I pressed my face against the window, trying hard to take it all in. Dusk was now racing ahead of our aircraft, furiously painting the sky in her deep blue shades. A few stubborn rays of the evening sun managed to stab through the clouds. The Mekong and the Nam-khan, twin slivers of gold, snaked through the green hills below, jealously claiming the city of Luang Prabang between them, as their own.
I was finally in Laos. No guidebooks. No homework. Only the anticipation which comes with the promise of the great beyond. I let the city, the country and her people reveal themselves at their own pace – strolling through the many Wats – glittering in their finery during the day and teasing the moonlight in the silence of the night; trekking through verdant fields and forests to take a dip in the icy cold, azure pool formed by a waterfall; stumbling upon monks confounded by algebraic equations on a Sunday morning; sitting in a bench on Phousi Hill and gazing down at the carpet of red and blue tents which only a night market can describe.
Since 1975, Lao has been ruled by a Marxist and communist government. The national flag is the only flag of a current Communist country that does not use the five-pointed star as an emblem. Its similar to the Khmer national flag infact, just a white dot at the center in place of the Angkor Wat insignia.
View of the Luang Prabang town from atop Phousi Hill
The Royal Temple, Haw Pha Bang, houses the enshrined Phra Bang Buddha image, after whom the city is named.
The porch of a traditional Lao style house. “Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.”
“Buddhism was introduced to Laos beginning in the eighth century by Mon Buddhist monks and was widespread by the fourteenth century. A number of Laotian kings were important patrons of Buddhism.” A group of young monks gets ready for an outing.
While others are busy completing their homework and solving algebraic equations.
A tuk tuk driver conjures up a hammock for his afternoon siesta.
The tales from Ramayana have acquired local flavors and interpretations over the years. Here, Hanuman was sent to collect monkey eared mushrooms by Sita, and not Sanjeevini Booti to save Lakshman’s life. He picked up the entire hill irrespective.
Children of the Hmong midland tribe. Hill tribes have already adopted elements of the mainstream. The traditional finery and embellishments are now reserved for the New Year celebrations.
Tempos arrive into the tourist area each afternoon. The locals break short their commute naps, rub their eyes and offload their wares, packed in rainbow colored gunny bags. Its time to set up the night market. Laos remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Earning a living is not easy for most. Many Laons pick up two to three jobs through the year to make ends meet.
A monastery in Laos
Many young monks look forward to conversing with tourists, it helps them brush their English speaking skills
Kuang Si waterfalls. The lime deposits lend an azzure hue to the pools. After four hours of trekking through fields and forests, this was our final destination.