As charming as Luang Prabang is, I do have one major complaint–the tourists. Or for that matter the fact that it’s a tourist-oriented city. For most people here, all they see us for is money, and sellers constantly hound you to buy stuff! For example, during the span of my dinner last night, 10 little girls selling crappy bracelet’s approached me while I was eating…some of them even came back several times, despite being told no each time. Of course they were all selling the same thing too. Also upon arrival it was a barrage of people advertising guesthouses (like in Pak Beng) and some of the worst are the Tuk-Tuk drivers, who offer to take you to the caves or the waterfall, and then follow you around trying to get you to go with them! One word comes to mind to describe the city…Tourist Zoo.
Speaking of the waterfall, today I went, and yes I did go with a “tour” per say, as its considerably cheaper (US $3 vs. $25 to go privately). I did meet an interesting Australian couple on the van who were great and we talked for a while. The waterfalls were very impressive and I got some great pictures. On the way back we stopped at a Hmong (Tribal) Village (actually the Hmong were backed by the U.S. as the resistance to the Pathet Lao…the pro-communist fighters during the Indochina War). I can’t say I was a huge fan of the village, as it is the place that all the tours stop. We weren’t seeing a slice of daily life…they were more or less putting on a show for us and selling their goods (again, the same stuff you see in the nightmarket). It almost seemed a bit degrading towards them and they saw us solely for our money. I liked the villages I saw in the North much better…they weren’t tourist oriented.
Anyways, that was about it for today. I didn’t get up to see the Morning Alms (feeding the Monks)…opting to sleep instead. My stomach is feeling better and I didn’t have any problems there today. My cold is ok….I’m definitely past the airborne stage, but the good news is I am coughing stuff up on occasion, and yes it is discolored. I didn’t have the drowsiness or lightheadedness today though. My nose has stopped running too…now it’s just a bad cough.
I should say a few words about the ballet I went to last night. It was certainly….well…different. They did some traditional Lao dances in traditional costumes that were neat (mainly interesting arm movements). They also did a short scene from the Ramayana (My directing teacher mentioned tha he saw the whole thing in New York once and it took 14 hours!) After seeing the short scene, I’m not sure I could handle the whole thing, as their interpretation of the scene was difficult to sit through! We were given a synopsis, but it was very difficult to follow, in part because the same guy voiced all the characters and the actors wore masks, very similar to those that they wore in Commedia dell’Arte, back during the Italian Rennaisance. There was also not enough movement to keep the eye interested (see I did learn something in directing class!) But alas, it was interesting to see performance in this part of the world, though I wouldn’t exactly use the term entertaining. But hey, the majority of the locals I’ve talked to have never even heard of theatre before!
Anyways that’s all for me now. Tomorrow I’m going to go to the caves…yes with a tour…it’s so much cheaper