What Wat is Wat? Luang Prabang

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The bus from Vang Vieng was no so much a “sleeper” as it was a sit-upper, and not so much of an “overnight” more of a middle of the night. We arrived at 3:30 am with everything closed and nowhere to go. A whole bus full of people wandering through the quiet empty streets. I met two Korean girls on the bus and we checked each others hostels to see if anything would let us in for the night. No luck.

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After an hour,I was looking for a nice patch of grass to crash on and the Korean girls were still holding out hope for a hostel. We settled somewhere in the middle and found a bench put our stuff down and I spread my sleeping bag across the three of us and we drifted off to sleep. A few hours later one of the girls shook my shoulder and whispered “it’s starting” I heard a low thud of a drum and bells and opened my eyes. The air was heavy and full of mist and my eyes were puffy with sleep. I groggily opened them to see a procession of monks coming towards us.

The bench we had chosen was on the main road right in front of a Wat. It was 6 AM the monks were out collecting alms. A row of people lined up on the streets, mostly tourists, with food to give the monks. I don’t know how to explain it properly without being cliché, but it was a magical moment. I have been trying to find a recording of the music or something similar, but I can’t seem to find anything. The slow low lud of the drum and the bells together, it was transfixing.

The next few times I tried to see the monks again in the morning it was truly disappointing, a lot of tourists in their faces taking flash pictures of them getting their food for the day like animals in a zoo.

Truthfully, that first day I didn’t do much but catch up on some sleep and walk around to see the different Wat’s, there were so many I didn’t know which Wat was what Wat.

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I took a cooking class that night and learned how to make Larp, fish soup, and some other traditional Lao dishes, which I can’t wait until I have a kitchen to try to make them on my own.

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I thought Vientianne had a French influence. Luang Prabang was teeming with it. It is a UNESCO world heritage site (o that means it has a city-wide curfew at 11:30 hence the poorly timed 3 am arrival), and the streets look incredibly European while there are palm and banana trees and wat’s scattered throughout.

I was starting to see a pattern with street food, “Lao Style” baguette sandwiches and all kinds of fruit shakes made for quick cheap lunches that tourists love and the Lao people discovered quickly westerners love for cheap sandwiches.

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The best shake I had was a combination of Oreo and banana.

Luang Prabang Handcraft Night Market.

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