Saturday, November 9, 2013

easy livin' in luang prabang

The slow boat up the Mekong dropped us off in Luang Prabang (the second biggest city in Laos. Population: about 50,000. Or, to put it another way, half the size of larger college football stadiums.). We heard that it had the largest influence left from its French colonization of any town in Laos, and we were not let down. Baguette sandwich were being sold everywhere by the street vendors and bakeries had croissants and all other sorts of French pastries.

The old part of the city, where we stayed, hugs the Mekong river and there is a street that you can walk down where restaurants hang over the river and the sunsets are beautiful. We stayed in the city for ten days, although it felt like much less. It's such a sleepy town, where days drift by without notice and one could spend much time without even realizing it. 

The street that parallels the Mekong.

View from the street over the Mekong, near sunset.

View from our Guest House across the city.

The street we stayed on. It felt very European for SE Asia.

Luang Prabang is much like Chaing Mai in Thailand - the cultural heart of the country. This meant there were Wats everywhere and Monks walking about the city. A very common sight is a group of Monks making their were somewhere during the day - where a Monk has to be, I have no idea, but they walk around like they have lots of places to go and things to do.

The Wat at the end of our street, being decorated for the festival. (Note the monks on the ladder)

Monks with somewhere to be.
The temple in the Wat at the end of our street.
Another of the many Wats around town.
While we where in town, one of the largest festivals they have took place, the Festival of Light. It marks the end of Buddhist Lent and to celebrate, they parade dragon floats made by different groups of people around the town and then float them down the river.

In the days leading up to the festival, all of the hotels and restaurants around town made little boats they displayed outside.

One of the parade floats

Laos has many cultural groups and these little girls represented some.
 Another part of the festival involved people buying little "boats," made of flowers that they could float down the Mekong for good luck. We bought a boat because you never can have enough good luck.

The flower boats you could buy to float down the river.

Once the sun went down, the lights went on. Lanterns were hung all over the town and all the floats had built in lights. 

A Monk lighting the lanterns outside his Wat.

A boat getting ready to set sail.

The other part of the Light Festival is sending off paper lanterns into the sky. It was really amazing to see, but very hard to take a picture of. We did out best.

A group building up the hot air in their lantern before sending it off.

The sky above the city filled with lanterns.
 At the end of the night, we climbed down to the river and Maggie set off our flower boat into the river for good luck. As our teacher during the Meditation retreat would say, "We got the good luck."

Maggie sending off our boat. You can see it in the upper left corner. Maggie at least had good enough luck to not fall and get soaked in the very slippery, muddy river in the dark. Good luck!

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