After 2 nights and three days of the Gibbon experience, we were very excited to get to Luang Prabang. Nestled along the banks of the Mekong river, this city was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in the 90's for its wealth of culture, history, and beauty. The King of Laos vacations here, and the king of Cambodia took refuge here during their civil war in the late 70's. A perfect place for Hope and I to relax after a 3 day trek in the rainforest.
Once we got into town, we walked from guest house to guest house till we found one that fit. We arrived early enough from our night bus that we were able to catch the procession of hundreds of monks in their orange robes taking Alms at 6am, as they do every morning. I can neither spell nor pronounce the name of the guesthouse we found, but what i can tell you is that it was right on the Mekong, we had our own balcony, and it was air-conditioned, all for only $12 a night. A steel considering the price of everything around it was $30 and up. After a long nap, we went to see the town on foot. Cobblestone roads, French Architecture (the city was a french colony in the 18th century), and Buddhist Wat's dominate the city scape. All that said, the food was what i was looking forward to. An amazing mix of traditional Laos and french influence. Weather it was a noodle dish served with a baguette of homemade bread, or a rack of lamb with wine and Laos spices, it was all delicious. After almost a month of moving around, this was where we wanted to take it easy for a few days. One day was spent visiting the Royal Museum and a few Wats. One day we rented a motorcycle (that's what the locals call them, but they are actually scooters) and with our friends Wessel and Maud, we drove an hour to the most beautiful waterfall i have ever seen. I think there were about 11 tiers, crystal clear water, and a BIG rope swing. The waterfalls got bigger the more you ventured up, to the last one that had to be 50 meters or higher. The rest of the time was spent eating and drinking. The nightly market has everything one might need from food for $1 an entree to clothes, artwork, and jewelry. We found a favorite bar for our night life where we would meet up with our gibbon experience friends called Utopia. you have to walk down some very narrow roads by a few houses for about 5 minutes. Then you get there and you see where it got its name. An enormous open air bar with vaulted ceilings, a long deck overlooking the Mekong, and a volleyball court. Laos being a communist country, they have a curfew of 11pm. All bars and business must be closed, and all people must be home, though not strongly enforced. Once the bars closed at 11 there is one place to go, the bowling alley. Locals say that they owners of the bowling alley pay off the cops somehow, but either way, it is where all the foreigners go to party all night. We went home fairly early, but definitely had a good time.
After about 4 days of that, we decided it was time to get moving again. We walked into a travel agency our last night there and purchased a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for early the next day.
Cambodia is a hell of a country. Its hard to put my finger on it. We will start with Siem Reap. A tough town of a few main roads glitzy with all the money the foreigners traveling to Ankgor Wat pour into it, and dirt roads where the struggle of civil war and genocide from the 70's and early 80's is still very apparent. All the locals are as friendly as i have seen yet. Even the hordes of beggars. Beggars because of landmines laid down during the war that take away and arm, or both legs, or both eyes, landmines that have caused mass murder long after the war ended. Children beggars, homeless or orphaned, who sit beside your table at dinner begging for some rice. So hard to tolerate i lost my appetite, gave the kids the food, paid, and walked away. Anyway, Ankgor Wat was beautiful. We spent 2 days there on a guided tour. The first day was 9 hours long, and ended with us climbing to a hill top temple to watch the sun set over Ankgor Wat. The second day we got up at 430am so we could get to Angkor Wat by 5am and watch the sun rise. We returned home about 8 hours later. Long hot days, but it was worth it.
At the end of our second day, we booked a night bus to Sihanoukville. A town on the Cambodian coast line to get back to the beach. Its been about 3 weeks since I've seen the beach, and I miss it.