Luang Prabang holds a special place in my heart. Aside from my adventures in road travel (that involved 3 songthaews, a boat and a collapsed bridge), it was the highlight of my last trip to Laos and for good reason. I have some great memories of this place, ranging from the fantastic French bakery where I currently sit writing this, to my first real exposure to Buddhist life, with eye popping temples (and their Naga stairways) every which way and saffron-clad monks wandering the streets.
There really wasn’t a whole lot on my agenda for today other than to relax and wander the town. I followed the picturesque brick sidewalks to the banks of the mighty Mekong River (which is looking a bit low these days).As I passed dozens of pans of rice cakes strewn about to dry in the sun, I saw the very same “slow boats” I rode half of the way here those years ago.
I first came on the Meokong’s path in Jinghong and will continue following it thr0ugh its entire course in Laos, as it flows along the Lao-Thai border and then on t0 Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.
I found my way to Wat Visoun, the oldest operating temple in town built nearly 600 years ago! Three years ago, I met a novice monk here eager on practicing his English. After talking for an hour, he gave me a tour of his meager living quarters before giving me blessing and a bracelet for safe travels. The bracelet has since fallen off, but in its lifespan served me very well.
I stepped inside the temple itself, my first visit inside one since my studies in Thailand. As I sat before the plethora of Buddha images around me, I was overcome with emotion. I thought of just how much being back there meant to me as my entire past experience in Southeast Asia came back to me. But mostly, I thought of my grandmother, who previously encouraged me to follow in her footsteps in coming here, and whom this entire trip is devoted to. She would be so proud, as she always was.
Tomorrow it’s onto new lands, for me at least, as this is where the repetition of my 2006 trip ends. Next stop, the backpacker haven of Vang Vieng, famed for its, of all things, karst landscape! Do I sense a trend here?
Oh, and P.S. the power just went out…