How Did We Spend New Year's Eve?

We spent New Year's Eve in our small guesthouse in Louang Prabang. We had originally planned to party and there were definetely lots of them around. What we realised though was that Lao people don't really celebrate "International New Year", so all we would be doing was buying overpriced drinks with a whole bunch of other travelers. It does have a certain appeal, but we were happy going to bed early and missing the costly celebrations.

Despite the hoards of tourists in Louang Prabang, the town still retains a lot of charm. It sits right on a peninsula bounded by the Mekong River and the Nam Ou River. The historic old quarter of Louang Prabang is dotted with elegant French colonial architecture along with dozens of Lao wats. Young monks and novices roam the streets in their bright orange robes, capturing tourists for some English practise and maybe "some money for books?". Every morning, at sunrise, like everywhere else in Laos, the monks parade down the streets of town quietly collecting food and donations from local worshippers. At night women from nearby villages line the main street with hundreds of stalls selling identical Hmong handicrafts to the tourists. After three nights walking past the colourful handicrafts I succumbed to a very small item, but had I had a larger bag I might have been more wreckless!

Unlike China, the entire tourism industry here is geared towards foreigners. This might be nice for getting a chicken sandwich of a piece of chocolate cake, but that's about it. The entire old quarter of Louang Prabang is made up of guest houses and restaurants, all the employees motorbike to work from outlying areas of town the main interaction you have with locals (even monks) is when they are trying to sell you something (and I definetely don't blame them for that). Sometimes its nice to feel that your every "western need" isn't being met and that you'll have to settle for something a little more "domestic", we definetely experienced this feeling in Northern Laos and we are (retrospectively) greatful for it. After 5 days in Louang Prabang we boarded a bus south to Vang Vieng, a town with a reputation for being a rowdy backpacker stronghold. Despite the fact that we aren't rowdy, we are backpackers, so we felt a stop was in order...


2par4 said...

Happy New Year you crazy world explorers! I thought about you two last week. There was this big bright full moon and I told the girls Yann and Emilie (and all of the people on our little blue planet) see the same moon when they look into the night sky.


mom said...

this is an absolutely beautiful town-I just looked at the pictures.