Highlights: Cruising along the Mekong River, Pak Ou Caves, Royal Place, Wat Xien Thong (Temple)
The first full day in Laos and the World Heritage listed Luang Prabang turned out the be energy sapping and relaxing at the same time which granted is very hard to imagine and achieve.
The day started with the best activity of the day a boat trip down the famous Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves. It seemed for most of the day we had the river to yourselves, this being the off-season which just made the experience even better as I watched the mountains and occasional boat glide on by. There were a few fisherman out, a woman bathing naked, and a high security prison (not near the naked woman!).But as good as the cruise was the highlight was the Pak Ou caves. The first cave, Tham Ting, was easy enough to get to although there are several large steps to climb. Hundreds of Buddha sculptures are layed out across the cave. Before this was used for Buddhism the cave was used for prior religious occasions including for animal and human sacrifices which is ironic given the article of faith of Buddhism to pacifism and not even eating animals. The Tham Theung or upper cave was a lot harder to reach at 208 steps in the heat and humidity it was a struggle for most of the group. For me I could climb it fine but trying too stop the buckets of sweat was another case. The Tham Theung cave is not lite but luckily Ashley have a touch to help us move around. The sculptures in this cave are move grand and special, I guess like Buddhism you need to climb the steps to multiple divide levels of heaven. It started raining just as I boarded our boat but most of our group got caught in the rain 😦
The cruise back to Luang Prabang was pleasant, the rain stopped and most of us just chilled, probably helped by the humidity taking a lot of energy out of us all.
Back at Luang Prabang we enjoyed a nice lunch once we could find a place that wasn’t so full it couldn’t look after our party of 12 (10 tour members, our tour Chief Experience Officer Ben, and local guide John).
After lunch we went and visited the Royal Palace grounds. The royal family was overthrown in 1975 and a communist government installed which exists to this day. Despite the communist disliking or even hating monarchy and religion some historical Royal sites still exist and the Buddhist religion is tolerate (although no other religion is allowed). The Royal Palace is now a museum and was actually built by the French, for example the King and Queen had separate bedroom as did the French at the time since the French King had many consort. I saw a gift from the Australian Government on display, a boomerang.
Next up was Wat Visoun was built during the 1500s and the stupa is probably the coolest sight on the grounds dominating the landscape. To be honest the Wat or Temple looks a little rundown but I guess the Government does not care for religion at all so it is to be expected.Last up was a visit to Wat Xien Thong the former complex for crowning Laos Kings and spared by the Chinese when they burnt down all the other temples in 1887 as one of the generals had been a novice monk at this Wat. The roof of the major Royal Temple is beautiful. The tree of life at the back of the Temple shows the many aminals and the connection we all have with the natural world.
As a thunderstorm was just commencing it was back to the Maison Dalabua Hotel for free night time from group activities. Later in the night I visited the Night Market and made a couple of purchases for friends back home.
A pleasant and exhausting day, this tour has been full on. I’m hoping to hike up Mount Phousi tomorrow morning before the offical tour afternoon activities.