Journey Three / Chapter 23

Upper Laos

February 2019

Two day voyage on Mekong river on a longboat from Thai Border to Luang Prabang. And then exploring surroundings of this mystical city in upper Laos.

After a quick stop in Northern Thailand that we already visited before we cross the border to Laos via Mekong River Friendship bridge between cities Chiang Khong and Huay Xai. Once in Laos, we embark on a two-day voyage on upper Mekong river on a traditional longboat. The boat gets crowded with lots of tourists, despite the fact that its also a home to the captian and his family. We sail slowly downstream, first with Thailand on one side and Laos on the other. But soon we cut deeper into Laos territory and we are for hours surrounded only by hilly landscape with no villages around. We are having an compulsory overnight stop in village of Pak Beng, before embarking on another day of the voyage.

At the end of the 2nd day we reach Luang Prabang (literally meaning "Royal Buddha Image"), an ancient capital of a former buddhist kingdom of the same name. This legendary tourist destination is best reached via the mekong voyage we just took. We set off to explore its numerous wonders, including vast number of ancient wats, temples and monasteries. But perhaps the most peculiar is that the city is still keeping the ancient tradition of alms-giving. Very early every morning (around 4:30am), the streets of Luang Prabang start getting busy. Along many houses of the main street hundreds of locals (mixed with significant numbers of tourists in recent years) sit with large portions of sticky rice and await arrival of the monks. Hundreds of monks, mostly kids pass along and accept gifts of sticky rice into their bowls. Once a common thing in the buddhist world, daily morning alms giving is very rare now, and Luang Prabang is one of the very few places where it still takes place.

We stay in this fascinating city for couple of days exporing in and around (including famous Kuang Si Waterfalls), before embarking towards Vientiane, the capital of Laos.