The most exciting thing that happens in Luang Prabang every day is Tak Bat. This is the solemn ritual where the monks walk in single file down one of the main streets and collect alms. It’s interesting to watch as people take their little plastic stools and sit at the edge of the road waiting for the monks to pass to collect the food they have prepared for them. It’s a ritual that has been going on for centuries and well worth getting up early to be a part of. It also offers some great photographic opportunities, although some tourists are disrespectful in their zealousness to get the photo. Fortunately for us, our guesthouse is located directly opposite the Wat where the monks finish their route, so we have that section of the road almost entirely to ourselves.
Luang Prabang has the biggest concentration of restaurants, coffee shops, massage shops and travel shops that I have seen anywhere on this trip so far. It’s tempting to spend the day sitting under the shade of a tree, looking out over the river and write or watch life go by, slowly, a la Luang Prabang style.
Instead, we opt for a trip to the Tat Kuang Si waterfalls. The waterfall is set in the most beautiful, lush forest and cascades over a number of tiered limestone formations. The water is crystal clear and very inviting, although the shock reflected on the faces of the people jumping in confirm that its quite cold. This place is exquisite and I feel great as we trek around under the canopy of some huge trees to the soothing sound of water cascading from high above. The time in nature does us both the world of good and we feel elated when we return to Luang Prabang, just in time to walk around and explore the night market.
The market is huge and neatly laid out. There is everything and anything you could wish for to buy here, with loads of souvenirs and trinkets to tempt you. Each stall is lit up with a light bulb or two, and with the collective effect of hundreds of stalls lit up and loads of shopping to do, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. However, our rumbling tummies remind us that we haven’t eaten since breakfast, so we hastily make our way to the food section of the market.
Picture a narrow street, with stalls and tables on either side, packed to the rafters with food of every imaginable colour, size and taste. There are just as many people as there is food, sharing communal tables, talking, eating and socializing. Its loud, vibrant, energetic and we love it!
We opt for a “buffet” for $2 which entails piling our plates as high as possible with everything available on a large table laden with a variety of dishes. There are a number of rice varieties, many different types of noodles, green beans, potatoes, salads, raw veggies of all sorts, to mention just a few. Meat or chicken is extra, and there is an equally large variety to choose from.
Satiated, we walk to our guest house, taking in the vibe. The streets are busy. Tourists are out and about having dinner, shopping, drinking, lingering and the locals are out to make money and engage with the tourists.
The Alice in Wonderland feeling continues.