Before I can tell you about Luang Prabang it is important to summarize the sketchy bus experience I had getting there. The bus is advertised as 8 hours for the short 210km. There were 15 people on the minivan. Notable characters: two Canadians (Mike), a Swede (Jacky) and an Asian couple.
A few hours and two cigarette stops into the drive things were getting beautiful as we rolled through the mountains alongside rice fields. And so when our bus driver made another stop in a deserted field we assumed the purpose was to take photos. Well not five minutes into this stop a Lao man on a bike pulled up and started screaming "no picture no picture". At this point only the Asian man was still taking photos with his $3000 camera. And so as we all yelled to the guy to stop the Lao man went over and took the camera away from the guy. To be honest the Asian man protested very little while our driver fought for his camera back but to no avail as the Lao man then got back on his motorbike to ride away. Mike (being a solid 6"something hockey player) and Jacky went over to fight with the Lao guy for the camera back. The rest of sort of backed the guys up in astounded disbelief at what was going on as Mike ripped the camera back and yelled everyone off the bus. There were no more stops on this bus ride. Which also landed us in LP three hours early.
After checking into LPQ (whose sign says it stands for Like Perfect Quality but in reality is nowhere near) a few of us went to grab a bite and go for a bit of a wander. We had intended to make it to the waterfalls but after stumbling upon Utopia- restaurant, bar, hangout, yoga studio, hotel and whatever else you want this place to be our afternoon rapidly melted away as we lounged on body pillows overlooking the mountains and river in the blazing sun.
For the evening we kept things chill as we checked out the night market full of crafts, clothing, jewellery and most importantly all you can eat buffets for 10 000 kip ($1.36). The policy here is don't ask what it is. Just eat it. And eat we did.
After so many days of being with backpackers and group decision making I decided to take a Lani day. I'm sure no reader will be surprised this meant that I spent my Tuesday at Tamarind cooking school. The whole experience was beyond incredible and I am so excited to prepare these dishes upon returning to my own kitchen. Cooking might be the thing I've missed most while travelling (sorry friends).
We started the morning with a market tour where we learned about the different vegetables and herbs unique to Laos. Interestingly very little is imported into the country due to strict regulations. We then made our way over to the sticky rice section of the market. Yes an entire section for just sticky rice. And to wrap up the tour we visited the very smelly meat section where every part of pig, chicken, buffalo were on display on wooden tables with flies, bugs and the 40 degree heat. Food safety isn't really a thing here.....
While Tamarind also runs a very nice restaurant in the city they run their cooking classes out in the country at the garden they use to grow the vegetables and herbs for the restaurant. The place was beyond gorgeous. I will spare you all and not nerd out about the cooking class but just let you look at all the deliciousness that ensued.
I returned to the city in the early afternoon and decided it was time to test out this whole fish eating your feet thing. So for half an hour I sat on a bench while a tank of fish nibbled (tickled) my toesies, causing me to laugh uncontrollably, which in turn caused the staff at the salon to laugh at me for looking like a fool. Though it was the first time in weeks my feet weren't muddy I can't say they felt any softer. Either it doesn't really work or I don't have dead skin. You decide.
I then made my way for sunset Yoga at Utopia for a beautiful vinyasa class overlooking the water.
Satisfied with my solo day and feeling a bit more social I met up with a friend and we made our way to the night market for our buffet dinner and then back to Utopia to lounge around. (Have you caught on that I really enjoy giving places repeat business?)
Now this next bit is where things got a bit sketchy. Somehow I got it in my head that I needed to leave Luang Prabang and my intended destination was Chiang Rai. So upon returning to the hostel instead of going to bed I searched flights for a couple hours, learning I would have to fly to Chiang Mai and then still bus to Chiang Rai. Not keen on both methods of travel I decided I would sleep a couple hours then go check out bus times. And so at 6:30 am I made my way to the ticket office and decided that a 14hr six o'clock night bus would be perfect since it would mean I could go visit the falls before departing. And so I bought a ticket and checked out of my hostel.
Well ten minutes after buying the bus ticket I was reminded that the original reason I was flying was because you need to enter Thailand via airport in order to have a 30 day visa. And so I refunded my bus ticket, decided to wait to fly to Chiang Mai Thursday and convinced my friends to let me move in with them to their new hotel.
And so we checked into the hotel and finally were ready to make it to the falls. En route I quickly popped into one of the ticket agents to purchase my flight for the following day (plane tickets are the type of thing you can bargain so best to not buy online) only to find out that the airline had actually decided to cancel the flights until Saturday. This all occurred around 12:15pm. The flight from LP to Chiang Mai departs at 1:50. Not wanting to be stuck in LP for another three days, and with assurance from the ticket agent I could get to the plane in time I bought a ticket while he called his brother the tuck tuck driver who came to take me back to my hotel, picked up my stuff and booked it to the plane. I made it there with much more than enough time but was a little flustered and also in a bathing suit as I had intended to be at a waterfall.
And so without much warning and a lot of leftover kip I said Sabaidee to Laos.