Happy new year from Luang Prabang! We arrived here on the 30th after a journey through some amazing mountain scenery. Luang Prabang itself feels like a very special place and the whole of the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are temples at every turn and the old quarter really does feel like you have stepped back a couple of decades. Then again all of Laos feels a bit like that!
We spent yesterday looking at most of the main sites including some beautiful Wats and the old Royal Palace as LP was the capital of Laos prior to 1975. There is a coffee and cafe culture here so it's easy and very tempting to stop for regular iced coffees or fruit shakes along the way to keep you refreshed between the gorgeous and inspiring sights. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants with lovely views over the Mekong River to choose from. Luang Prabang is definetely on the expensive tour circuit and there is a noteable contrast to the types of tourists that are here, particularly as the town is so small. One of the other highlights here is the night market. No snides in sight but plenty of handicrafts from the local villages. I'm having to resist shopping generally still though as we have quiet a while to go on our trip yet. I'm sure I'll be sending a parcel home soon though!
Having wondered what seeing in the new year here might be like we had a good time as there was a public party by the craft market. You could buy and let off paper lanterns that were dotting the sky and travelled for miles. Midnight was heralded with lots of fireworks and crackers. The Laos' seem to love a party and to celebrate the new year and when we got back to our guest house we were greeted by the owners and their friends still partying. They insisted we joined them for a beer which was lovely.
Tomorrow we are booked on to an eco trek (yes, I did check the credentials out!) for two days where we will learn how to be an elephant mahout. You get to know your elephant, work with them, ride them, and generally care for them including sharing a bath! It's one of the things I was hoping to do whilst here so I'm really looking forward to it.
The internet connections in Laos have not always been great and we have been warned off uploading photo's while we are here because of viruses but we will catch up on them all from Thailand. We should cross the border in about a weeks time. The key boards on the PC's are often very old and sticky so please exscuse all the typo's as well!
Fingers crossed I don't fall off my elephant..........