Luang Prabang houses several World Heritage Temples
Having just returned to visit the World Heritage Temples of Luang Prabang, I take a blue jumbo taxi to the center of the city. The driver brings me to the guesthouse of my choice. Once there, it appears that they started renovating the place. So I check the hostel next door. I dislike the first room that is shown to me. A second one is okay; clean tiled, bright, with fan and a decent bathroom with hot water. I decide to stay, even though this is clearly not a place where many Western tourists sleep. Maybe that’s why I do it. But also because you have a lovely courtyard with some stone tables, where I can sit outside in the evening. The Mekong and the Nam Ka river are hundreds of meters away, as far as mosquitoes are concerned, that will not be too bad.
Scouting the World Heritage Temples of Luang Prabang
After a short siesta, I start my scouting of the World Heritage Temples of Luang Prabang. What strikes me – again – here is the relaxed atmosphere; there is not too much traffic, but the town is alive with tourism. Visiting Phousi Hill is my man main goal for today; it offers a beautiful view of the city with its 165 meters of altitude. Firstly, I visit the Wat Mai at the foot of the hill. The temples here have sloping roofs, at different levels. Regarding ornaments, especially the frequent occurrence of gold leaf and also the use of black (the pillars) and red (walls and roofs) stand out. Inside you will find golden Buddhas – of course. Though the inside of this temple does not overwhelm me anymore; I have seen quite a few similar temples already.
Offering at Wat That Chomsi on top of the hill
I cross the street and start climbing the 360 steps to Wat That Chomsi at the top of the mountain. At the beginning of the stairway, some old ladies sell sacrifices; I buy one. Once upstairs, I quickly enter the temple and kneel in front of the Buddha statue. Even though I am not a Buddhist, I offer the two flower pieces I bought downstairs, fold the hands, and make a wish. I think I am alone in this little temple, but after a while, I realize that some people are talking at the entrance. Only after I step outside the Laotians (or are they Thai?) enter into the temple. As watching the sunset on top of Phousi Hill seems to be very scenic here, I still stay for quite a while, but it is too cloudy today.
Savouring the national dish of Laos
Via another path I descend again, passing some temples and Buddha statues. I shoot a few of them, but it’s twilight now, so the images are not too bright. Afterward, I walk into Sisavangvong Street, the main street, where it swarms from the souvenir shops, restaurants, travel agencies, and the like. While seated at the terrace of a restaurant I order the national dish of Laos, laâp, and a first Lao beer. Laâp consists of minced meat (or chicken, or fish) mixed with some local vegetables. The spicy peppers are put in a pile on top of it. I manage to eat 90% of the peppers, which make my mouth burn at times, but the dish itself is delicious.
Today I want to further visit the most famous World Heritage temples of Luang Prabang. The city is small enough to cover almost everything on foot. I take a breakfast diagonally across my guesthouse. Because of the French domination here at the time, Laos was left with a culinary remnant, baguettes, They are freshly baked and served hot, delicious. After this invigorating breakfast, I start my temple tour.
Closed Royal Palace Musem
My first stop is a temple with the stupa in the form of a watermelon. Then I enter a few lesser temple sites. It is all beautiful to see, but my habituation is strong. I also try to visit the Royal Palace Museum; a sign says that it is closed, although people are walking around. I’ll come back sometime. On the way, at an improvised tour company, I book a boat trip to the caves of Pak Ou tomorrow morning.
Approached by Buddhist novices
When I stop at a fourth site, some Buddhist novices approach me. One of them speaks a fair amount of English. He wants to know what I think of Laos, how long I will stay here, and what my next stop will be. Of course, I express myself positively about this wonderfully relaxing city. Some of the novices also speak some sentences (of poorly pronounced) French. I assist them in improving this a bit further. A short time later I moved to Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most important World Heritage Temples in Luang Prabang. It is a wonderful one, so I stay around for a while. After a meal lunch, I visit two temples of lesser significance, before I return to the guesthouse to take some rest. Tomorrow I have to be ready at 8 am for the boat trip to Pak Ou.