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Entries in Laos (3)

Maison Souvannaphoum in Luang Prabang

1047435-824175-thumbnail.jpgIt’s a mouthful, but that’s where we are at the moment. We had very few preconceived notions about Laos (pronounced like Matt “Lauer” without the “er”). Frankly, we didn’t really know that much about the place. I figured since it lies between Thailand and Vietnam it would just be some sort of combination of the two. As it turns out, this country has a completely unique culture – and it’s awesome.

First and foremost, the food. It’s all about fresh herbs and simple flavors. There’s a 1047435-824176-thumbnail.jpgmajor French influence but no creams or sauces. Because the Lao people eat with their fingers, they prefer sticky rice which can kneaded between the thumb and forefinger and used to scoop up the meal. We’ve had some of the finest meals of the whole trip already, including our traditional lunch of sticky rice and dips today.

Another highlight has been a trek to the local waterfall which we hiked all the way up to the top of. It was pretty grueling, only to get to the top and not be able to get to the other side to go back down. Turns out it actually could be done, as luckily we ran into a guy on our way back down who had done it before and showed us the path over the top of the waterfall. 

1047435-824174-thumbnail.jpgEverything was going wonderful until a leech attached itself to Joy's foot. Pulling it off was pretty hard - that sucker (get it?) just didn't want to let go.  At the bottom we decided to take a dip in the pool under one of the falls and were soon joined by a troop of monks. It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen as they swung on the tree rope and jumped off the falls in their full orange robes.

Smithers, Release the Birds

With not too much left to do before leaving for the airport a little later today, we decided to take a morning hike up to the top of Phou Si mountain. It’s in the center of the town and provides a beautiful 360 degree view of everything around for miles. Shortly after starting the climb we came across an old lady selling birds in a small woven cage. Apparently the idea is to release them at the top to symbolize your love. Well, I’m just making the love part up since we don’t speak Laotian and don’t know what she was saying, but it obviously must symbolize something so why not make Joy happy. We released the birds and headed back down and were shocked to see IT WORKED! Right in our path back down were two lizards making hot and heavy whoopee.

Vientiane – Not Going On!

IMG_2616.JPGYou’d think that the capital city of a country would be a hub for activity and excitement and interesting sites, but sad to say Vientiane really didn’t have too much to offer. Thank goodness we only had one and a half days in this town, since really that was more than enough time to see it all.

The main venues to check out within the town are the temples – we dutifully explored Pha That Luang, the national symbol and most important religious site in Laos. Like many of the temples we’ve visited throughout Asia it was quite opulent and beautiful, covered in gold paint that reflected in the sunlight.

Another “must see” in town is the Patuxai (Victory Gate), a take off of the Paris Arc de Triumphe. Apparently it was constructed from concrete donated by the US that was supposed to be used for the new airport. We climbed to the top, strangely discovering on the middle floor lots of t-shirt vendors.

Our meals in this town were very sub-par compared to our excellent dining experiences in Luang Prabang. The restaurants didn’t have near the cozy ambience like they did in Luang PRabang, nor was the food remotely as fresh and fragrant and tasty as in the small town. No doubt, if we were to come back to this beautiful country, I think we’d bypass Vientiane, and head straight up to Vien Viang, which we hear is supposed to be quite amazing, then on over to Luang Prabang.