Charming Luang Prabang

Traveling has its difficulties. Living out of a suitcase can get pretty old. Arriving at a hotel to discover that it smells like sewage can be pretty depressing. Travel days are exhausting. But the worst part of traveling is traveler’s diarrhea, or as I like to call it ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’

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For some reason, Dave and I love traveling in the most high-risk areas for this terrible affliction…

This is a special kind of ‘food poisoning’, where your gut bacteria decides that it doesn’t like a new cuisine and proceeds to evacuate everything from both your stomach and intestines at such a violent pace that you end up with sore ribs.

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For my readers who learn best through the use of visuals…

I spent the first 24 hours of our 3 days in Luange Prabang wishing for death…or that at least the smell of sewage in our hotel would subside. Luckily, this never seems to get me sick for more than 24 hours, and by day 2, I was able to go out and explore the city. I quickly fell in love.


Luang Prabang’s History

Luang Prabang is located in North-Central Laos. The main city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage sight due to its many Buddhist relics and well preserved historical buildings.

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It’s a small city, but has a tonne of history. Because it was the capital during Laos’ French Colonial period, there is a tonne of really cool architecture in the town. The mixture of colonial and traditional Laos buildings make it a great place for taking photos!


Buddhism in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang translates to ‘The Royal Buddha Image’. I imagine this is because this is the town to see if you want to see Laotian Buddhist Architecture. We saw countless temples while we were there. I actually lost count of which ones were which, so I apologize that I can’t properly label them.

Some temples were extra interesting. Dave found one that had this really interesting rock jutting out in front of it. Another is said to have Buddha’s footprint in it. Buddha was apparently HUGE!!!

Luang Prabang is also known for a daily ceremony of local monks. Each day, at around 6am, monks walk the streets, asking for alms (donations). We never actually saw the procession, because as far as I’m concerned, 6am doesn’t exist when I’m on vacation, but it would be pretty neat to see. We did stop at one monastery, though, where I followed a cat around and got some really neat shots of it, with the Monk’s robes drying in the background.


Handicrafts in Luang Prabang

As interesting as temples can be, they aren’t the only things Luang Prabang has to offer. There are several craft villages around the city. We attempted to visit 2 of them, but only one of the trips was successful.

We had better luck in the Paper and Weaving village, where we bought more than one souvenir!


On Our Way to the Waterfall

The best part of our trip to Luang Prabang though, was without a doubt, the trip to Kuang Si Falls.

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For obvious reasons

There is more than one way to get to the falls. Most people take a tour with a group or with a Tuk Tuk driver. We opted to rent a motorbike instead, and found our own way, which was half the fun!

The first thing you see when you enter the park, is actually a bear sanctuary. Asiatic Black Bears (also called Moon Bears) are incredibly cute, but are also becoming incredibly endangered. They are captured all over Asia for use in Chinese Medicine.

Bear Bile has been used in Chinese medicine for over 1000 years. The bile is mostly used to help with gal bladder and liver conditions. Fortunately, there are herbal options that are equally effective as the bear bile; unfortunately, people in China still think the bear bile is better. As a result, Asiatic bears are captured and literally tortured for years for the sake extracting bile from their gal bladders.

The bear sanctuary has saved their bears from these farms. They also rescue bears who have been injured in traps. We saw one bear lumbering around clumsily because it was missing one of its front paws He made me think of my sweet Hugo, and how adaptable animals can be.

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I never got this good of a picture, so I stole it from the internet.

If you ever want to get me a Christmas or Birthday present, but aren’t sure what I’d like (and don’t want to pay outrageous shipping fees), please donate to ‘Save the Bears’ or any of the other organizations I’ve mentioned in past posts.

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I’ll be writing about the UXO foundation in another post, but this is another cause I’m very passionate about.

The Kuang Si Falls

The falls themselves are well worth the trip, no matter how you decide to get there. They go on for ages, and the final view of the big falls is absolutely stunning. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me…

As you continue up the hill, there are places you can actually swim at the falls. Dave and I both regret not bringing our bathing suits, as this would have been a gorgeous spot to go for a dip!

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As we continued on, the falls got bigger and more beautiful.

The scenery around the falls was very nice as well. Even the garbage cans were cute, and there was an old water wheel as well.

Finally, we arrived at the big falls, which are even more beautiful than the little ones! I hadn’t actually looked at the pictures online, so I wasn’t expecting anything this gorgeous, so it was a rather awesome surprise when we arrived at this point.

So that’s it for Luang Prabang. I’ve got plenty more to write, as we are now in Ho Chi Minh City! Stay Tuned!!!

On The Road – Taking the Bus in Laos

South East Asia has a reputation for bad drivers. I’m here to clear some things up about Laos, as well as to show off some of the gorgeous views I saw on my way to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang.

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1.) Your Options

There are a few different options for tourists in Laos. Currently, there are no great train options in South East Asia, but it looks like soon, that will change. For now, taking a bus is the best way to get around in both Laos and Cambodia.

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This is going to change things for these countries!

There are 3 types of buses. The first kind are standard, long distance buses. Think of a Grey Hound bus, but add in more people, more luggage and less air conditioning. Some tourists report that some of these vehicles are so old, they have difficulty climbing the steep hills on the way to Luang Prabang. We decided to avoid that option…

The next option is a miniature version of those buses. They are smaller and more narrow, but they are a bit roomier than the mini vans. We took one of those to Vang Vieng. It was pretty comfortable and I even managed to get a bit of sleep on the way…that is until our driver started showing off his driving skills….(more on that in a second…)

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It’s like an ‘inbetweeny Van’

The last option is a minivan. This choice is slightly bigger than the mini-vans your parents drove you to soccer practice in at home, and they sit about 15 people. They’re usually pretty cramped, but they ride low and make for a smoother ride. They’re also usually in better condition than the buses. We took a mini van to Luang Prabang.

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They somehow manage to fit 15 people in that thing…

2. The Drivers Drive…Differently….

It’s common to see drivers pounding back energy drinks and trying to stay awake and alert throughout the long trips. This is terrifying. More than once, Dave thought of offering to take over for our driver, who didn’t seem to be affected by the M510s he was emptying and throwing out the window.

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An M510 energy drink. There are rumours that they contain Amphetamines, which is untrue. In reality, they’re about the same as drinking a Redbull. Which still isn’t great…

Our drivers didn’t speak much English, but it didn’t really matter because it was obvious from the first kilometer…their only concern was getting us from Point A to Point B in as short a time as possible. This often meant speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and slamming on the breaks at the last second to avoid rear ending someone who has slowed down in front of them.

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I think it’s safe to say that ‘Drivers Ed’ isn’t a thing in South East Asia..

If you’ve driven in Asia, or have lived in Asia for a while, don’t worry. It’s not too much worse than everywhere else. If you’ve only ever driven in the west…prepare yourself. You’re in for quite the ride!!
3. The Passengers Suffer

Some blog posts I read said that passengers were throwing up from all the winding roads in the countryside. Others described anxiety during the trip and pure relief upon arrival. My experiences weren’t this bad. I felt a little car sick once or twice, but I get car sick even on the best of roads!

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The roads are VERY windy. They wind all the way up the mountain

Luckily, many of the regular pit stops that these buses make, have stores that sell motion sickness patches and pills! You know it’s a problem, when…

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They even have several different brands to choose from!

4. It’s Worth The Ride

Having said all this, I’d like to finish this post on a positive note. South East Asia is beautiful!! The landscapes here are simply stunning, so although you might feel sick, and you’ll probably be scared out of your wits once or twice, it can be worth the trip to take the ride. Remember, these drivers may seem crazy, but they have some of the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen on a non-cat!!!


5. Final Tips from the Kinetic Canuck

  1. Don’t take the trip on a full stomach. It’s just not a good idea.
  2. Don’t take the trip on an empty stomach. Some routes only have 1 or 2 stops with questionable food choices
  3. Bring some music to enjoy. It can help keep your mind off of your stomach if you’re feeling sick.
  4. Don’t worry too much! Enjoy the views and remember that these drivers take these roads every day! (and if they are falling asleep…offering to drive for them usually shakes them up pretty good and gets them to pay attention to the road a little better!!!)

I’ll be back soon with a blog post about our final stop in Laos; Luang Prabang!!

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Sneak Peak!!