20th May : Pagodas and pool parties :Luang Prabang

The photo: 

The route : from pool side cushion to night market – whoop.

The chat:

Ahhhh….Luang Prabang. A charming but sleepy UNESCO World Heritage town filled with Wats, Pagodas and colonial architecture. Or so the guidebook told us. Much more excitingly, it also promised swimming pools, french bakeries, and river side fairy lit bistros selling New Zealand Pinot Noir. After several weeks in some pretty remote areas without so much as a whiff of a pain au chocolat, the prospect was almost too much to take.

Just about holding it together, we bounced along to what was to become our regular breakfasting joint for the next 4 days – Art cafe – where hungry cyclists can demolish bottomless mugs of fresh coffee and huge bowls of granola, fruit and yoghurt (a meal we had been fantasising about during long bike rides playing one of our favourite games “what would you eat right now if you could eat anything” – yes, our chat is that bad).  6 cups of coffee later, and filled with a sudden and surprising desire to do something, we attempted a cycle tour around town. After about 10 minutes and 5 wats, we realised it was just too hot to do anything cultural (to be honest for us, any temperature above 0 degrees C is too hot for culture), and decided to seek out Luang Prabang’s only public swimming pool. Set incongruously amongst ramshackle wooden laos houses up a dusty track, we felt as if we had inadvertently stumbled on an Ibiza pool party as we emerged blinking to a sunny white courtyard where bikini clad backpackers lounged on cushions around a pool while sipping frozen cocktails. A happy couple of hours were spent cooling off, reading, and boring unfortunate backpackers with chat about our gap yaar, before temple guilt kicked in and we headed back to town to watch the sunset from a vantage point at the top of a wat on a hill.

The night market in Luang Prabang is hugely popular – a sprawling jumble of handicraft stalls and, more excitingly, food stalls selling super cheap plates of noodles, spring rolls, and grilled chicken and fish. Fortuitously, due to a power cut, everything was lit by candlelight, making for a romantic evening meal.

The night market – this plate cost 70p – budget backpacker bliss.

Night market pre power cut

Watching the sunset, along with hundreds of other camera toting tourists!

Dedicated worshippers – this shrine was at the top of 300 steps

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