Luang Prabang, you will feel your pulse slow and your soul nourish.


Curious Wat Wanderer! Caught her as she was leaving. 


Just one more... because Wat Xieng Thong ("Temple of the Golden City") is just that beautiful. This Buddhist temple warrants taking it slow and not missing any of it, including this most impressive building - the sim, the temple's congregation hall. Come closer, please. The seated Buddha image is in the Bhumispara mudra (mudra means symbolic or ritual gesture), translated "Touching the Earth" or more commonly known as "Earth Witness". As I learn more of the meanings, I find myself peering in closer completely mesmerized. 


I was keen to try one of the 2 restaurants that we had heard about prior to our travel (Tamarind and Bamboo Tree). Bamboo Tree was opened so that's where we ended up at for lunch. It was all very delicious and the restaurant is well-deserving of its praise. The variety of the Laotian sampling dishes was soooo good!



Fueled with another delightful lunch, we decided to conquer Mount Phou Si ("Sacred Hill"), a 150 m high hill overlooking the ancient town. At the foot of the hill, the girls purchased small birds to free at the top of the Buddhist temple Wat Chom Si with hopes off returned good luck. I tried to talk them out of it, but they really believed that it was their duty to free birds.  I actually got off easily with just the two as they wanted to free them ALL. Anyways, they carried their birds all the way up chatting with them like new found besties! It proved a great distraction as we had zero complaints the whole climb up the 328 zig-zagging steps. Well, I may have uttered a complaint through some huffing and puffing. 



Located in the center of town, the peak offers stunning 360-degree views of Luang Prabang. Look in the distance to see the bell-shaped stupa of Wat Phra Phome Phao Santi in the forest.


The river above is the Nam Khan River and the one below is the Mekong River. The Nam Khan is the narrower of the two. 



There's a great rock outcrop that edges out where you can stand and embrace the spectacular view. Molly was too scared to climb out, so just Caitlin and I went out on the ledge.



Also at the summit, is the temple Wat Chom Si. You can walk around it and admire the grand summit views overlooking Luang Prabang. Caitlin and Molly went inside and made flower offerings (which we had also purchased at the base).



They then proceeded to the important business of freeing their birds. Birds freed without any mishaps, we hung out a bit longer before making our descent.




At the base, we noticed that we were right across from the Royal Palace Museum and wandered over to explore it. 


Front view of the palace.


On the grounds of the Royal Palace Museum is Haw Pha Bang, a very ornate temple whose name means “Royal Temple”. It was built to house the country's most sacred Buddha image, the Pha Bang (Prabang), a standing bronze Buddha statue that is covered in gold leaf, and is believed to be ancient. It came to Laos in the 14th century where it was kept in the capital city, Luang Prabang, which takes it’s name from the statue.



It was fascinating walking through the palace, where no photographs are allowed. There was a sense of very strict security and rules, but the displays are royal religious artifacts of kings and queens. An interesting exhibit donated by the USA is a piece of moon rock from one of the Apollo missions. My favorite was seeing the Crown Jewels in the Throne Room. The monarchy of the Lao Royal Family ruled the kingdom until it was overthrown in 1975 by the communists and the Royal Family was taken to reeducation camps. The palace was then converted into a national museum. 


This was a great day of exploring and I am so thankful that I added Luang Prabang, Laos to our trip. It only came upon my radar when I was researching elephant sanctuaries. 



Can I drive please? Forget first car, this one wants a tuk tuk! In 7 years, she will be driving. Prepare yourselves. Tuk tuk goals made in Laos, the preferred mode of transportation. Behind is the calming view of the sacred confluence of the Nam Khan meeting the Mekong River here at the peninsula.


But wait, our day wasn't over! After a rest, we got a tuk-tuk and headed over to check out the Night Market. Yikes, we need more luggage for our purchases!!

Which one is for you?

Some strange things in these whiskey jars!




We found this garden-vibe restaurant while strolling the night market. They seated us at the front-facing table and it was a perfect setting for a cold beer and some easy-going food. 




Our tuk-tuk driver had his baby with him. In a hammock! This was such a heartwarming ride. This dad with his baby. She just sat there quietly the whole ride.  Caitlin and Molly were over the moon playing with her.  Rob was so won over that he gave 10 times the fare. Hahahaha, maybe this tuk-tuk dad is on to something brilliant here. Except, he had to wait for us to finally tear ourselves away from his adorable baby - hahahaha. Goodnight from Luang Prabang, Laos!





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