Friday, 30 August 2013

The Luang Prabang Tourists (on scooters)

We’ve formed a relaxed agreement between ourselves that whenever we feel lost our saving grace is to spot a Westerner. For us, if you see another Tourist within sight (who doesn’t also look lost), we know that we can’t be all that far from ‘civilization’.

You may think that this is starting to read like we don’t really ever know where we are going or how to get there. Sometimes that’s (actually) true but most of the time when you hire a scooter no amount of maps or information from the locals can help you get there without getting slightly lost first. And that is what we are starting to learn after a few days in Laos.

Ignoring all the offers from tour operators to join their day package to the Kuang Si waterfalls and/or the Pak Ou caves, followed by more hungry-for-business propositions from Tuk Tuk drivers, we decided to hire a scooter, go on a mission and find these two places ourselves.

In Luang Prabang there is so much on offer to keep you entertained. Among the adventure packs it's renowned as a little hot spot for white water kayaking adventures (rafting is still very primitive around here), hiking, cycling and for the more culturally inclined there is the Royal Palace and checking out the Wat Xieng Thong temple at either sunrise or sunset to name just one of the many temples in the area.

Every evening the offshoots from the main street where the night market is held are littered with stalls selling all kinds of food. Most of the time you'll spot the backpacker crowd lining up for the 10,000 kip dirt cheap (but tasty) buffet offering about 10 different local dishes. We sat right next to them to instead 'dine' on huge bowls of Laksa with enough fresh chili, mint and lemon grass trimmings to keep even the most die hard accompaniments connoisseur  happy. Fortunately for us the soup was tasty enough that we didn't need to reach over to the huge jars of MSG and add some granules into our bowls. I think there was probably enough MSG already in our food by the pace our beers were getting drunk. I forgot how thirsty you get after too much MSG..

I have to include some self-promotion for some of the epic places we’ve experienced during our time here.

Utopia. You’re first.
You with your large deck spaces overlooking the Mekong. Inviting customers to have an afternoon sleep on cushions and couches. The kick-arse coffee and banana shake. You tick the box of so many travellers long list of needs without caring if we say, please.

Bar Tamanak, your menu feels like a novel with a soon, ‘to be continued’ but I still think you offer some great local food and the fact that your owned and operated by locals gives you a thumbs up.

Jomo’s CafĂ©. Although you’re a South East Asian chain and I shouldn’t admit I did come here when I need to experience local food, I’ll admit I’m a coffee snob and you do serve up a cup of the good stuff.

I’ve forgotten the name (yes, I’ll admit even a Google search won’t save me), of the spot on the riverfront on Khem Kong Road. It served up the most amazing chili and lime cocktail and the locals working here were more than keen to have a chat with us about the area. We ate the most amazing Fish Larb that I’ve ever tasted. Infused with fresh mint, lemon grass and chili. The right level of spice mixed in with fresh fish = true deliciousness. 

But back to scooters and missions. I think the ultimate one we’ve experienced in our two days here was our moving morning from one guesthouse to the next. Picture a single scooter, two tall people, two backpacks and two day packs. Then try and imagine all of this on the one scooter. Of course you can’t, and that’s where our helper Sam stepped in. Poor guy was just about as tall as the backpack but he helped us manage to move everything over to our new guesthouse in a single trip. Nice work Sam. 

Toodle pip x

MSG my dear?

Luang Prabang night markets. 
Scooter 'joy riding.'

Mysterious jumping..

Kuang Si waterfall. 

Staircase to the top of the waterfall. 

Our helpful moving man Sam.

Packs built for height.

Mekong River.

Pak Oui cave with over 5,000 Buddha statues.

Pak Oui cave.