Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Sabaidee means "hello", "goodbye","be happy", "blessings" in the Lao language.

Luang Prabang is a one hour flight and a world apart from frenetic Hanoi. We were immediately struck by the absence of motorbike horns...they are here...but the volume is considerably less. The pace is slow and no one seems to be too intent on working. Today, I spied some very beautiful cards made of hand made paper, with images of elephants, but as it was shortly after noon, siesta time, there was not a soul to be seen in the wide open shop. Sometimes the proprietor will be snoozing on a cot in the back of the shop...but not this one!

Luang Prabang is at the confluence of two rivers, so it is easy to find a shady spot to sit and watch the river flow slowly by and sip a cup of really bad coffee or a really good bottle of beer.

The taxis or tuk tuks are three wheeled vehicles, with rows of seats in the open bed. We piled into one of these at the airport and were transported to the centre of town and had a real tour. Our driver, so willing to please, as are all Laoations that he just kept saying "yes,yes" "OK OK" as we cruised to several guest houses, which were not our destination. After many false stops, he finally succumbed and phoned the hotel from his cell phone to get us to the right place. A marvelous introduction to the city of 26,000 people, 178 hotels and about 400 monks.

This World Heritage site is a treasure, but will we fear ,too easily slip into a tourist Mecca, where traditional culture pales. Meanwhile we are lucky to be here at a time when by walking over a rickety bamboo bridge or putt putt across in a slow boat we can see village life where the only evidence of the modern world is unfortunately the plastic bag. They are everywhere, on river banks, in ditches and low hedges. The streets of Luang Prabang are quite clean, but this clean up is a facade, one only has to walk along the river and peer over the embankment to see the detritis.

Such a contrast to the beauty of the woven fabric, it's precision and glorious color speak of a pride of place and culture; silk, cotton, and hemp all with exquisite Hmong embroidery.

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