Luang Prabang – Day 1

Up early to check out the sunshine from our balcony…

guesthouse in Luang Prabang
View from Our Balcony

Our guesthouse seemed newly renovated and sure enough when we looked down into the courtyard from our balcony we could see evidence of handsome new bedsteads being made and work going on in the rooms opposite. We had asked for a 9am breakfast however, and it was too early for that so we set off for a short morning walk.

There was a small lane running off our road which we wandered down, admiring the flowering shrubs and rustic wooden colonial architecture. This home with a Buddha looking out the window caught my eye.

a home in Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddha Looking Out

Everywhere we looked there were Buddhas…

Buddha in a temple garden
Garden Buddha

After our short walk we returned for breakfast and watched the passing scene.

street scene in Luang Prabang, Laos
Passing Scene

We decided to roughly follow the walking tour laid out in the Lonely Planet guide book and walked down Th Sisavangvong to the Royal Palace Museum. Sadly, photography was not allowed so no photos…. However, I could take photos in the gardens where we saw this gorgeous butterfly.

butterfly on grounds of Royal Palace Museum, Luang Prabang
Butterfly amongst Flowers

The museum was interesting, not because it was jam packed full of artefacts, but because it was rather minimal and not too ostentatious. Inside we saw the dazzling throne room with its mosaics made of bits of coloured mirror from Japan, its beautiful throne and a variety sculptures, plus a selection of items from the dethroned Royal Family. In the garage we saw the small collection of Lincoln Continentals and a little runabout boat with its 35hp Johnson outboard, a gift from Canada.

We stopped to admire some of the temples. Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is noted for its spectacular exterior gold relief.

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, Luang Prabang, Laos
Photographing Gold Relief

And the interior is no less spectacular.

Buddha in temple, Luang Prabang, Laos
Buddha Alter

We passed through the produce market but as it was getting towards lunchtime many of the vendors were packing up for the day. We headed for the Mekong River where we stopped for refreshment at a small outdoor restaurant, high on the bank. I photographed boats…

Mekong River boat, Luang Prabang, Laos
Riverboats on the Mekong

and Sue the kids sliding down the riverbank…

children playing on the edge of the Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos
Sliding on the Riverbank

We walked along the riverfront road to the northern tip of the peninsula formed by the convergence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers to the Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang’s most famous temple.

Wat Xieng Thong sim, Luang Prabang, Laos
Wat Xieng Thong sim

The sim, pictured above, was built in 1560. It features the low set roof found in this part of Laos and mosaics of coloured mirror. Here we see the ‘Tree of Life’ mosaic on the back wall of the sim. Everywhere is gold gilding and stenciling.

interior of Wat Xieng Thong sim
Gold and More Gold

Several small halls around the main hall had mosaics on their exteriors.

mosaic on haw, Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Small Haw (Hall)

Here’s a close-up of one of the mosaics…

close-up of mosaic, Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Close-up of Mirror Mosaic

On one side of the compound stood a building housing the royal funerary carriage, a huge (12m high) and ornate vehicle.

royal funerary carriage, Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos
Royal Funerary Carriage

From Wat Xieng Thong we headed back, above the Nam Khan River. We stopped for refreshments at a small French restaurant opposite another temple. Pounding music seemed to be coming from the temple so we walked over to see what was going on. We never did find the source of the music but we watched, horrified, as a very drunk Laotian made aggressive gestures at a young Buddhist monk. The monk fled, the drunk staggered past us to a bar across the street where he harangued some patrons (who politely ignored him) and then he made his way back to the temple. Sue and I pursued him and Sue ascertained from the monks that all was OK, as the drunk disappeared back to wherever he had emerged from. A strange and disruptive occurrence in what was otherwise such a peaceful country.

temple and banner, Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang Skies

We continued our walk and came to a place where we overlooked a small wooden bridge crossing the river. We paused to admire the scene and soon attracted a small gathering of young vendors selling bracelets. Sue and I each snapped a few photos and made some deals with the kids. My vendor was quite upset when she found that Sue had paid twice what I had just paid her. Sue negotiated another, better, deal with another young trader.

bridge across the Nam Khan River, Luang Prabang, Laos
Wooden Bridge Across Nam Khan

Above is photo I took of the bridge and below is photo Sue took of kids jumping into the river.

children diving in Nam Khan River, Luang Prabang, Laos
Drop Me In the Water!

and Sue dealing….

buying from a street vendor, Luang Prabang, Laos
Sue Negotiates

We had tickets for a performance of the Pha Lak Pha Lam (based on the Hindu Raymayama epic) so had an early dinner on the Mekong riverfront, watching the boats come and go as the sun set. Below is a photo of the vehicle ferry landing just below us. Any comparison with a BC Ferry would be unfair.

ferry on the Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos
Vehicle Ferry on Mekong

And as the sun set more boats came in disgorging passengers from up and down the river including an exhausted looking troupe of Western climbers.

boat roofs, Luang Prabang, Laos
Roofs of Boats on the Mekong

We went back to the Royal Palace Museum where the Pha Lak Pha Lam performance was taking place in an adjoining building. Photography was not permitted during the performance but was before and after. I became extremely annoyed when people kept taking pictures during the performance, especially when they used flashes. It’s amazing how giving some people a camera seems to give them a license to be totally impolite idiots, jamming their lens where they don’t belong.

stage for Pha Lak Pha Lam performance, Luang Prabang, Laos
Pha Lak Pha Lam Performance Stage

Leaving the theatre we walked back through the Night Market to our guesthouse as the Full Moon shone down on Luang Prabang.

full moon over Luang Prabang, Laos
Full Moon Over the Night Market

1 Comment

  1. Great photos and stories, Kelly. Thanks for taking so much time to put this all together for those of us back home.

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