It was about an hour before dawn when we left for Sakkaline Road to join the locals in Tak Bak (the Buddhist alms offering to monks). This is my deepest impression of the Lao people when I visited Luang Prabang recently.
Text/Photos: Jessica Chan
It was about an hour before dawn when we left for Sakkaline Road to join the locals in Tak Bak (the Buddhist alms offering to monks). This is my deepest impression of the Lao people when I visited Luang Prabang recently. In this world of materialistic influences, the Lao people still lead a humble life of Buddhist teachings and the practice the culture of alms giving to the monks, despite living on meagre incomes as farmers. Every morning more than 200 monks from various temples walk through the streets clad in their saffron robes, each of them holding a brass bowl in a rattan basket with a shoulder sling. Pilgrims are on their knees and offer cooked sticky rice to the monks with much respect. I heard that the monks would only take whatever that is sufficient to feed them for the day and any excess sticky rice from their alms bowl would be distributed to the poor. For tourists who wish to take part in this alms offering, the hotel or travel agency could help with the arrangement of sticky rice supply.
For more than 620 years of history, Luang Prabang has survived various foreign rulers like the Khmer, Siamese and French. Luang Prabang was the early capital of Laos which
was then moved to Vientiane. So now Luang Prabang has a bit of this and that. Their spoken language sounds of similarity to Thai and hence, if you have a smattering of Thai, you should be able to get by easily. Their cuisines have a pinch of Cambodian and Thai influences and will most likely whet our Malaysian appetite. The French have left their legacy here with their brick-and-stucco architectures and of course, the mouth-watering baguette. However, the sight of some Soviet jeeps and clusters of Chinese shops in the town are some reminders of the alliance with the Soviet and Chinese communists. It was only in the late 1980s that Laos began their economic reforms and opened to tourism. Luang Prabang earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.
Apart from temples and monasteries, Luang Prabang has its fair share of spa, fine restaurants and café for the hedonist in you. Luang Prabang is a quaint little town with only a few roads circling around a peninsular where two rivers meet, the Mekong and the Nam Khan. You won’t lose your way here as the roads are connected, just one way or another you will end up on Sisavangvong Road, the main road where there are restaurants, café, guest house, spa and shops that cater to the tourist needs. Luang Prabang attracts not only budget travellers but also travellers who revel in boutique luxuries like Amantaka or the Xiengthong Palace or Shinta Mani Luang Prabang hotels.
The quiet ambience is just too appealing for me just to laze around with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in another. However, as part of my travel habit, I would love to mingle in the local market to catch a doe of the local lifestyle. My visit to Luang Prabang would not be complete had I not made the trip to the spectacular waterfalls of Kuangsi that really caught my breath away.
Visa – Malaysian tourists are exempted from Laos Visa for 30 days visit.
Flights – As there are no direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Luang Prabang, Bangkok is the best gateway to connect these two places. Bangkok Airways, Asia’s boutique airline, has daily flights to Luang Prabang. Get their flight schedule at www.bangkokair.com
Bangkok Travel Club (BTC) handles travel packages for Bangkok Airways passengers.
This trip to Luang Prabang was made possible by TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and Bangkok Airways.