Luang Prabang Take Two

7 Dec

After the hustle and bustle of the Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane, it was nice to settle in to the laid-back calm of Luang Prabang. The petite city is one of my favorite spots in Southeast Asia. Around every corner lies a new and lovely vista to admire. The city is positively filled with picturesque temples, gorgeous river views, antique buildings, and flowering trees. Four days spent wandering and relaxing were exactly what we needed to finish up October break.

Since we had already spent time in Luang Prabang a few years ago, I felt less pressure to go out and do anything in particular; however, we did sample a few touristy items, including a visit to the UXO Visitor Center (UXO = unexploded ordinance, aka bombs), and a tour of TAEC, img_6359the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. I tried my hand at basket weaving in a half-day class at TAEC with a patient Khmu gentleman. The Khmu are one of the hill tribes in Laos, and the men are traditionally the weavers. It turns out I am not a master basket-weaver, but I was pretty proud of my handiwork nonetheless (the photo on the right is the completed gift basket I wove). I also got up at dawn one day to observe the tak bat, the early morning collection of alms by the Buddhist monks. The barefoot, saffron-robed monks and novices walk the city in a single file line to collect rice and other food offerings from the devout, who sit patiently waiting along the streets and in front of their shops. Although I had heard that sometimes tourists try to involve themselves inappropriately, the limited number of fellow tourists I saw out and about in our end of the city were respectfully watching and snapping pics from a distance. The traditional ceremony was very peaceful and beautiful to observe. (see pics below)

By far my favorite outing from our time in Luang Prabang was a day spent at the Living Land Farm. A tuk-tuk picked us up from our hotel bright and early, and drove us to the farm around 30 minutes img_6335outside of Luang Prabang. The farm and its rice paddies are tucked into a lovely little valley. The morning was rather misty and the vibrant green of the rice fields contrasted beautifully with the distant hills (the Lao call them mountains, the Vermonter in me calls them hills). After being outfitted with rice paddy hats – I believe their proper name is Asian conical hat – we were led out into the fields. One of the members of the farm cooperative led us through the many steps of rice farming: how to select the best seeds to plant, transplanting seedlings, harvesting rice using traditional tools, threshing, sifting, and even grinding rice into rice flour.

One of the more amusing steps in the process found us plowing a rice paddy behind Rudolfe, the farm’s trusty water buffalo. Had you asked me several years ago to predict where I’d be at this time in life, five months pregnant and using high knees to tromp through paddy img_6828mud behind a buffalo would not have been my answer. That being said, the paddy mud felt delightful on the feet, and I had a grand old time wading about in it. Having gracefully acquiesced to the rice farm outing to make his preggo wife happy, I was pleasantly surprised when Orestes flung himself into the activities with enthusiasm. All of our hard work was rewarded at the end of the morning by a round of freshly pressed sugar cane juice, some rice-based treats, and a delicious Lao lunch. We even got to sample homemade rice wine (never fear, I only took a baby sip). Our guide informed me that traditionally they give the rice wine to Lao women post-delivery to help the milk flow and to “tighten things”. Alas, we didn’t bring any back with us.

Luang Prabang, you are delightful, we will be back. And now, a few of my favorite photos, added to the post “big size”.

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One Response to “Luang Prabang Take Two”

  1. Elaine McCormick January 7, 2017 at 3:57 am #

    I enjoyed reading this post and the pictures. I believe I will think of you both throdding along behind the buffalo every time I cook rice. Ha ha. Love you.

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