Truth be told, before this trip to Laos, I have never considered myself to be an avid traveller.
Why? I could count the number of countries I have been to with both hands. Sad because I only have 10 fingers, I know. But really, Laos have never crossed my mind to be a must-visit country as I had such little knowledge of that place. My closest brush with the Southeast Asian nation was probably more than 10 years ago when I went Chiang Rai in Thailand. I had visited the Golden Triangle where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet in close proximity.
That’s about it. The word that comes to mind when I think of Laos is ‘forgotten’. True enough, Thailand promotes itself as amazing, Vietnam can be described as bustling, while Laos? Forgotten.
Ask 10 Singaporeans on the street and 8 out of 10 would probably give you the look of befuddlement. They may not even correctly point out on the map where Laos is located.
This time though, thanks to Alvin, I got to go on this trip together with other media and tour folks from various publications and agencies. Fully hosted by Tourism Authority of Thailand (Singapore), Cathay Pacific (CX) and Bangkok Airways (PG), we were set to visit Luang Prabang, the former capital of Lao PDR which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
My first impression of the province was that it is clean and quiet. Compared to fast-paced Singapore, Luang Prabang is slow-moving. Wooden houses could be seen along sides of the roads, typically not more than two storeys. Hints of European architecture remind how Laos used to be part of the French colony of the Indochine.
There is a sort of rustic charm to this place that I couldn’t quite point out. Perhaps it is the beelines of monks who would collect alms early in the morning, rain or shine. Or it may be the prominence of golden temples that are ubiquitous in the city. One thing for sure, Luang Prabang spellbinds.
One may not be surprised to know that the major religion in Laos is Buddhism. Take a stroll in the province and it would be hard not to pass by a temple or monastery. There, you would find many Buddha statues mostly bathed in gold, seemingly unfazed by the passing of time. In fact, Luang Prabang district, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, seeks to give tourists the real deal – cultural preservation at its finest, I would say.
Food in Luang Prabang is chiefly similar to those in Thailand, except they are generally less spicy. You would also find many greens in your dishes, from basil leaves to watercress and lettuces. Green curry is also a menu favourite, with chicken meat as a common mix. Perhaps the more interesting thing to note is that sticky rice is a staple on every meal table.
I could go on and on but one post simply won’t do justice to this quaint province. I wish you were on the river boat that I was on, snaking through the majestic Mekong river; I wish you would see the beautiful sunsets that many have witnessed on the peak of Mount Phousi; I wish you have taken a dip in the Kuangsi Waterfalls, where turquoise-coloured water flows in sync with the calls of nature.
My name is Anson Ong, and I’m on a mission to unveil the beauty behind Luang Prabang. I invite you to join me in the upcoming photo-filled blog posts as I attempt to chronicle my few days spent here in greater detail. I will also include video footages that I have taken on the trip to add better visual impressions to this enchanting little town.
I hope you are ready, as I certainly am.