After about 4 full days of travel, Caroline, Carrie and I made it to Luang Prebang, Laos. Carrie and I took an overnight train from Bangkok to Chang Mai which totaled 16 hours.
We scooped up Caroline in Chang Mai and headed to a border town on the Mekong River, and the next day we climbed aboard the slow boat that took us down the Mekong River to Luang Prebang in two days.
The Mekong is wide, slow, and muddy. There wasn't any development on it - just a few people getting picked up by the boat every so often. There was lots of silt on both sides of the river and the hills rose up right from the river into the low clouds. It's the end of the rainy season here. The night we arrived in LP it happened to be the first full moon after the rainy season. The Awk Phansaa water festival marks this occasion with thousands of tiny little floating lanterns that people push into the river upstream by a big Wat (Buddha statue) from town. They were also lighting lanterns that worked like hot air balloons and lifting them off into the air. Fireworks were going off on all sides of the river and kids were running around with bottle rockets, even shooting them at tourists!
This is kind of what it looked like.
A boat that some monks were lighting up with candles.
This is a street vendor selling some fruit- mangoes, apples, dragon fruit, banans, lime, leechy things that are furry on the outside and taste like grapefruit, and more.
Luang Prebang looks very French still in architecture. There are old colonial mansions scattered throughout the town - white walls with black or red shutters. These buildings have all been turned into restaurants, cafes, book stores, and boutiques. It's over run with swankiness, which is too bad because 4 years ago when my sister was here she said it was empty.
We decided to rent some bikes and bike 32 km south to the Tat Kuang Si waterfalls. It was a beautiful and hilly bike ride into the countryside. We passed tons of waterbuffalo basking in the river, rice paddies, gardens of herbs. The waterfall was beautiful and the water itself was bright blue green and pretty cold. The park also housed some Asiatic black bears, rescued from hunters who cage them and sell their bile on the black market as herbal medicine to solve just aches and pains. There were about 10 bears who all looked healthy and playful in this park.
On the way home we stopped at this Minority Weaving Center, where women were weaving cotton into shawls and scarves. They were actually separating the cotton seeds from the cotton with a small wooden wheel, then threading the cotton, and then dying the cotton with dye from the flowers in their organic butterfly farm! She had indigo, marigolds, lotus, anatto for orange, Indian trumpet for green, and even some wild almond. The Center teaches other women around Loas how to dye their own cotton and sell their own product.