Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Monday, April 24, 2006

In Luang Prabang...

On Sunday, I took a 40-minute flight from Vientiane to Luang Prabang and checked into a hotel at the far end of one of the main streets. Every night, hundreds of people descend on this area to set up a street market. They close off the street to cars and motorbikes and the local folks set up their little areas by sitting on the sidewalk and spreading out their wares on blankets and bamboo mats. There are an amazing number of items available, and they're all presented very well. I'm sure that it takes an incredible amount of energy and dedication to create...and to dismantle...this fair each and every day. The center of the street is also used by merchants so there are two separate walkways for you to wander along. The merchants even bring their own electric lights so the market stays open from around 6 to 10 P.M. every night. Since many of them are selling very similar items, you can get a lot of great bargains if you're not in too much of a hurry. (Too bad that I don't like shopping.) Yesterday, I took a 2-hour boat trip up the Mekong to the famous Buddha Caves. The boat was about 50 feet long and 6 feet wide. It held 14 passengers and a crew of two. Along the way, we pulled into one of the local villages and saw how they produced rice whiskey. When we got to the caves, we had to climb a hundred feet up to the cave itself. Inside are about 2500 ancient statues of Buddha...some several feet high while others that are placed into the nooks and crannies of the cave walls might be only an inch high. There is also an upper Buddha cave but it takes some effort to climb the steps to check out. On the way back to town, the boat stopped at another village...this one specialized in making paper. When I returned, I treated myself to a 1-hour foot massage from one of the local massage parlors. Excellent! Massage is very inexpensive in Laos and the quality of their work is certainly equal to...if not better than..any massage that I've received in the States. Laos gives you a lot of bang for your tourist buck. You can get a single room with A/C, cable TV, shower and free breakfast for about $1O-15. Three full meals a day will probably set you back about $1O-12. A large Lao Beer (which, by the way, is quite good), costs a buck and a one hour full-body massage will set you back another US$3. You could live quite comfortably here for around US$25-30 a day. The tour yesterday (at a cost of US$10) was actually divided into two parts. In the morning, we went to the villages and the Buddha cave and, in the afternoon, the same tour then went out to a local waterfall for swimming and kicking back. I decided, however, that I would break the tour into two separate days, and so I plan to go to do the waterfall part this afternoon. As I was walking along the street a few days ago, I ran into a couple from Germany that had been with me on my boat trip out to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Yesterday, I was spotted by Fiona...the engineer from Ireland...who I had shared dinner with back in Vientiane. We had another dinner together and, since she's doing the cave-waterfall tour today, we might see each other again this afternoon. On Saturday, I'm leaving Luang Prabang on a 2-day slow boat up the Mekong. We'll be stopping at some other local river villages and checking out some of their caves, too. After that "Plan A" is to take a 3-hour bus trip to Chiang Rai. More later...

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