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Living La Vida Laos

…just don’t eat the fresh herbs!

sunny 90 °F
View Laos/Vietnam, June 2011 on jkirsch's travel map.

As mentioned in Jake’s previous post, we kicked off our “goodbye b-school, hello real world” trip with a week in Northern Laos. After a two-day trip from St. Louis - which included a six hour layover in JFK, a nine hour layover in Hong Kong, and a twelve hour overnight in Bangkok - we finally arrived in Luang Prabang, our base for our time in Laos. With a population of slightly more than 100,000, Luang Prabang is the second largest city (town?) in Laos, which tells you something about how rural Laos is. Luang Prabang is very touristy, but also very cute and relaxing. We had a nice time wandering around, visiting temples, sweating out the unbelievable summer heat, and making way for monks (which seem to make up about half of LP’s population!).

LP_Above.jpgLuang Prabang from above after a steamy hike up Phousy Hill
Luang_Prabang.jpgThe "main" drag
LP_Rain.jpgsigh... the rainy season

In addition to hanging out in Luang Prabang, we built in a few days to explore rural Laos, which is absolutely beautiful. After a long and incredibly bumpy seven hour drive, we arrived in Muang La, a very small town about 30 minutes from Oudomxay, another “major” Lao “city”. The main reason for going to Muang La was to stay at the Muang La Resort, a luxury boutique resort I had heard about while planning the trip. It was easily the highlight of our time in Laos. We were the only guests staying at the hotel, which made it really special. If you are looking for relaxation, then this is the place to be. Our two days there consisted of the following wonderfully relaxing routine: massage at 5pm; hot spring hot tub and sauna at 6pm; delicious cocktails and dinner at 8pm. We managed to fit in one muddy and sweaty mountain bike ride through the countryside on Day 2, but other than that we pretty much just did nothing.

Biking.jpg

In addition to relaxing, we made a new friend at Muang La. His name is Monsieur Henri, and he’s a one-month old Macaque monkey! The manager of the hotel bought him from the villagers after they killed his mother to eat her brains (which apparently helps to make you more intelligent). He is too cute – they’ve built Henri a little cage near the reception desk, they feed him from a little bottle, and he even gets weekly baths! Jake took one look at the monkey and wanted his own…until he read the news about the woman in Connecticut who had gotten her skin ripped off by her neighbor’s pet chimp a few years back! I guess we’ll just have to content ourselves with Lana for now…..

Henri.jpg

From Muang La we took a really nice longboat ride back to Luang Prabang. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, although the trip was somewhat dampered by the fact that Jake got a bacterial infection from some fresh herbs he ate at a local noodle shop in Muang La (hence the sub-title of this post), and I got attacked by mosquitos on the first night of the boat ride. We took it a little easier on our stomachs for the rest our time in Laos, and managed to find an adorable French café called Café Ban Van Sene where we enjoyed lots of baguette and smoked ham!

Boat1.jpg
Boat2.jpg
Boat_Scenery.jpg
Foe.jpgAmazing local "Foe" (Laotian "Pho"). Was almost worth it...

So, overall impressions of Laos. The bacterial infection and bug bites definitely left us eager to leave rural Laos for the big city of Hanoi. But the charm of Luang Prabang is undeniable and the rural landscape is truly beautiful. We had a good time all in all, but I don’t think we’ll be back anytime soon (unless it’s back to Muang La to visit Mr. Henri!)

Stay tuned for Jake’s post about Hanoi!

Posted by jkirsch 05:14 Archived in Laos Tagged laos luang_prabang mekong_river muang_la nam_ou_river

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