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Meditations around the world My 8-month Trip to Southeast Asia.

Feb 2-5: Luang Probang and Poop Salad

LAOS | Monday, 5 February 2007 | Views [2106]

Luang Probang

February 2-5, 2007

Endive a la Poop

Some bus rides are just cozy and comfortable. The ride from Vang Vieng was definitely not one of these. After about eight hours and a long wait for repairs when our bus' brakes failed on the winding mountain road, we arrived in the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Probang.

Luang Probang was a ghost town when the country opened its borders to tourism in 1989. Now it is a quiet but busy city that thrives on tourism and in that context, has gotten to be quite pricey by Laotian standards. To complain about two people paying $10/night for a small but nice room with private bath and hot water seems silly by standards back in the states, but we were not in the states and fumed a little about that being the cheapest place we could find. We accepted it, however, and stayed in this quaint little city for four nights. Much of our time here was spent on the internet uploading pictures to our web site. In the evenings Luang Probang's main street turned into a huge but sedate and gently lit night market. Many of the vendors were tribal women selling their hand-made wares. We were tempted to load up on souvenirs and gifts, but thinking of carrying them for the next few months dissuaded us.

Most of the restaurants in the city were expensive, so we were very happy to find a street buffet where you could pile up a plate with vegetarian food for a half-dollar. On one day we decided to hire a tuk-tuk with a few other travelers to take us on a forty-five minute drive to an enormous waterfall. The waterfall was indeed impressive and we hiked up the cascading levels. We even got to see a few bears and a tiger that lived in enclosures there. They had been saved as cubs from the poachers who had killed their parents. The tiger was especially awe-inspiring. The visit was great fun until we met up with our companions at the arranged time and discovered that our prepaid tuk-tuk driver had left us stranded. Fortunately we could catch rides with other tuk-tuks, but having to pay twice did make us grumble.

One second-hand story about Luang Probang had to do with the confluence of the two rivers that meet right at the city, the Nam Ou and the Mekong. The story was that just below this confluence was an enormous pipe extending from the city. From this pipe was streaming all the foul effluence of the city. The content's give-away was the bright pink toilet tissue commonly seen in this country. (That is, if you see any at all.) So if this stream of raw sewage going directly into the river were not a distasteful enough picture, the real groaner was the sight of a woman washing lettuce in the river just 200 meters downstream.

Tags: laos, luang progang, mekong, nam ou, sightseeing, tourism, unesco, waterfall


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