Luang Prabang smells beautiful

next destination:
LUANG PRABANG, Unesco Wold Herritage
population: ± 50.000

Day XV – April 2

I put my alarm extra early, so I’d be in time to capture the unveiling of the hills. I end up being too early, waiting around for almost an hour before the mist starts to clear.
It’s the most amazing show to wake up to, swinging back and forth that hammock like an impatient child, camera at the ready.

Before getting back on the road we visit a cave, famous for being a hideout to a communist community of 170 people, during the Vietnam War. Amongst them were some important polical figures, still acting as such from that cave.
It makes me feel a little claustrophibic, to imagine such a large group living a space this small and resolute for 7 years.

After a few hours we get off the bus and pass through a little nomans town. There’s an owl chained to a shop. Shop meaning: a fridge for sodas and a little counter with some snacks, on a porch.
When we finally do meet people, they use their lines, trying to tempt us into buying some traditionally handmade Laotian shawls, almost robotical. Our guide James steers us to a slowboat that takes us to the other side. There we visit the Tham Ting cave, decorated with thousands of Buddha statues.
Something about this whole scene makes me feel as magical yet itchy as I did that first time I saw Spirited Away.

Then we drift down the Mekong for a good hour.

Luang Prabang smells beautiful! Of soft crème and sweet syrup. It has a smalltown-feel but looks rather crowded. I’m looking forward to spending a few days here!

Check in to Spicy Laos Hostel, finally an actual dorm.
I was supposed to be booked in a different place, that was full, so with many apologies James brought me here – the rest of them are staying in some hotel. And I’m so much happier for it!

I have some stuff to take care of. Handing in my laundry so I’ll finally have some clean clothes. Get some more digital space for my Nikon.* Take out some kip, but all the ATMs in walking distance are down so that one fails.
I wanted to see about maybe sending a box home, with stuff I know now unnecessary, like that musquitonet and those spare jeans. But that turns out to be really expensive, about 360.000k; I’ll just drag it along.

Then finally can I sit down, with some random strangers. Right away it feels very homely. Everyone is nice and friendly.
It’s funny how this friend making works out here. It reminds me of festival, but more intense even, and you don’t have your basecamp at walking distance to fall back on.
Everyone here at the Spicy balcony knows each other already, if only just for a day. And I join the conversation the way back home people would look at you, like “Who the fuck are you?” But it’s all good and the same night I feel as much part of ‘the group’ as I would with my own friends back home.

“Where are you going next?” and “Have you already been to … ?” or “Oh, if you’re going there you have to go see …” are the lines I’ve heard most so far. Talk of the road ahead and beyond. Talk of visas and busses, exchanging tips and tricks. “Are you taking malaria-tablets?” and “Do you still spray muzzy?”
Names may come up upon meeting, but usually it’s not until the second or third day; no use bothering if you’re spending less than that amount of time together anyway. “Where are you from?” comes first, and then easier than names is Welsh or Finnish.
I still feel a bit of a layman though, just two weeks out.

Here in the hostel I do hear quite a lot of Dutch. Then again, people have been saying to me for weeks they’ve been meeting a lot of Dutch on the road. Guess it’s time for me to meet them too now…

Anything-goes Asia: Where cattle like dogs, goose, chickens, piglets and cows etc run free over land and road.

* SDmemory and other digital attributes are no cheaper here than in Europe. So get it in Singapore or get stacking discount back home.

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