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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 17 – 21, 2013 Luang Prabang, Laos

I just love saying Luang Prabang! It is as delightful as it sounds, and is a World Heritage site. Wat's it all about? Wats, of course. Temples abound. Buddhist monks stroll about and icons are everywhere.

We checked into Hotel De La Paix, which has an interesting history of its own. It is a World Heritage Site. We've been told (and also read that) it was a former prison for elite inmates, also that it was the French governor's compound and yet both sound like reasonable explanations.  It is completely unmarked and surrounded by a white wall.  Very private and exclusive.

As you walk the lovingly manicured and expansive grounds you will note the guard towers at the four corners. At the back of the property lies the Library, which is also the restaurant and a separate building that contains the spa. We booked one of the 4 suites with a private pool. We seriously did not want to leave our own little private compound because it was like being in a Heavenly retreat after the nightmare of Vientiane.

We took full advantage of the bicycles provided, cycling to the various temples and ruins during the daytime, meandering along the Mekong River and hiking up temple mounts and along trails from one historic site to another. We found an abundance of lovely riverside cafes and boutiques.  We visited the expansive night market/street market and even participated in the alms giving ceremony at sunrise when the monks parade down the street to collect alms (sticky rice). We participated through the hotel and followed their instructions carefully so as not to offend the locals or the monks. Many tourists are quite rude and pushy trying to vie for a photo op, completely disrespecting the monks, who are in prayer during the ritual. It was a very moving experience for us. If I were Buddhist I think this stop would have been even more spiritual for me. In fact I would put Luang Prabang at the top of my list.

Our time in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos was at an end, but we had one more exciting stop to look forward to…Pauline and Martin Broadhead were flying from Sydney to meet us in Bangkok.

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