Since sleeping wasn’t an option, and neither was drinking or watching TV, I went on line to book another place for the remainder of our stay. Heeding Quasimodo’s advice, I booked the hotel below.
By the next morning we were provided transport from the old place to the new place. The best part about Unset Villa was leaving it. They arranged transport and we motored onward in luxury
to our new digs in a style that we [OK, me] aspires to, understanding that we had a day and a half to take in all that Luang Prabang had to offer.
Wandering the streets and sensing the historical aspects that the former Laotian capital had to offer, we meandered in and out of the raft of craft shops which displayed the myriad delights that reflected the unique cultural and artistic quality of this ancient province. We stopped for a meal at one of the better known restaurants, Le Tamarind. Laid out before us was a delicious combination of classic French cuisine, melded with southeast Asian delicacies such as buffalo jerky, banana flower salad, pickled cabbages. A veritable east meets west feast. Lao Lao is the local version of a distilled rice wine, which packs a punch similar to saki. It went down well, accompanied by an iced tamarind beverage.
Temples are omnipresent and each each has a unique style and history. There are so many images of Buddha that pervade the streets and temples that ISIL would have to deploy its entire fighting militia just to destroy them. Hmmm.
Mount Phusi is the centrepiece, geographically, of Luang Prabang. Situated in the center of town it provides a beautiful vista and overview of the village, once the traveler pays 20,000 KIP [$4] to ascend the 368 steps. With yet another temple at its summit, Mount Phusi is heralded as the place to view the Laotian sunset. If your idea of natural beauty is sharing an observation point with a thousand tourists, and your idea of capturing a splendid photograph of a sunset which includes several dozen heads and a plethora of cell phones and cameras in each shot, well, this is the place for you.
As the sun descended so did we. Down the mountain with the rest of the throng. We headed through the night market, literally hundreds of stalls, covered by red or blue canvas roofs selling souvenirs, fabrics, carvings, paper products, T shirts and a host of other locally crafted merchandise. Local if you live in China, that is.
Ambling back to our hotel, we arrived in its courtyard just on time to sit in on an outdoor screening of a black and white silent movie. It was filmed in Laos in 1925 and apparently made quite a stir on the international stage.
The story featured the travails of a Laotian jungle dwelling family dealing with leopard and tiger attacks, cultivating rice, and fending off an attack by a giant herd of elephants. It was filmed by the same folks who brought you King Kong. Spoiler alert – they managed to coral the elephants and the star of the movie trained an elephant to do work for him. Although the quality of the elephat’s ability to take proper dictation left me feeling a bit cold. The movie was called Chang, which is Laotian for elephant. You now speak some Laotian.
Dinner was had after watching the blockbuster. We sat on Sanctuary’s outdoor dining deck and treated ourselves to another sumptuous meal in an idyllic setting atop a pond replete with pink lotus blossoms, enjoying a private moment together, indeed something special. They also served martinis.
Our final day in LP was Lori’s actual birthday, ending a three day birthday festival. A veritable tourist a go-go day. As a few of you may know, Lori has a penchant to gather and collect keepsakes. One of her more abundant collections features elephants from far and wide. She has them strategically placed in various nooks, crannies, shelves, tabletops, ledges, window sills, bathrooms, etc. throughout our home. Lori likes elephants.
Our day long tour began at an elephant rescue center. The park contained 14 female elephants. Old mamas rescued from logging camps, babies from zoo displays and other unsavoury backgrounds and generally providing a comfortable respite for pachyderms to hang out. Our programme was to afford us the opportunity to feed, bathe, and ride the beasts.
Two out of three wasn’t bad. It was apparently too cold to water them down. Each elephant has a caretaker, or mahout, who cleans, feeds and looks after the elephant for life. The mahouts were dressed in scarves and winter jackets. We wore shorts. I believe that the decision not to bathe the elephants was based on the mahouots’ projections of their comfort levels rather than those of the giant animals. Be that as it may, we got to feed, ride and eventually cuddle up with the most intelligent, caring, sensitive and spiritual animal that God has placed on this good Earth.
Located near Elephantville was a large waterfall. The area was rife with beauty and nature at its best. In addition to the waterfall park there was a bear rescue centre.
In much the same style as our work mission in Vietnam a few years back, the park was populated by Moon Bears and Sun Bears, rescued from the horrible fates imposed on them by superstitious Asian marketeers who capture and place them in tiny cages with a catheter inserted in their gall bladders, which drains bile from the poor animals. The bile is collected and sold in black markets as sexual enhancement medicine. Don’t they sell Viagra here? So here the Bears roamed in large reserves, fed and well taken care of.
We trekked up to the waterfalls. They featured collection pools of grey-green-blue water, a result of the limestone being leached into the cascading waters. The temperature was warmer than your average Laurentian lake and made for a lovely dip.
Following which, we headed to a butterfly camp. The tropical butterflies are large, magnificently coloured and plentiful. Orchids abounded. Admission to the camp was $8, proving that, in fact, butterflies aren’t free.
Gathering our stuff together, we headed to the airport to catch a 6:00 flight back to Vientiane, the duration of which is 45 minutes. Amongst the passengers at the gate were four orange robed monks. Half an hour before boarding, an announcement came on advising that the flight’s departure would be delayed two hours. I sat, serenely dealing with the news, accepting that nothing could be done about it and that in the greater sense of the universe, the delay was meaningless within the concept of eternal time.
The monks lost their shit, began screaming about important meetings they had to get to, that they had paid for a six o’clock departure and God Dammit six meant six, not eight. They began to threaten the woman at the counter and the whole scene was about to get ugly until I stepped in, Zenned them out, explained how Buddha would have approached the challenge and got them to relax.