Wow. What a charming town!  Four days was not enough, the type of town where days can easily turn into weeks (or months).   We spent our limited hours sipping the ubiquitous Beer Lao along the banks of the Mekong, combing through the used bookshelves at L’Estrange Cafe while seeking shelter from a sudden downpour, breaking a sweat climbing the 328 steps to Mt. Phousi (sweat comes easily in the tropics!), bargaining for handmade crafts and textiles at the Night Market (a welcome contrast to Batu Ferringhi’s night market) and meandering through the Wat-lined streets and alleys filled with novice monks in their saffron-colored robes.  Another highlight was a lazy one-hour boat ride down the muddy Mekong, from which we could watch the locals tend their lush gardens on the riverbanks and see laughing children throw themselves into the muddy current and frantically swim to escape the river’s pull and make it safely to the banks again.  (During this same trip, Zara entertained herself with some unauthorized uses for Wikkistix!)

We didn’t do much else.  Jonathan suffered his first case of traveler’s tummy after eating spicy buffalo sausage one evening (which I had wisely refused to share with him) and the second day I needed a nap to fight off a burgeoning cold.   There was loads more on offer–waterfalls and caves, elephant rides, mountain biking, jungle trekking–plenty to keep the adventure junkies endlessly entertained.  Our visit even coincided with Luang Prabang’s Film Festival, which is in its third year and undaunted by the lack of a single cinema in town, yet we failed to make it to any of the showings.

We stayed at a small guesthouse, Villa Lao Wooden House, which was run by a friendly family and offered three comfy beds, a strong shower, decent wifi, a large breakfast and the bonus of 5am wakeup calls from the neighbor’s rooster, all for $45/night.  The guesthouse was perfectly located in Old Town, one block from Sisavanvong (Main Street), while two blocks south took us to the banks of the Mekong and the same distance to the north dropped us at the banks of the Nam Khan river.

The tourist section of town bustled with activity day and night, but we found ourselves to be part of the rarest demographic–40-somethings with a kid–standing out conspicuously amidst the 20-something backpackers, the well-heeled and traveled retirees and the Francophiles.   Still, it is a place that we could have easily passed a couple of more months…I hope we can return one day and see more of this gorgeous country.

Is a dead grasshopper an acceptable offering?

Is a dead grasshopper an acceptable offering?

Novice monk on path to Mt. Phousi

Novice monk on path to Mt. Phousi

In front of Wat

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Atop Mt. Phousi

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Wikkistix fun

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Temple offerings (live birds)

Temple offerings (live birds)

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