A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: curlygirl

MONKS, CAVES AND WATERFALLS

EXPLORING THIS UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE CITY

sunny 28 °C
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Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage City and has a few very special experiences and places worthy of visiting. So today, I took in those highlights.

One of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony occurs every morning at sunrise, as the monks, collect food for their meal of the day.It is meant to be a be a highly revered ritual for locals, it has become a real tourist attraction, and my experience felt more authentic once I left the main road that was packed with tourist not respecting the rules that are clearly posted, and headed to the back roads.

I was curious about the little garbage cans along the way. Monks would take things out and toss them in the garbage. It seems wasteful but I guess if they only get one meal a day, the have the right to keep the best things.

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One of the most respected holy sites in Lao; Pak Ou Caves have a history dating back thousands of years. Packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons, the caves, a shrine to the river spirit and Lord Buddha, are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are two caves to visit, the lower cave called Tham Ting and the upper cave Tham Theung, both boasting miniature Buddhist figures that are mostly made from wood.

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Kuang Si (Xi) Waterfall is the biggest in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. This place was really beautiful. I was really tempted to swim but I am admittedly paranoid about some of the parasites that lurk in local waters in this part of the world, so decided to pass.

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The evening was spent exploring the night market again. Here's a view from the hotel roof top.

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And having a delicious bowl of Kao Soy, or Khao Soi as it is known in Myanmar, is a Burmese dish that is also popular here and in Northern Thailand. Delicious.

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Posted by curlygirl 08:03 Archived in Laos Tagged caves waterfall monks prabang luang soup Comments (0)

LUANG PRABANG BY NIGHT

ARRIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT MARKET


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I am not 100% sure why, but I have wanted to visit Luang Prabang/Laos for a very long time. I think I read about Laos and the Mekong when my curiosity was peaked after doing a boat tour on the Mekong while in Cambodia. I also read a fascinating book about the Hmong people some years ago, "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down", so perhaps that is it.

In any case, sometimes you just arrive in a place and you know immediately you will like it. That is how I felt on arrival in Luang Prabang. That enthusiasm only mounted when I arrived after dark to discover the taxi could not get to my hotel because it was in the middle of the night market. My hotel is noisy but beautiful and my room was named, Relax. I knew I would relax here, even it required a set of earplugs.

I dropped by bags and went for a wander. This is what it looked like on the street in front of my hotel. So many nice things to buy.

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And immediately beneath my window, is the food night market. Chaotic and noisy, as long as you are willing to sit with strangers, you get amazing food for about $3. This would be come my main night time hang out over the next few days.

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I did pass on these.

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Posted by curlygirl 07:54 Archived in Laos Tagged night market prabang luang Comments (0)

BANN THAI COOKING SCHOOL

LAST COUPLE DAYS IN CHIANG MAI

sunny 30 °C
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So, for my third day in Chiang Mai, I decided to do an all-day cooking class at the Bann Thai cooking school.

I would definitely recommend this. We had the chance to visit the market and learn about vegetables that are local to the area.

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I love this standard soup kit that is readily available.

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We got to spend the day cooking and eating. It was both fun and delicious. I will try to make the sticky rice and mango at home.

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Since I had a later flight on my last day, I met up with Chris and Pete and we decided to try the women's prison again. By 9:30 am, they were totally booked up so we opted for an excellent second choice. The ex-inmates spa. Pretty nice spot actually and a good massage…although I did hear Chris and Pete yelp at one point.

This was my first experience in Thailand and while I expected it to be touristy, I didn't expect it to be this touristy. Pretty modern place to be honest. Saying that I had a great few days. I accomplished all my goals….surpassed my massage goal. I had 6 massages over 5 days. I enjoyed excellent food, mostly from street vendors, and I had many laughs with my new friends, all under sunny skies.

Posted by curlygirl 07:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged sticky rice chiang man cooking thai Comments (0)

THE ELEPHANT NATURE PARK

HANGING WITH THE ELEPHANTS AND THE HIPPIES

sunny 30 °C
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To accomplish the second of my goals, I booked a day in with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park.

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The park is about 60 minutes away from Chiang Mai and was opened in 1990 to rescue elephants from around the country. The tourist dollars are used to help buy elephants in distress and to feed them. Apparently no one gives them up for free. They eat constantly for about 12 hours a day.

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I was initially skeptical about the day because although I had heard great things about the park, I was a little surprised by volume of participants. When my ride picked me up, I was notably much older than the others and other than 2 young Germans, the only one without a large covering of tattoos and unique hairdos and outfits. My god, am I really getting old and judgemental? On arrival at the park, it was packed with young back packers and we were quickly hustled to a corner and told to feed the elephants bananas.

But alas, as the day progressed, we walked around, meeting the elephants and learned about the way elephants are mistreated, often in the interest of tourism and I was impressed by the care they were given. They have such unique personalities and it was heartbreaking to see those with broken ribs from being ridden or scars from the abuse and neglect.

Truly magnificent animals and the park is worthy of a visit.

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Babies playing

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Lots of dog, cats and water buffalo around too.

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My group turned out to be a pretty nice group of hippie travelers.

Posted by curlygirl 16:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand elephants chiang mai Comments (0)

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ADVENTURES

sunny 26 °C
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I arrived without incident in Chiang Mai and was transported promptly to my hotel, The Rimping Village by tuk tuk. The hotel was great and was tucked away the main part of the city but only a 10 minute walk to the night market and old city.

After my busy two weeks in Myanmar, I took my time starting my first day. I slept in a little, had a leisurely breakfast and made a plan. As many of you know, this time in Thailand was intended for relaxation and I had only two clear goals, to have as many massages as possible and to see the elephants.

As I was leaving the hotel, I stopped to look at the map to make sure I was headed the right way. I noticed two others who appeared to know where they were going so I asked, "is this the way to the white bridge?". They said yes and we started to chat. Chris and Pete had arrived the day before and informed me that they were headed to the women's prison for a massage. I remembered reading that the prisoners do massages during the day. Without a thought, I said, "that sounds cool, mind if I follow you". Well who knew….or as they would say, "you couldn't have planned it", we would spend more time together over the next 3 days and have such a great laugh.

We spent the whole day together, and took a long walk towards the prison visiting temples along the way.

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This was really strange. It wasn't until after I got home and someone told me on Facebook, that I realized these guys were wax figures.

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Along the way, we ran into this local lady who told us it was a waste of time to go to the prison because you have to register early in the morning to get in. She suggested we go to a place where the blind do massages. Said it would be good for our hearts. She also suggested a tailor and a good restaurant and arranged a tuk tuk to take us. Worked out perfect. Just a couple hours after meeting my friends I am drinking iced green tea and having massages with them. It was awesome. The day was awesome.

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We also decided to take in the last day of the flower festival. This was really impressive. Tons of giant floats with designs made from flowers and seeds.

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Next stop the night market. It was wall to wall people. Suddenly in the midst of roaming around, a voice came over the loud speaker and what appeared to be the national anthem started to play. People begin to whisper, "stand still, stand still" and so we did. It was strange.

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Lots of blind musicians in the streets. Apparently there is a fairly large school for the blind in Chiang Mai

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Finally, after a long day, Chris and I thought we should take in yet another massage. One of the cheap ones on the street ($4 for 30 minutes). We couldn't get into the first place but found another set up in the parking lot of the police station. This would turn out to be the most brutal and best massage of my trip. Before I know it, I am laying face down on a mat with some large Thai lady, who is clearly running the show, pinning me down. With brute force, and while collecting the money from others, she finds the knot in my shoulder and proceeds to put full weight into it with her shoulder. While this is happening, her little dog is walking on my back and licking my face, while she cries, "dog massage" and laughs an evil laugh. If I tried to lift my head I was pinned down. It was wicked.

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It was a great day, and I couldn't have spent it with any better people. You meet the best people when you travel alone.

Posted by curlygirl 15:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged night market thailand chiang mai Comments (0)

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