Off to a bang in Luang Prabang

Well, what a great way to greet a brand spanking new year with a rip-roaring hangover. Not even good old noodle soup can cure the skin crawling, stomach churning symptoms, caused by quadruple whisky shots and random cocktails. It also cannot cure the hangover blues. That particularly nasty side effect that they do not pre-warn on the bottle. Eugh, they should state:

Please enjoy this lethal concoction which will immediately increase confidence in ones abilities, particularly anything involving dancing on furniture, singing, trying the splits and generally thinking that you are the best thing since sliced bread. Please be warned that once these few short hours of bliss have passed, you will experience the harsh reality of your life and see all your true faults as they really are. Not only will you look and feel like shit, you will feel completely disillusioned with your place and purpose on the planet and may be subjected to thoughts of ‘what is the point in it all’ before burying yourself under the duvet for hours on end. The only cure for this is to either have another beer (not recommended) or overeat (be prepared for bloating and more self loathing should you choose this option).

I chose both as I have no self-discipline, especially in the hung-over state that I’m in. Welcome 2014, and nice to meet you Luang Prabang.

Oh Luang Prabang. What can I say? We didn’t get off to a good start and to be fair I was fairly critical of you. My first impression was just ‘touristy’. I was surprised at the amount of tourists that filled the streets and could forget for a moment that I was in Asia and instead have stumbled upon a small European town. Bags, scarves of every colour imaginable, jewellery, genie pants, throws, cushion covers and coffee/shake bars galore. I must say that I instantly wanted to leave, feeling strangely unwelcome. The locals smiles were few and far between but I’m sure (and after researching Luang Prabang further) it is simply the exhaustion of dealing with the ‘Farangs’, who could be extremely obnoxious and rude. Not all, of course. Most foreigners are completely respectful of the local culture and customs.

Although it was a rough start, I have slowly succumbed to your charm. Move away from the tourist markets and you can wander the streets and smile with the locals, without having to weave through the hoards of people in the main market area. Although not as cheap as Thailand it is certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than the UK, giving opportunity to splurge on the delicious foods and in particular the coconut shakes, with pretty much taste like liquid Bounty filling. Although Luang Prabang would not automatically pop to ones mind when deciding where to celebrate the arrival of 2014, we were not disappointed. The Khammany Inn where we stayed prepared a great party with whisky on tap. We drank, nibbled on various appetisers and danced until 9pm before making our way to the infamous Utopia, where we continued to drink cocktails. Come the countdown, we went outside to the courtyard area where hoards of fellow travellers sat around a massive bonfire. Sand between the toes, Chinese lanterns were set off into the star infested sky with hopes and wishes for the new year. Countdown complete, Edwin and I stumbled through the streets, stopping to devour noddle soup from one of the street stalls. The bars continued to play out their tunes, well into the early hours of the morning with the 12am curfew being lifted for the special occasion. Walking back towards our hostel, a  group of locals welcomed us to drink with them and celebrate, which was a perfect way to end the evening.

Yes, I have certainly warmed to you Luang Prabang. Your laid back, quiet way of life certainly grown on me. You are a place where one can go to relax, catch up on reading, walk and see beautiful historical buildings, people watch and contemplate love, life and the universe. You can eat great food, grab a cold beer and procrastinate in the many coffee shops, bars and restaurants. No, this is not a party town so don’t expect to be parting until the early hours of the morning (New years being the exception). This is ‘quiet’ time, where you can lose yourself in the traditional Lao architecture with hints of the European influence, which add to its charm. Take a book and lay down on the cushions in Utopia with an ice cold Lao beer and just be.

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