We headed to the main square to watch the New Year's parade and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Just walking to the strip involved constant buckets of water and super soakers. We were attacked as soon as were arrived and it did not get easier each time more water came our way. We took shelter in a restaurant and observed the parade over lunch. The parade featured prominent locals, monks, Miss Luang Prabang and a lot of festive dancers. Once it was over, we had to brave the crowds again in order to head back to the hotel to change and dry up. I thought I was clever by putting on a poncho but an onlooker ripped it off and said I was cheating! We were so excited to find a taxi and escape the madness.
The best part about this morning was observing the city. It was so quiet and different from how we had seen it over the last 2 days. The UNESCO world heritage site was back to normal. Nikunj and I decided to take advantage of this and walked along the river. I fell in love. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. We went back to the hotel for breakfast and I couldn't get the streets out of my mind so while Nikunj napped, I took a bike and went back to town. I rode from the Mekong to the Nam Khan River and saw the locals getting ready to start their day by setting up their restaurants and shops. I had read about the old French architecture but was now finally able to see it while witnessing the sunrise. It was a perfect morning.
Once I was done, I headed back and took a nap before our excursion to Kuang Si Falls. The base of the falls was filthy and overcrowded. We instantly regretted our decision and could not understand why the locals would treat a local treasure this way. We decided to hike up in hopes of a better view and cleaner surroundings and I'm so glad that we did. It was a huge difference. We sat at the edge and enjoyed the sounds of the water crashing down. It was such a calming experience.
At the tip of the peninsula, we saw a local fisherman in action. It was such a different fishing experience! He was throwing a net in and pulling it back. So simple but so effective. I was lucky enough to capture him in action.Next, we visited Xieng Thong temple. It was unlike any other temple I had ever seen. The designs on the exterior walls were really unique and very colorful.
After that we walked to Tamarind for lunch and lucky for us it was finally open. We had been trying to eat here since we arrived but it was closed for the holidays. The restaurant came highly recommended and after our absolutely delicious lunch, we understood why. I had stuffed chicken with lemongrass accompanied by brown sticky rice and lime juice. It was so tender and flavorful. You need to slowly peel the lemongrass in order to get the chicken out. Nikunj had another one of their popular dishes, papaya salad. It was such a treat. The view didn't hurt either, the restaurant overlooks Nam Khon River.
We decided to keep treating ourselves and got massages next. I don't know if it was brave or stupid on our part to request a traditional massage. Oh my god does it hurt. Each sore spot felt so much worse when they "massage" it. But my body did feel great afterwards. The amount of things that cracked were kind of scary but my pain did disappear for a few days. Since we could barely walk afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. Vacations are the best specifically because of naps!
In the evening we visited Phu Si, a hill in the middle of the city that houses a temple on top. It has 360 panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy when we went but the views were still beautiful. I can't imagine how they could get any better. We spent a good hour just staring and admiring the view.
Our last day in Luang Prabang was spent on a boat. We signed up for a three hour boat ride on the Mekong. This is where the pitfalls of traveling in Asia came in to play. Our boat stopped working twice, once on the way to Pak Ou Caves and once on the way back to Luang Prabang. There was absolutely nothing we could do about it. The driver would bang a hammer on the engine in hopes of making it start. We had to wait for other boat drivers to help us and it was really scary to be at the mercy of others. To add to the stress, our flight back to Vientiane was later in the evening so we kept thinking we would miss our flight. In the end it all worked out and it served as a reminder that when in Asia, you just need to go with the flow.
I realized that this was the first time in a while I spent 5 full days in a city and it still didn't feel like enough. There is something mystical about the mountains of Laos and I can't wait to go back and see more.