Travel With Me: Vientiane and Luang Prabang


 

What. A. Week.

I’m writing in a small cafe in a town called Luang Prabang. This post has been sitting in my drafts for a few days… finally, it’s time to put it all together in a first post.

This post is part of my personal blog on Faces2Hearts – a home for my more intimate experiences and encounters. The writings might be related to travel, projects, places, food… you name it – this is an online home for everything that would have been scribbled on my diary. I still scribble pen to paper but that is undeniably illegible.

Patuxai, Vientiane

I didn’t know a lot about Laos before arriving. I knew that it was a landlocked country and place that was often missed by those travelling through Southeast Asia. My perspective of this country quickly changed and it is a place that I’m grateful I get to visit.

Starting with a brief overview of the country, Laos borders Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Vientiane, the capital city, is the biggest city in Laos with approximately 750,000 inhabitants. Vientiane is located in the north-west part of the country facing Thailand

My first impressions of Vientiane were that it’s a laid-back city, especially for being the capital. It seems that everyone is in agreeance that compared to its other neighbouring capitals, Vientiane is not the non-stop hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Hanoi, or Phomn Penh.

Off to the market!

I was surprised to see how many options I had for restaurants, both for Lao cuisine and international options. Just two nights ago, I had some of the best stone pizza I’ve had in a while – it’s crazy how food travels around the world like a language. Soon I’ll be travelling northwards and venturing further away from the international spheres, so I’m looking forward to Lao food.

Sticky rice and Lao sampler plate

The city is quite walkable since most of the to-do’s and must-sees are concentrated in the city centre. Since Vientiane isn’t a hotspot for tourist (yet?!), it’s actually quite affordable to eat, sleep, and travel. Vientiane is even cheaper than Luang Prabang!

I loved the textiles and array of colours I was seeing in the night market. Immediately, you’ll notice that almost all women wear a traditional long skirt made of colourful fabrics that pass the knee and reach (almost) to the ankle. The ‘sinh’ is made of silk and embroidered with other threads of colours, creating a tapestry of patterns. I picked up my own sinh!

I could feel the difference between Vientiane and Luang Prabang right away. I noticed mountains around me in Luang Prabang and a much more village-like feel. Although tourism has significantly increased in the past several years, I still stood in the centre and understood why it was historically and culturally significant. The locals are very proud of the UNESCO Heritage and they showcase the logo, almost like a logo, right at the entrance of town.

Luang Prabang

Another difference between the two places that I immediately felt was the incorporation of religion into everyday life in Luang Prabang. One of the most notable rituals that happen every morning is the Alms Giving. Locals (and now tourists) stay seated on small plastic chairs as the monks swiftly pass by them receiving small balls of sticky rice.

Due to the influx of tourists, it’s sad but true that tourists strain the experience and make it more difficult to appreciate the religious ritual for what it is. It’s important that work is done in places like Luang Prabang to ensure education and awareness surrounding what is respectful from the monks and locals point of view.

Alms Giving at 6:00 AM
Gathering around a fire
Mekong River

I find myself drawn to the orange robes because they are such a contrast to the earthy colours around them. I love photographing people in their natural landscape as if the person was part of the land and the land part of their identity.

There’s still more I want to share about my last day in Luang Prabang. I haven’t even shared the work I have been doing with different people here in the town. I visited several handicraft-villages and meet an inspiring young lady who shared with me her skills and dreams – stay tuned! I will try to post much more regularly so you can expect more from me soon!

Most of all, thank you for your patience! It takes some time for me to adjust to life on the road. I’m trying to understand how to balance moving from place to place, while also finding moments of stillness to be present. It’s also tricky to find a balance between staying connected and trying to disconnect, also in an effort to be fully present.

If you have any advice on how to stay mindful while travelling, please let me know – maybe I can learn a thing or two from the monks. If you enjoyed the post let me know!

  • Rus Tego
    16/01/2018

    You are right to mention the tourists shameful behaviour at the alms giving in Luang Prabang. Tourists should be kept away from the monks, its very sad to see flashes all over the place or smartphones waved under the nose of the monks just to take one more stupid selfies to send home.

    Reply
  • Els
    17/01/2018

    Lauren, I follow your story with a lot of wondering and it is very nice to read and to see how you experience the warmth of the people and their environment in your story. Your images also reflect this 100%

    Reply

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