Thursday, January 28, 2010

A View from the Mekong

Luang Prabang, Laos lies on the banks of the Mekong River and for many years was virtually inaccessible to outsiders and trade. Even today, despite the fact that it has become a major tourist destination the city is very small and relatively isolated. Many foreign goods are expensive here due to transport costs and there is also a severe book shortage--unlike in Burma there aren't homemade copies being sold on the streets. Our boat from Northern Thailand took three days.
The journey was worth it, though. If you ignore the smattering of backpacker bars and restaurants it is a peaceful, beautiful, and leisurely place. The whole town is designated as a Unesco World Heritage site and consequently many old homes, buildings, and temples have been preserved. Five minutes outside the center of town pictaresque village life continues unabated. Every morning at 6 hundreds of resident orange-robed monks line the streets to receive offerings of rice from locals who wish to increase their good karma. It's hard to believe that this country (Laos People's Democratic Republic is still Communist-run) was the victim of so many American bombs only a few decades ago during the Secret War. According to Wikipedia, Laos is "the most bombed country in the world."
In general, life moves slowly like the Mekong, a muddy river that winds through tiny and forgotten villages, caves with ancient Buddhist relics and seems to dissapear into the majestic mountains beyond. We have been spending the evenings here sitting at riverside tables and going on long walks. During the days we took a kayaking trip, a motor scooter ride to Kuang Si waterfall (see pictures below and above), a cooking class (for Ali), a long bicycle ride through the countryside (for Jeremy), and were otherwise deliciously lazy.Also Mango season seems to be approaching and Jeremy just heard back from his first grad school: acceptance with full funding at University of Wisconsin-Madison program of Political Science!

Click here to see some pictures.

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