Friday, August 30, 2013

oNe PhOtO a DaY fOr AuGuSt


1.SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH N: novice in Sukhothai

2. INCOMPLETE: only after reading the final page of this book, yesterday did I discover that the story is incomplete as it is the first volume of a quartet!

3. SKYLINE: This skyline could only be in Thailand

4. FRESH: straight from one of the markets in Khon Kaen. I love that all the basics for a delicious Thai meal can be bought as a single item at the markets all over Thailand; Fresh lemongrass, ginger, chillis and kaffir lime leaves!

 5. EARLY: usual hive of activity at the bus station when we were an hour early for our departure this morning

6. THIS MEANS A LOT TO ME: remembering the anniversary (today August 6th) of the bombing of Hiroshima  and where I lived for 8 years. Only by remembering will we prevent this kind of tragedy ever happening again 
“May Peace Prevail on Earth” 
Photo taken by me in 2005- the A-bomb Dome - a world Heritage Site. 

7. A SIGN: taken a few days ago in Sukhothai but this sign just made us giggle and we did actually eat there!

8. PEEK-A-BOO: this vendor was peeking out from behind her hat and mask today in the New Pakse Morning Market

9. 2 O’CLOCK: was noodle o’clock for us

10. BEVERAGE: after a sweaty 5-hour ride on the local bus, and wandering the streets in the blazing sun in Savannakhet there is nothing quite like a cold beer as the torrential monsoon rain thunders down on the roof- even if I am usually a wine girl

11. I LOVE DOING THIS: wandering in unknown territory camera in hand and seeing what presents itself – credit to Ian for taking the photo today

12. MACRO: 2,000 kip note and the bell from my money purse. I have bells on all my bags and purses. They are the best insurance ever because they ring if anyone touches them. It once saved me from losing my entire rucksack on an Italian train when the bell rang while I was sleeping and I have done it ever since. Now have a collection of bells from many of the places we have travelled to as well.

13. FAST: This was about the maximum speed our VIP bus to Vientiane managed today. Given the road conditions and other transport we were glad it never got any faster. Thanks to Ian’s speedbox app on his iPhone and the screenshot we were able to monitor just how fast we were going.

14. TRASH: It was there in a back alley in Vientiane when we arrived and it is still there now! I guess we should feel glad that it is actually in a bin considering how much we have seen strewn about the countryside and city streets recently!

15. THE BEST: example of restored colonial architecture we have spotted in Vientiane. Of course, it’s owned by a bank. Who else could afford it?

16. COOKING:  street side cooking in Vientiane

17. EXERCISE: public aerobics on the Mekong riverside is a daily event here in Vientiane

18. SOMEONE YOU SPOKE TO TODAY: I had the same “conversation” I’ve had with 5 or 6 such drivers everyday since we’ve been here.
He says, “Tuk Tuk.”
I say, “ No thanks.”
Nonetheless he is still smiling.

19. LOST: I’ve always loved a map and I rarely get lost but this freebie amused me with the biggest writing labeling things you were pretty unlikely to be trying to get to in the city- Sandbar? well yes we can see that and Thailand?

20. STAIRS: stylish stairs leading to a flash hotel and spa in Vang Vieng

21. SLOW: with monsoon rain it was a slow day sitting around and playing ziltch for us

22. A ROOM: our room in a heritage restored old wooden guesthouse with a view of the Nam Kham River in Luang Prabang- yes the Laos have caught the Thai disease of folding towels into elephants in the name of hospitality!!

23. YELLOW: gorgeous mushrooms in the morning market in Luang Prabang – inspired me to order a Laotian dish containing them at dinner too. Delicious!

24. IN THE BACKGROUND: the sweeping roof of the Vat Xieng Thong in focus in the background

25. CULTURE: the monks’ morning alms collection is an intrinsic part of the Buddhist culture of Lao

26. ENTRANCE: side entrance to Vat Aham in Luang Prabang

27. 10 MINUTES FROM HOME: I struggled with this, as home is actually over 7,000 kilometers from Luang Prabang where I am now! So for the purpose of this the Saynamkham Hotel is home for the moment and the Royal Palace Museum where this interior was shot is just 10 minutes from there.

28. CORRIDOR: This is the corridor of the beautifully restored colonial style hotel on the Nam Kham River where we are currently staying

29. LUCKY: Throughout Asia elephants are symbols of luck, especially if their trunks are in the air, so I guess that Erawan is three times as lucky!
(Actually the three headed elephant is known as Erawan in both Thailand and Laos and is often associated with the royal flag of Laos from the ancient Laos Kingdom of Lan Xang)

30. CLUTTERED: this is a favourite very cluttered shop in the Talad Sao in Vientiane, where I was in my element a couple of weeks ago when Ian snapped this shot. There is a similar shop here in Luang Prabang where I was hoping to get a shot myself but the proprietor refused to allow photos!!! 

31. DANGEROUS: in Public Park at Kuang Si waterfall near Luang Prabang I'm not sure that we needed the sign -I would have thought  it was obvious 

So that is it for the month of August and Laos travels too for us.
 I have to say my favourite is  8. PEEK-A-BOO especially because the hat was a natural straw colour and mask was white. The red colour is from the intense sun pouring down through the red umbrella above her.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Luang Prabang

This is our third visit here and thanks to the UNESCO world heritage listing it remains both charming and traditional. 

In fact I would say it just keeps on getting better. 

The French colonial legacy is obvious in the buildings and the baguette, café and coffee culture but there is more Lao ownership. 

We have witnessed that valuable skills are being learned and employed by young people in a wide range of professions. 

One can only assume that many of these beautiful structures were in fact built with Lao labour but virtual colonial slave labour. 

There must now be a sense of pride in the heritage that the town has been able to protect and the relatively newfound wealth that it brings. 

In so many places one returns to find that the original charm has been lost to a rampant development that destroyed the very attraction that funded it. 

Here however, there are more buildings that have been restored or are in the process of restoration than ever before and more public infrastructure to benefit both the locals and the tourists. 

It seems to keep the travellers pouring in and enables the prosperity to continue. No it is not paradise, but certainly one of the prettiest places on earth. 

The peninsular of the old town wedged between the Nam Khan and the Mekong Rivers has natural beauty, ancient monasteries, world-class museums and a laid back, relaxed feel. 

As a visitor it is possible to be housed and well fed on any budget. 

There are more cafes, more expensive hotels, more incessant cries of, “Tuk tuk”, “Taxi” and “Madame” from the many more money hungry touts than ever before but we travellers can only hold ourselves responsible for inspiring this entrepreneurial spirit and the non-confrontational Lao nature means one is never pursued for very long, just frequently. 

Even though we have stayed a little longer on each visit and really only done basically the same things again, I feel confident that we will return and always have a soft spot for Luang Prabang.