Trip Report: Laos: December 2016-January 2017

Here is the continuation of Tina C.’s trip journal – covering the Laos portion of her multi-family group’s trip (11 people) to Southeast Asia.  We customized our 16-Day Southeast Asia Explorer: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia trip for these clients. Many thanks to Tina C., who agreed to allow us to publish her trip report.

Traveler: Tina C.
Travel Dates: December 29, 2016-January 1, 2017
Destination Visited: Laos

DAY 6 – Luang Prabang, Laos

At the airport, we said our goodbyes to Damveeth, and took our flight to Luang Prabang, Laos for our next adventure. . . . We arrived in Laos in the evening, and were met by our local guide Vong, and his driver Ham.  It was waaay cooler in Luang Prabang, and far less crowded with a small town feel.  We got to our VERY QUAINT AND CHARMING hotel Villa Maydou, in the dark, but the lovely, lush grounds were sooooo inviting and beautiful, I was instantly excited and happy about our three-night stay here.  We got our rooms and head out on foot, in search of a resto for dinner.  The town was located on a peninsula and had the feel of a ski village, rather than a third-world, densely populated, country.  We ate our first Laotian meal on the terrace of a nice restaurant. . . .   We walked back to our hotel and enjoyed (tolerated) Laotian karaoke en route, and called it a night!

DAY 7 – Luang Prabang & Kuang Si Waterfalls

Oh my…far cooler here, as we embraced breakfast outdoors at our sweet resort. . . .  We went out with Vong to see the Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, and learn of the local history. . . . We walked across the bamboo bridge and got some great pics with the local monks-in-training!  After lunch we were driven an hour outside of town to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, where the guys all jumped into the shallow river, and gave Mommy heart attacks as they walked over rocks with gushing streams of water…😬😬😬!  We were very excited to see the W’s as they were arriving upon our return from our day…yay!!!  Lots of hugs and good cheer seeing them, followed by drinks around the pool at the lovely Villa Maydou.  Out for dinner together at L’Elephant, a French cuisine resto for a little change of pace, and a yummy meal! 

DAY 8 – Luang Prabang (Monk Ritual, Sidewalk Market, Mekong River, Buddha Cave, & Traditional Buddhist Blessing)

NEW YEAR’S EVE!!!

Today we got up BEFORE THE CRACK OF DAWN (wth with these early mornings?!!! 😩)  Just joooooooookes…love love love the experiences they offer…😁!  We were participating in a community ritual that takes place daily at dawn…the offering of cooked sticky rice and packaged sundries for all the monks, and monks-in-training (i.e. young boys) of Luang Prabang.  The rice is prepared in steamer baskets early that morning by the families of the community and packaged cookies and biscuits are gathered in small baskets, next to a small, plastic stool, on which we sat, lining the roadside (talk about WHITE CARB LOADING!).  200 monks walked by with a silver bowl strapped across their shoulders, and we dropped small balls of sticky rice into each bowl along with a package of cookies.  They eat only twice per day, breakfast and lunch, forgoing the dinner meal (perhaps I should try this and coin it THE MONK DIET…think it’ll catch on?  Maybe if instead of dinner, you got wine???).  Families also prepare vegetables, meats and curries and bring them to the temples for their consumption.  It was positively surreal to be lined up by the side of the road, offering a slew of barefoot and serene monks, their food for the day…WHAT A LIFE EXPERIENCE!  I took note of a very young, poor and barefoot girl, who sat roadside with her own basket (in prayer hands), hoping to receive some offerings from the monks.  It was incredible to be a part of this community exercise, and a definite highlight for all of us.  I think we all took note of our good fortune.

Afterward, Vong took us through a sidewalk market, where people bought their food for the day or week.  Another incredible experience for the senses…DEEP-FRIED BATS, RATS, and just about anything else you can imagine IN nature, or ON THE BODY of nature!!!  Coconut hot cakes were sampled…coulda had SEVERAL OF THOSE!!!  We returned for breakfast and proceeded to get ready for…can you guess…wait for it…LUNCH!  Ack…hoping my scale is busted at home!  We went to Auntie Pheng’s home for a homecooked lunch in her garden!  We were served soup, steamed rice, a fantastic whitefish marinated and cooked in banana leaves, salad, and other vegetables, and lovely fresh fruit for dessert.  The family had a beautiful home with lots of the local teak furniture and flooring, common to the area.  Neato!

Afterwards, we drove out to The Mekong River…(HOW OFTEN DO WE SAY THAT?) to board longboats for our riverboat cruise and cave explorations.  We jet-boated up THE MEKONG (!!!) to see these caves that held thousands of Buddhas over many centuries.  People took refuge within the caves during the war, and have been bringing Buddha sculptures there for years.  On the way back, we stopped at a silk shop/restaurant along the river . . . .  Back at the hotel afterward to prepare for another truly epic cultural experience…and our New Year’s Eve dinner!

Our guide had coordinated a traditional, Buddhist blessing by a Vietnamese family and their elders, in their home.  We were invited into their humble home, and sat in a circle on small stools, as they sat on the floor before us.  There was a large tray holding many flowers, fruits, and other sweets, as well as a large collection of white cotton strings.  The main elder said many prayers and then every member of the family tied a white string to each of our wrists, whilst saying a prayer.  It was absolutely fascinating to take part in such a ceremony…performed on auspicious occasions and during milestone moments in their lives (marriage, first home, new baby, moving out, etc.).  Afterward, they poured pure moonshine from water bottles into small glasses for us to toast…a surreal experience! 

Off to our New Year’s Eve dinner at Tamarind…a resto recommended by our guides, and booked for an early dinner.  We toasted the New Year and enjoyed a nice dinner with best friends…I couldn’t have felt happier. ❤️  After dinner, we walked over the bamboo bridge in search of our table on THE MEKONG for drinks.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be as they had given away our large riverside table to another group, despite reservations.  So we walked back to our beautiful resort, and enjoyed drinks around the pool…all good!  While many turned in well before midnight, K., R. and C. threw each other in the pool, and G. and I enjoyed a nice chat.  Since I was still up at midnight, I ran out to the pool deck to wish my 3 boys (C. is now officially a third son) a Happy 2017!

DAY 9 – Luang Prabang

We essentially had the day free until our late afternoon departure. So after a leisurely breakfast, and checkout, we took off by large tuk tuk (effectively a pickup truck with bench seating for 11!), in search of a riverside resto for lunch.  It was raining for the first time since we’d arrived in SE Asia, and I looked RATHER STYLISH in my rain gear, multiple layers, rain cap, and sunglasses!  A-MAZED that my kids walked anywhere NEAR ME that afternoon…oh wait…where were they?!!!  We found a nice place after some searching (11 is a BIIIGGGG table), and had some awesome green and red curry and other yummies before high-tailing it back on foot to catch our ride to the airport.  Bye bye Laos!  HELLLOOOOO VIETNAM!!!

[If Laos appeals to you, please visit our Laos Tours page.  To read more about Tina C.’s group trip, follow the links below:

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