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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

25 Days of Laos (Part 12)

This is a journal of our 25-day trip around Laos on a rented Honda FTR that we fondly called Mustafa. It starts with a long bus ride from Hanoi to Laos and ends with a longer bus ride back to Hanoi.

Day 14: Muang Sui (or Nong Tang) to Luang Prabang

The next day, with empty bellies, we left early for a 184-kilometer trip to Luang Prabang. We didn't have a good start, however. The weather was really bad and we had to travel in the rain.

At some point, the rain fell in torrents and became difficult for us to see the road so we had to stop by one of the tiny shelters along the road. Huddled in a corner to avoid the water streaming from the leaking roof, we spent around half an hour in that shelter, not realizing that we could've stayed in a noodle stall in Nam Chat around 10 kilometers away.

When the rain lifted a bit, we decided to make our way to the nearest town which as I have mentioned was 10 kilometers away. There, we had some noodle soup while waiting for the rain to let up. Less than an hour later, we continued our journey to Luang Prabang.

A few kilometers away from Nam Chat, the road was muddy and slippery. Our bike slid and we ended up falling on the muddy road. Luckily, none of us got hurt. And, my camera and my laptop were both intact. We were a bit grimy after our spill though. We got on our bike and had a really chilly drive to Pukhoune. The way to the peak was very wet and misty.

When we finally got to the tiny restaurant that we used as a stopover when we left Vientiane from Luang Prabang, the lady who owned the joint wouldn't let us in until we've removed our grimy shoes and rain gear. After I've changed into dry clothes and gotten some Oreos, Pringles and some drinks, we talked about staying in Pukhoune for a night if the weather doesn't change.

Fortunately, the sun came out and we jumped on the bike to head for Luang Prabang. And, we got there in time for dinner at The House where we had some of their famous fries with curry sauce.

One of the views that you'll see as you travel from Pukhoune to Luang Prabang

Day 15: Luang Prabang
When I woke up the next day, I was surprised by the amount of energy I had despite our nasty trip the day before. Since I woke up earlier, I decided to walk to the Luang Prabang National Museum on my own. 

The National Museum

One of the cannons outside the palace

Built in 1904 during the French colonial era, the Luang Prabang National Museum used to be the Royal Palace of King Sisavang Vong and his family. It's location by the river is carefully chosen so that official visitors could disembark and be received below the palace. The palace was turned into a national museum after the Royal Family was taken to re-education camps in 1975.

At the entrance, I paid around 110,000 kip for the entrance fee which included an audio guide which enhanced the tour for me. I didn't just look at the displays in the museum I learned why they were there. I enjoyed looking at the rooms that the the former King and Queen stayed in. According to the audio tour, the King couldn't visit the Queen unless there was a white flower on her door. I thought that was a very nice way to communicate. Couples do need their space once in a while.

Another thing that caught my attention was the secretary room which is filled with diplomatic gifts from Laos' visitors from various countries. Among these objects is a piece of moon rock from one of the Apollo missions. There is also a small flag of Laos which the inscriptions say have been taken to the moon and was returned to earth to be given to the Royal Family.

The Phra Bang, a Buddha image which was taken to the city by King Visoun during the golden age of Lan Xang and was the reason why Luang Prabang got its name, can be found in the Royal Palace Museum.

After I've finished listening to the audio tour, I took my camera out of the locker room and headed back to Khem Khong View to wake my boyfriend and up and get some breakfast. Yes, it was very unfortunate that cameras aren't allowed in the museum and I couldn't take any pictures. I was able to take some pictures of Wat Ho Pha Bang.

After having breakfast in our favorite Cafe Ban Vat Sene, we decided to climb Mt. Phousi by going up the long, winding the staircase. At the peak of the Mt. Phousi was a beautiful temple and a breathtaking view of the city below. And, to make our climb more worth it, we decided to buy one of the caged birds and set it free. According to their practices, freeing this bird would give you good karma.

We spent most of the day chilling by the Mekong River. That night, we decided to head to the night stalls for some barbecue. On the way back to the Khem Khong View, we stopped by the night market to do some shopping.

Quick Travel Tips:

Luang Prabang National Museum (Royal Palace Museum). I paid around 110,000 kip for the entrance fee which included an audio guide. The audio guide is optional and you can enter the museum for a smaller fee without the audio guide. It is worth the extra amount though. Before entering the museum, remember to put your cameras in the locker. Otherwise, you would be rudely disturbed by the head attendant who wouldn't wait for you to finish a track from your audio tour. 

Mt. Phousi. The entrance is around 20,000 kip. It's actually much better to climb this during sunset.

The Journey Continues:

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