Before I boarded by 9 a.m. minivan to Luang Prabang, I got myself a fruit salad with yogurt and muesli as one of those rare treats for me. The minivan kept a solid pace out of Vang Vieng before hitting the mountain pass that wound itself steeply around and throughout that deadened our pace to a near crawl that I could have out-jogged on a good day. As a backpacker passed on his motorbike toting his girlfriend and their luggage, I drifted off into my memory to the good times I had with my own bike and the freedom that it entailed despite the consequential falls that begged me to quit. We reached Luang Prabang where I had to get back to using my arsenal of bartering skills. I held firm on my price for 10,000kip per person for the group of us Westerners to get into town. The tuk-tuks and touts kept saying another group of westerners was paying 20,000kip. I said that is splendid for them but I know that they were ripping them off and would walk us out of the bus station if they didn’t come to their senses. Eventually they caved knowing that I was right and even had the cahones to ask us to pay up front. I told them we would pay when we got there which is fair and how business is done especially when you never know if they will deliver you to your agreed upon location. Once they have your money, we would essentially be dead to them and no longer of any use. One girl asked if I had been traveling for awhile and yes I have, learning good and bad the tricks of travel. After checking into a hostel, I strolled around the city to take in the ambience as well as a meal. I went into one of the fancier restaurants recommended by my foodie research as a treat for all the many cheap eats that I have put up with. Being out of the normal meal time and dressed like the dirty, sweaty backpacker that I am, my arrival was unexpected. With proper table clothes, silverware, and finely carved wooden tables, this environment didn’t mesh with my sweat rag wrapped around my neck and my wily in disarray hair on top of the other features that define the muck and mire I have been living in. The meal was sadly an overpriced disappointment and shows how well good street food can go if you can find the right place. Either way, I am sick and tired of Asian food. Give me a PB&J, a bowl of cereal, a damn carrot to munch on, something please! Walking along the peninsula that makes up much of the old town of Luang Prabang was quite pleasant. After staying in the many chaotic cities and obviously decrepit, third world towns and villages, I can see this UNESCO city as a place I would be willing to live and linger in if the weather wasn’t so dreadfully hot. Luang Prabang is loaded with its fair share of centuries old built temples and architecturally significant homes like a Hoi An from Vietnam but I haven’t decided if the temples will be worth a visit after the repetitive nausea of another temple that essentially blends in with the rest. The city felt so calm especially in the shady edge of the peninsula as I walked along the two rivers one of which is the Mekong. Near one of their markets I saw a motorbike selling fish but in goldfish-style bags. These fish weren’t of goldfish-sized dimensions either as some were primed to make the perfect meal that they were longed to become. Back at the hostel, I had to take a break from the heat and simply relax on my stiff bed. When I sat after some time ready to explore the city once again especially its night market, I noticed the backpacker sitting adjacent to me looked awfully familiar. Here was Andrew, the guy I met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. What were the odds after all this time in between while I was roaming around Vietnam and finishing up my travels in Cambodia for a solid two months that divided our encounters. We continued catching up on our separate travels while touring the night market seeing many of the same textiles, garments, carved woodwork, etc. on display before finishing off with some fruit shakes. Back at the hostel my body continued to tremble from my latest sickness and to use a Ricky Bobby reference not only was I ‘pissing excellence’, I was pissing pure gold as I am in capable of keeping up with the dehydration that has sucked dry my water levels. Tomorrow, the two of us planned to ride motorbikes around Luang Prabang to take in its highlighted outskirts especially the welcome relief of the chilly falls and pools of Kuang Si Waterfall.
Now in Laos Day 202: Luang Prabang