Laos is about its mesmerizing rivers and majestic sunsets. That at least is what I remember most about my recent trip to one of Southeast Asia’s best-kept secret.
To start the trip, I crossed the mighty Mekong from Nong Khai, Thailand to reach Vientiane, the capital of Laos (which the by the way is pronounced with a silent S). Moving from there, the rivers of Laos were a fixture in every place that we visited. And every day, the river is best viewed while the sun slowly slides down in the horizon, which I can only describe as stunning.
Let me take you through the first part of our trip.
I met the Gibo, the Czarina of Penang ITSELF, in Vientiane. He came from Penang through Kuala Lumpur. He arrived before lunch that day but I only reached Vientiane early in the evening. I had to fly from Bangkok via Udon Thani, in the Northeast of Thailand, and cross the Mekong through the Thailand-Lao Friendship Bridge (located in Nong Khai) to reach Vientiane.
The evening I arrived, we walked a bit around the dark and silent streets of Vientiane until we reached the banks of the Mekong where we had dinner.
The next day, we took a twelve-hour bus ride to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang.
The bus was stuffed and it was unfortunate that our seats were across its toilet. Imagine how aromatic that half-day bus ride was. The route took us to scenic parts of Laos though, a good distraction from the stench that came out from the toilet.
Ragged mountains dominated the horizon and at their foot spanned verdant rice fields. Slowly, the bus went up a mountain range teeming with thick jungle. Hill-tribe villages dot the highway and their houses have the soaring mountains as their backdrop.
We repeatedly dozed off for an hour or so and the same dazzling scenery greeted us when we opened our eyes.
Gibo did not agree with me though on my impression about the mountains. One time, he woke up and the first thing he said was: “Nakakasawa na ang mga bundok na yan ha.” Spoken like a true diva, don’t you think?
We arrived in Luang Prabang early in the evening. We took a tuk-tuk to our hotel, which is located a few kilometres from the town centre and which faces a river.
Don, as in Fuchsiaboy ITSELF, was waiting for us at the hotel. He flew straight from Siem Reap, Cambodia the day before. He is indeed larger than life! At six feet, he is statuesque and has long-legged legs like Melanie Marquez.
It’s odd to finally meet this person who I’ve only been chatting with for the past eight months and who also knows some of my deepest secrets.
Needless to say Gibo, Don, and I clicked right away like long lost sisters, which I think we truly are.
The agenda of the evening was to strut our asses around Luang Prabang.
First stop was the night market in the main tourist area of the town. Fabrics dominated the wares in streets, but I’ve learned my lesson about buying fabrics. In most cases I don’t have any use for them. Instead, we ended up buying nothing and opted to have dinner followed by bottles and bottles of Beer Lao.
Oh dear, where do I start about Beer Lao? Well, simply put, I was drinking it incessantly in the entire course of the trip. I swear I gained a pound or two because of that freaking beer! The bitches even called me the lasengga of the group, also known as Nora Aunor. Who cares. Eh masharap sha eh.
We went around the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang the next day.
The town has an old-world charm to it. Wide streets are lined with time-honoured buildings reflecting a certain Laos-French colonial style (I have no idea of the technical term for it). Most of the structures are well restored and preserved, mostly converted into hotels/guesthouses, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. Height restrictions appear to be strictly observed as well, maintaining the integrity of the place.
Found all over the old town are Buddhist temples gilded in gold. We stopped in Vat Xieng Toung, supposedly the oldest monastery in town. We took a few pictures for the fashion shoot there (which will appear in Don’s and Gibo’s blogs, and a separate post in my blog).
What I like about this temple is how it managed to preserve an old feel to it, rather than completely sprucing it up into perfection that almost always appears fake.
Close to the temple is a set of stairs that lead towards the bank of the Mekong where we had another shoot.
Tired and thirsty, we decided to have lunch along the river.
We were supposed to visit the former palace that is now a museum but it was already closed by the time we reached it. So we opted instead to climb Phou Si, a hill that sits in the middle of the old town. From there one can see panoramic views of Luang Prabang and the mountains that surround it. A section of the Mekong is also visible from there.
Hordes of tourists climbed the hill to watch the sunset. We waited for about a couple of hours for the sun to finally hide behind the mountains. We wasted no time as the view from the hotel and the soft light cast by the sun were perfect for another photo shoot.
After freshening up at the hotel we headed back to town for dinner; we then moved to a bar popular among backpackers to get more Beer Lao (Gibo's arm appear slightly in the picture below... that is Gibo for you, bitches).
By the way, I finally got my pair of Don Protasio sandals, which is inspired by the original Don Protasio shoes he showed during Manila Fashion Week.
I was supposed to prance around Luang Prabang wearing the sandals with my green pekpek shorts and borrowed Don Protasio singlet, but Gibo said that I looked like a freaking go-go boy in the ensemble. So there, the get-up was vetoed by the Czarina.
To be honest, I still don't know what to make of those sandals. They're just a bit tricky.
Tomorrow, I’d write about the continuation of our trip in Vang Vieng.
P.S. Some of the good pictures above (and the next posts about Laos) were taken by Gibo's. All the bad ones are mine.