This blog is a long time coming but I have hellish problems with the computers in this country. I won't go into any detail - I'll just try again! It is a week since I left Luang Prabang but I shall try to remember what I did anyway.
The first morning I was there was hot, rather sticky but beautifully sunny. I wandererd around, trying to get a feel for the city and took a look at a few wats (there are several!) Then suddenly at midday the wind got up and it started spitting. Then it began to pour down! All the postcards were rapidly taken inside and replaced with waterproof ponchos! The rest of the week was overcast and decidedly chilly and all the tourists were wearing the winter clothes they thought they'd only need for the plane journey. One cafe started selling mulled wine! In the early evening I sat drinking coffee at a little cafe (in the quieter part of town which I preferred) and the monks were called to chant in the temple opposite. It was very atmospheric and I went over to have a peek through the door. For one poor novice it was his turn to stay outside and he was absolutely soaked. He wanted to chat and he told me that he was from Nong Kiaow which was a place I had been to. His parents are rice and sesame farmers. The novices are very well educated and most of them can sspeak very good Englis. They also invite you in to chant with them but I don't suppose many of the falangs know the words.
I got up at 6 one morning to go and watch the monks collecting alms. They must be used to it but there were so many cameras clicking away. It was nice to watch but a shame that it has become such a tourist spectacle. Once up I thought I may as well go to the morning market as it was being set up. It was vibrant and full of activity as well as the expected unidentifiable objects and parts of animals, sachets of blood etc. Then I climbed up the steps of Phousi Hill to get an aerial view of the city. It was so peaceful up there if rather misty. It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city - it isn't really the laid back place I was expecting but very touristy. I also took the opportunity to visit the Royal Palace museum which was rather lovely - the walls were covered in Japanese mosaics - very colourful.
I signed myself up for a Lao cooking class through the Tamarind restaurant. It was being run by a very talkative Australian girl called Caroline and her chef husband Joy. (Joy is a very common boys name here I have found!) Anyway it was a very similar format to the Thai class but the food was quite different. Here they seem to cook everything over open fires and they barbecue a lot. Hence you get a lot of lovely smells wafting about as you walk the streets. And there were more students int the class - 9 i think! So now I know how to make sticky rice (a staple in Laos) and purple stick rice pudding! My stuffed lemongrass needs perfecting though I feel.
Another thing I did was to spend a bit of time at the Big Brother Mouse bookshop. I went in to purchase some books to hand out to children as I travel around. There is a big drive here to get children reading - "Give books not candy"! But they also have "speak English" sessions every morning whereby local people can chat to English speaking tourists for practise. I got talking to a student teacher called Lia (do all the men have girl's names here?!). He was very enthusiastic to pick up new words and phrases and it made it a very enjoyable morning for me. I then went for a bike ride! There is a lovely old bridge that crosses the Mekong and is only suitable for bikes and motorbikes - fun to cycle over! Once on the other side it is a lot more rural and I had fun exploring the country lanes. A bit bumpy though. I cycled to a weaving village where you can watch the women sitting at their looms weaving scarves. A lot of shops there too as expected.
All in all Luang Prabang was a nice place to hang out for a few days and I did a lot of sitting around in cafes drinking iced coffee (I love it!) . My only regret is that I didn't go and see the fairytale waterfalls. I thought they would be too touristy and also didn't think the weather was right but they probably were worth seeing. I'm sure I'll be seeing other waterfalls before I've finished in Asia.