Friday, November 04, 2005

Luang Prabang

After finding a guesthouse, it was time for dinner. I had a nice roasted fish at the street market. You can buy something from the stalls, and then get a plate of pick and mix from various veg, rice & pasta dishes. As much as you can fit on one plate for 5000kip. The money is a bit crazy here, prices are given in kip or dollars. Usually end up paying in baht and getting kip back, most confusing! After dinner it was off to a Halloween party at Hive. People had been handing out fliers when people got off the boat, so a lot of the people from the boat came along. Probably enticed by the promise of a free shot of lao-lao (local spirit) with the flier. It got pretty busy, the bar had at least put in some effort on the halloween front, with a skeleton halloween DJ and various other bits and bobs. Halloween special drink was pumpkin, whisky and lao-lao, eurgh! I'll stick to the LaoBeer, nice tasting beer which is very reasonably priced :)
The next day a few people were sporting sore heads. In the morning we went up to the small hill in centre of town, where lurked a small temple, but the main attraction is the view across town. Strangely enough there seem to be a lot more palm trees when viewed from above, rather than at street level. Gina & I managed to get a big group of ten people and hire a van to take us to the waterfall. A very scenic spot, where a few souls braved the cold water for a swim in the natural pool. I took a walk up to a higher level. After some stairs, you had to cross over a minor waterfall, but it meant I'd have to take my trainers off anyway. A bit slippy underfoot in places. There was a bamboo hand barrier, but in one place, it had been broken, I wondered what had happened to the person who had broken it? It was a long way down. You can see that Laos is getting into the tourist way, by charging for entrance to the waterfall and the walk up is surrounded by vendors. Some with just enough English to say "Buy something!".
After that it was a quick stop off at the Hmong village, which was a bit like a zoo. I don't think many people were impressed. Also all the children surround the tourists as soon as they get off the bus and start begging for money, obviously must work sometimes.
After a rather bumpy journey back it was time for dinner, back to the night market. I had my eye on a rather tasty looking chicken. I decided half of one would be more than enough, the vendor then set about it with a cleaver quickly chopping it into lumps, straight through all the bones.
The next day it was over to Wat Xieng Thong for a look about. A temple situated close to the delta of the Mekong and erm.. that other river. Inside one of the wats was a large funeral carriage for the king. I hadn't realised what it was at the time, but in the afternoon I went along to the former Royal Palace and they had a model and an explanation of what it was. The Royal Palace, was as you would expect very fancy. Specifically the main hall, the bedrooms were somewhat austere in comparasion.

Later that night I bumped into another person from the boat, who had a group of people going to see a performance of some Laos ballet. Not my usual thing, but I went along to see what it was like. Turned out to be a story from the Ramayana being re-enacted. We got the cheap seat up the back! It was reminiscent of the Indian Kathakali I saw in Kochi, probably because of the similar looking characters, with odd green & white masks and from the same text. Not bad, but I don't think I'll be a regular attendee.

The next day, was fairly lazy, I did however learn (& forget) how to make some Lao food. The dishes were beef laap & steamed fish. The beef was sliced up thinly and vegetables added, some chicken stock and chilli. The beef is cooked very quickly in a hot pan and mixed all together. I think I cut the beef a bit thick in places, so a bit raw in the middle! The fish was nice, with mint & lemon and greens added and then wrapped in a banana leaf package and place in a steamer for 15 mins. Yummy!

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