Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Luang Prabang - Jewel of the Mekong

We are now in Luang Prabang Laos. Getting here was not a hassle and the city itself is hassle-free. It's also relativity small and easy to walk in so we will be getting back the exercise we lost in Africa and India.

A little bit of history. Luang Prabang used to be the ancient capital of Laos. Before the renaming of the city to Luang Prabang, it was supposedly called Muang Sua, named after King Khun Xua. During the reign of King Fa Ngum (1354 AD), the city was renamed. The city had one Buddha that was specifically revered . So holy in fact, the city is named after it. The “Prabang Buddha” is known throughout the city and is the city's current name. In 1560, the capital was moved from Luang Prabang to Vieng Chahn which is now the current capital of Vientiane. 1707- Luang Prabang was colonized by the French. The royal residence was in Luang Prabang but the true capital was still Vientiane. The French left much behind including style of architecture and food. Everywhere you go, you can get a full or half baguette with your meal and they're all very good. There are many French bakeries, even on the side of the street. Ladies with Skippy peanut butter, nuttela and about 24 baguettes will make you a Reese's Cup sandwich in no time.

The country's main religion is Buddhism. Everywhere there are stuppas, (mini chapels) small little garden Wats and large normal sized Wats. And the Monks. Monks are everywhere. At 5:00 in the morning the monks start their day by collecting alms for their daily meal. Then they are off doing normal stuff, chanting, meditating, going to school, checking emails in an Internet cafe... people love to take pictures of them. There is an estimated population of 1,000 Monks in the city of Luang Prabang. They are very prominent with orange robes (looking like togas) on; they're kinda hard to miss.

Luang Prabang is a peninsula, surrounded by the Mekong and Nham Khan rivers. The Mekong is the wider and better known of the two as it continues all the way to Vietnam. The Nham Khan is much less known but there are still many hotels that say “We have rooms looking over the Nham Khan River”. But many more hotels look over the Mekong.

There are many things to do in Luang Prabang. Even more elephant adventures, 1 weaving center, 2 waterfalls, at least 1 night market to shop at, 2 festivals going on right now, 2 museums, a Royal Ballet Theater, and many Mekong river cruises. We lengthened our stay in Luang Prabang by cutting our time short in Vientiane but I'm still not sure that we will get everything done that we want to do!!!

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