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Luang Prabang and My Life as a Human Windshield

Luang Prabang, Laos


It all started in Luang Prabang. As the past capital of Laos and the French colonial capital, Luang Prabang is a small city with gorgeous architecture, a lively cultural life, and surrounded by plenty of natural beauty. Although in spite of all this natural beauty, I still managed to get myself into quite a bit of trouble, my clothes stolen, my motorbikes tire popped, and my camera memory cards lost in the netherworld.

Let me begin with the architecture. It is stunning and a welcome relief in an otherwise crippled third-world country. The french district (and tourist/nice area) of Luang Prabang lies between on a small but dense peninla between the mighty Mekong River and the Dam Thiong River.

In this area lies the royal palace, riverside resorts and beautiful gardened hotels, all for around 10-15 bucks a night. The first night our Pacific Discovery tour group got in we all went to their famous night market, where vendors sold everything from bracelets to tribal purses, and from spring rolls to bottles of rice wine with a dead cobra floating inside (really). Quite interesting although I still opted to spend my Kip on getting a much-needed massage ($5/hr, rediculous right?). One of the better experiences I had in Luang was playing pickup soccer with the local Laotian guys, it wasn't any different than back home, except the Laotians arent nearly as dirty players as you get in LA.

Clean air flying in your face, wonderful relics of nature in all directions, and complete freedom to ride; I love the open road. The fun started the next day when I decided to rent a motorbike ($20/day) and travel around the Lao locales with my friend who-will-not-be-named. It started off great, the excitement of riding, a gorgeous waterfall we wandered upon and open road in all directions. That was until the bike started shaking at 60 km/hr and I realized I had a flat. Not good when your in the middle of a foreign country, dont speak the language, the bikeshop owner has your passport, and you have the complexion of a walking-wallet. Shit. "Sabadee, You know where bike shop is?", I motion at the woman to my bike tire with my hands, make a circle and then do a popping sound. I hope this works. She smiles and gestures to the unreadable laotian sign and...biketires above the shop. It turns out I ended up right in front of a motorscooter repair shop. "1 broken chair - $5, 1 Laobeer - $1.50, 1 Coffee - $1.50, 1 Motorbike fix - $3" read the receipt. This is crazy I thought, I'm the man. Best...Luck...Ever.

And it just got better. After another 40 minutes of riding far out in the country we stopped for lunch at what looked to be a randomly placed touristarea, and chanced upon another waterfall, and it happened to be the tallest in all of SE Asia! SCORE! Things could just not get better, I really am the man! The Kuang Si waterfall is not only the tallest in SE Asia, but contains numerous natural springs, garden-of-Eden-gorgeous grounds, an Asiatic Black bear rescue center, swimming areas and rope-swings. A must-see location in Laos. After taking advantage of all of this, and after rope-swinging for a few, I return to put back on my underwear, shorts and shirt...although they are now gone.
Shit. Somebody stole them, it was near dusk, and it was a ways back to the hotel in Luang Prabang. I was a shirtless human windshield for the 40 minutes, complete with having to wipe-out flies trapped in beard every other minute. I was even less happy after the girl I traveled with told me she accidentally lost my trips worth of photos she-doesnt-know-where. SHIT.

Well life is a series of ups-and-downs, but seriously, that many in one day?! I arrived in Vietnam two days ago and just finished a 2 day trek of the tallest mountain in SE Asia, Mt. Fan Xi Pan (Mt. Fancypants) at 11,000 feet high. Blog on that soon. I hope everyone is doing well, and until next time.

-- John 'Jack' Crestani

Another example of French-Lao architecture

The gardened grounds of our hotel in Luang Prabang, the Xiang Muong Guest House.

Our flight on Valentines Day from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, where we would board a bus to Sa Pa Village between the dramatic Cat Cat mountains in Northern Vietnam.


permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 17, 2009 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Waterfall, Laos, LuangPrabang, JackCrestani, Johncrestani and KuangSi

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