We know food has been a focus of many of our posts and in Luang Prabang (LPB) we found the cheap food jackpot. For about $4 per person per day we ate: sausage and cheese sandwiches and bananas or noodles in a banana leaf and donuts; chicken sandwiches on baguettes with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and sweet chili sauce; and the ever popular vegetarian buffet (which we later learned was possibly stuffed with MSG) which we ate every night and chased it with either a fruit or Oreo shake and a crepe with bananas or coconut ice cream. It was a delicious four days of dining and was one of favorite parts of the city. Once again food influences our opinion of a city.
Besides eating, we should mention a few other things we did to pass the time in LPB. Our first evening we arrived at dusk without a reservation to find many full guesthouses. It felt a little like the Costco parking lot, seeing the same people on street after street looking for a guesthouse (a parking spot). We found one that we weren’t totally happy with, but it would do for one night. The following morning before we did anything else we hit the pavement searching for another guesthouse and just before Erin was completely done with house hunting, we settled on a spot run by a nice Lao family who were friendly and provided what felt like a good place to stay. The rest of the day was spent riding bikes around town, relaxing by the riverside watching monks play in the water complete with round offs and back flips, watching the sunset from the Wat Phousi on a hill in the center of LPB where we chatted up some cool Americans, and after our evening meal at the vegetarian buffet, wandering the night market.
Our second day also involved hitting the pavement, this time in a search for an inexpensive motorbike to hire for the day. We wanted to ride out to the KoungSi waterfall, about 32 km. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a bike for less than $22 and having been in the habit of paying $5 a day, we weren’t about to pay such a ridiculous price. However, had we hired the motorbike, we wouldn’t have met the gal who we stuck with for the next four days. The way that came about was a result of our indecision. We had wandered around town for too long and were ready to commit to something. A tuk-tuk driver came up and asked if we wanted to go out to the waterfall. He already had three people going and if we went, the price would be quite reasonable. So we quickly picked up our chicken sandwiches and hopped in for the ride. As we headed through town, we made one stop and picked up another tourist, Rebecca. We chatted along the way and when we arrived at the waterfall, the three of us decided to explore the area together. The waterfall was gorgeous–you almost thought it was man made as the colors were just stunning. The pools were available for swimming and many people were enjoying the cool waters. After hiking to the top of the falls and back we too joined in–John jumping off a small falls and the rope swing, Rebecca also launching off the rope swing, and Erin just jumping in the shallow end and floating around. It was a beautiful and refreshing way to spend the afternoon. We returned to town and after a little down time, we met up with our new friend for another evening of vege buffet dinner, shakes, crepes, and the market.
Day three we hired bicycles and the three of us set off for a handicraft village where local artisans weave beautiful silk scarves and sarongs, among other things. We spent several hours poking through shops and watching the women at work. Eventually we split up and rode off to figure out how to get to our next destination and also to get our daily chicken sandwich for lunch. We also managed to squeeze in a little internet time in which we were able to purchase our tickets to Kenya!!!
We met back for the evening and decided to take a quick trip down to the river to watch the sunset. So we locked the three bikes together and walked down to the sand, admiring the orange/red/pink colored sun dropping down behind the hills for about 45 minutes. When we climbed back up to our bikes, John led the way and before Rebecca or I were to the top, we heard him say, “Uh, guys… one of our bikes is missing.” Missing wasn’t entirely accurate–stolen was probably more accurate. The three of us sprang into action and divided up to scour the town. Looking back, it was pretty humorous that we even thought we’d have a chance at finding the bike but rather quickly we found our bike. Well, at least a bike that looked exactly like it. And then we found it again and again and again. The red “LA Bike” seemed to be the most common bike in town and there was no way we could identify our bike as it had no distinguishing marks. We chased two or three different people down the street thinking they must have our bike only to realize there was no way we could prove if it was our bike or not. Rebecca didn’t have any better luck and we reunited with disappointment. The total damage due was about $75 USD which was a decent hit and Rebecca was cool with splitting the cost three ways. We tried to keep things in perspective being thankful that we were all alive, that only one bike had been stolen, that we hadn’t lost our passports, or any of the other possible situations that could have transpired. It was a good reminder to be cautious. It certainly put a damper on the evening, but after a good amount of verbal processing, we decided not talk about it anymore and not let it ruin the evening. We enjoyed our regular evening activities and drowned our sorrows in crepes with coconut ice cream and chocolate.