Tag Archives: rice paddies

Laos, Luang Prabang – three days in this lovely town

I have always had a soft spot for Luang Prabang in Laos and so this is unashamedly by fourth visit. I always prefer to stay slightly outside of town as many of the hotels are situated in the peaceful rice paddies which gives a real flavour of the countryside. This time I stayed at the Pullman Hotel about ten minutes from town.

Feeling the serenity at the Pullman Hotel Luang Prabang

You can’t go far in Luang Prabang without seeing temples of every shape and size – they are all perfectly formed and well kept by the Buddhist monks. In fact the whole town is very clean – it is always being swept everywhere you turn.

Examples of Lao Temples in Luang Prabang

A particularly well known temple is Wat Xieng Thong or the Temple of the Golden City. It is known for its mosaics on the walls – just lovely.

Wall mosaics at Wat Xieng Thong

More exteriors at Wat Xieng Thong and a Lao couple in wedding dress

And where there is a temple there must be various incarnations of Buddha – something about that face is so peaceful to look at.

Buddhas in temples in Luang Prabang

Something I haven’t done since my first visit is to get up at the crack of dawn to give alms to the Buddhist monks. This time I convinced Luisa and Chris to leave the hotel at 5.30am so that we could do just that. First stop is to pick up a basket of stick rice. Then you put on the shawl and wait for them to float down the street from various monasteries in single file holding their rice bowls which we filled as they passed – no human touch allowed. It’s a really special experience and if you go with a private guide they will take you to the area where there are not loads of tourists – definitely a plus.

Giving alms to the monks before dawn

Me and my rice bowl. The ladies who get up earlier than us and cook the rice set off home at 7am.

Luang Prabang having a strong Indochine background due to the period of French rule of about 60 years also has quite a few interesting buildings that reflect both French and local architecture and sometimes both in the same building. We did an architecture walk after giving alms to the monks – and a lot of strong coffee.

French Colonial and Laotian houses in Luang Prabang

Wandering through the streets of Luang Prabang is always fun with something to see at each corner – colourful tuk tuks and colourful flowers and veggies and a mish mash of wires are common sights.

Street scenes in Luang Prabang

Between 5pm-10pm the night market is in full flow and a fun place to idle before heading off to a well deserved cocktail and Laotian meal.

Lots for sale at the Night Market

Luisa and I enjoy “Lohitos” in Luang Prabang

Once the monks are up and about they are visible until around noon. They are either at the temples cleaning and doing other chores or they are visiting from other places and are as touristy as anyone else including enjoying taking selfies and having their photos taken. Just as well as they are very photogenic – ranging from 9 years old to 90!

Novice monk and fully fledged monk

A sample of monks and three “wise” monkeys!

Vietnam, Hoi An and Danang – my annual Chill Fest

I haven’t gone into hiding but have enjoyed two weeks chilling in central Vietnam – a place I have been coming back to for over 15 years.

On this visit my friend Jo – who has visited many times with her daughter Hannah – joined me for part of the visit. She proved to be an excellent food guide and a good shopper too!!

On the food front – it is just not possible to ever get bored with Vietnamese food which is fresh and healthy – mostly! Below is just from one of our favourite restaurants in Hoi An – Morning Glory. Ban xeo pancakes (a Hoi An speciality); chicken, bean sprout and mint salad; eggplant with garlic and chilli and caramelised pork belly. Divine. Go hungry!

This time we went to Danang for a day. It is very close by so worth a visit but has none of the charm of Hoi An (see below). It is a commercial centre so busy and bustle with a food and flower market and a riverside walk which allows you to take in a lot of colourfully lit bridges (not to mention dried sea horses!).

Glad we went but no particular hurry to get back – I am a Hoi An and local beach girl when over here.

So why do I love Hoi An so much? Although it is much busier than when I first visited it still retains its charm and I remain impressed by how much of the old town (which is conveniently pedestrianised) has been preserved in line with its UNESCO status. For history buffs there are many old house and shops now part of a “museum” you can wander in and out of to get a feel for how people lived here not that long ago.

Or you can just drink cocktails and people watch….

Or wander down by the river and check out the boats plying their trade…..

Or appreciate why this town is known as the City of Lanterns …..

Or head to a spa in the quiet rice paddies – only 10 minutes away but an oasis of calm (I recommend Calm Spa if you are visiting) – great value and venue…..

Or just hang out at the beach which is where I keep coming back to every year. Can you see why?

Finally thanks to Jo for visiting and making it even more fun (and for excellent gin and tonic making too)