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Travel Diaries: Luang Prabang – Part 1

Mixture of photos in Luang Prabang

Dates: 10/02 – 11/02

I almost missed my plane to Luang Prabang. Almost. I was feeling so tired and annoyed that I misread my ticket and thought my landing time was my departure time. I couldn’t find the time on the screen, and I panicked, so I went to the check-in desk and asked. The assistant said that I was in the right place. Sigh of relief. 

He handed me the boarding pass and informed me that boarding was in ten minutes. I freaked out as I realised what mistake I had made. I was never going to make it. Of course, I got lost in the airport and lost 5 minutes by the time I found the security gate. By the time I got to boarding, they were about to leave. Lucky for me, the plane was slightly delayed. 

I got on the plane and sank into my seat, relieved to have made it. I was sitting in the aisle and had just settled in when the person in the window seat asked me to move so he could pass. Annoyed, I got up and let him pass. I settled in again and distracted myself by commenting on the size of the plane. It was incredibly small. My row mate agreed, and we started talking.

Frank* was a German backpacker who had been travelling the world for a year. He seemed so mature and well-educated that I was shocked when he told me he was only 20. I felt like an old lady almost old enough to be his mother. 

We kept on chatting and the delay and flight time went by quickly. Landing in Luang Prabang was scary. There were no other planes in sight – the airport was completely empty. This was a huge shock after the hustle and bustle of the airport in Hanoi. We went through passport control, got our stamps, and picked up our luggage. I managed to get a sim card, and taxi and was at the guesthouse within half an hour. Exhausted, I showered and went to bed.

I didn’t set an alarm for the next morning, I wanted to wake up at my own pace and just walk around the city. My body clock made sure I was up and on my feet by 7:30, so I got dressed and looked for a nice bakery to have breakfast. I started walking towards there when a menu caught my eye. I saw mashed avocado. Oh, how I missed mashed avocado. I stood there for a minute and looked up the place I had planned to go to again. They only offered sweet breakfasts. The mashed avocado won me over and I decided to stay there. I sat outside and enjoyed the silence. A far cry from Vietnam. “I’m going to like this place,” I thought to myself.

I had orange juice, coffee, and breakfast, with mashed avocado, of course. I sat there for well over an hour, observing the people pass by. A Buddhist monk passed through and sat at the table behind me. I had never seen a Buddhist monk before, so this experience already touched me. While I am not Buddhist, I believe their religion offers a sense of peace and belonging, and I’ve always liked it. Be kind to one another and positive vibes. I suddenly felt that Luang Prabang had a lot to teach me, and I was excited to find out what that was.

I paid for my breakfast and started walking around the city. I stumbled across a Buddhist Wat, which is what Roman Catholics would call a convent. I would later learn that these places of worship are where men go to become monks. They can go in and out as they please, but each man in Laos must spend some time there. Some are sent as children whereas others go in their adult years. 

The statues fascinated me, and I spent time appreciating each one. I wanted to ask a monk what some of the images in front of me meant, but something held me back. 

I left there feeling peaceful and decided not to follow my map anymore. I just walked and walked until I got a glimpse of the river, at which point I followed the road, only to find myself looking at the beauty of what is called the Nam Khan River. 

I found stairs and walked down while witnessing children who couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 playing. They were emptying water out of a boat which they wanted to use to cross the river. I watched them in awe and enjoyed their simplicity. I compared it to the western world where children would be too stuck to their technology to play this way. These children were living a true childhood, and I think that is beautiful.

I kept walking along the river until I found the Bamboo Bridge Gate. This narrow bamboo bridge is built during the sunny season, removed during the rainy season, and rebuilt during the sunny season. It cost 10,000 kips to cross it, which is around €0.55. I sucked up my fear of these tiny bridges, paid, and walked across. 

The bridge seemed sturdy enough, but it still wobbled as I walked across. I documented the moment by taking pictures and videos. I felt proud to have crossed the bridge without feeling scared. 

I noticed a jewellery-making workshop as I walked up the stairs on the other side. They also sold handmade jewellery, so I decided to have a look. I packed up some gifts and asked if everything was handmade. The lady assured me that it was, and told me to ask the girl standing behind me, who had just finished a workshop. She seemed like a nice girl so I asked her if she wanted to grab a coffee and a bite at the Garden of Eden, which was just next door. She agreed.

Julia* was from the Netherlands and had been backpacking for a while. We sat right at the front of the cafeteria, witnessing the most amazing view ever. We both ordered fruit shakes and Nutella crepes. Yum. 

We sat there chatting for a while and our neighbour, John*, said hello and asked us where we were from. He was Chinese and was on holiday with his parents. He told us how the Chinese borders had only just opened up after three years of lockdown, so everyone was travelling and trying to get back what the pandemic had taken away from them. 

John recommended climbing Phousi Hill to watch the sunset and showed us pictures. This was something I couldn’t miss. I asked Julia if she wanted to join, but she was leaving the city that afternoon. We parted ways soon after that. I stayed at the Garden of Eden for a few more minutes as I wanted to take in the view, after which I also left.

Julia told me there was another bridge on the other side of the little town, so I started walking that way. I wanted to see more. I walked along what seemed to be an empty main road, enjoying the view of trees, plants, and typical Laos buildings. 

I found the bridge after about 15 minutes and took a few minutes to take in the view from the top of the hill I was on. I walked down and crossed the bridge, stopping to take pictures along the way. I paid the crossing fee and walked to the top of the hill before sitting down on a park bench for a break.

It was 15:00 by then. Two and a half hours till sunset. I decided to start walking towards the hill as I knew I’d find a new adventure at some point on my journey. I grew thirsty and found a nice place by the river to have a shake. The owner didn’t speak English, so I used my translator to tell him what I wanted and asked him to surprise me with the flavour. I got avocado, I would have never imagined putting that in a fruit shake, but let me tell you, it was delicious.

I walked down the stairs to enjoy my shake while looking at the river and saw a man sitting alone, so I asked if I could join. This new friend, Andreas*, was from Norway. We spoke about the culture shock, his travels through India, and our jobs. He ordered food and I kept him company – I was enjoying the conversation. 

I told him where I was going and asked him if he wanted to join. He did, so we started walking towards Phousi Hill. There were quite a few stairs to climb, but I had my health back, so I managed it easily. The way up was full of Buddha statues and beautiful landscape views – all photo and video moments. 

The top of the hill was littered with people and I suddenly understood why John told us to go early. Nonetheless, I found a good spot and parked myself there. The sunset began and I was mesmerised by the different shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink. I must have taken more than a hundred photos. 

Looking out and appreciating the sunset, I suddenly realised that I was in Slovakia a year ago. I was visiting my best friend’s grave while living with her brother in their childhood home. I also witnessed a mesmerising sunset there. One that changed my life, as it was when I decided to move back to Malaga. 

I felt Nadia’s presence like she was there with me. Even as I write this, a few days later, I feel her warmth around me. This sunset was very important to me, not just because of its beauty, but because of the sensation of my best friend’s spirit. It was then that I knew that I was on the right path and that this place had a lot to teach me. 

Andreas and I walked down the mountain and into the night market. We grabbed something to eat and parted ways. I went back to the guesthouse and slept peacefully, knowing that what I was supposed to find was just around the corner.

You can find photos of my experience in Luang Prabang on the official Alpha Content Instagram page. Follow @the_life_of_a_creative_writer for more.

*The names of the people I met have been changed to protect their identities and respect their privacy. 

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