Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Luang Prabang

Picturesque, UNESCO World Heritage town, Luang Prabang sits on an elevated peninsula at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. But for all of it's ancient temples and history, tourism has definitely had an impact here. The main streets feel a bit contrived, with full English signs, western food, and amenities catering to your every whim and comfort, making your visit as easy as possible. You can speak your English, and have your pancake too! It just makes you wonder what's real, what's authentic, and what the locals think of the change. Laos has only been open to tourism since 1989, and is rapidly becoming well-trodden. We chatted with a monk who talked about the rapid growth and development he's noticed in just the last 10 years.

But regardless, there is no denying this is a beautiful, laid-back city, steeped in tradition, especially when you get off the main streets and beyond the other camera-toting tourists. French colonial architecture, European-style alleyways, mosaic-tiled wats, bustling markets, spices and tea leaves drying in the sun. And all of this charm, surrounded by big, lumpy mountains.

We visited Ban Xiang Khong, a village of traditional weavers and paper makers, just a short bicycle ride beyond Luang Prabang, over the footbridge and along dusty roads that follow the river. One house had a living display of the various stages of the silkworm's life cycle, and craftspeople working with this raw material to get it from cocoon to the final woven product. In almost every house in the village, there are tables and tables of luxurious silk scarves and tapestries in the most vibrant colours. I still need to learn how to say 'very beautiful', because my compliment of "sep lai" (very delicious) was met with puzzled looks, even though all the sumptuous colours are very yummy looking!

Looking south from Mount Phousi over the Nam Khan river

Clearly we were not the only ones who thought Mount Phousi would offer a great sunset view...

Student's work at the Ock Pop Tok school

1 comment:

  1. How do you decide what to buy or not buy at those markets!? Those fabrics and feet are soo beautiful!?