Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is a beautiful city situated in a mountain setting where the Mekong and Khan Rivers converge.  UNESCO has designated the entire town a World Heritage site due to its history as the old capital of Laos, and the structures which reflect both French colonialism and Buddhist tradition.

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We began the day early, before the sun rose, to prepare ourselves with baskets of rice for the Buddhist monks who file past the local town residences on the sides of the streets and offer small gifts and food (usually rice by the spoonful) for their daily food.  About 200-300 monks collect their food each morning early, and then retreat to the monasteries.

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Following the almsgiving, we went through the market which is open from dawn to 10am.  The fare is colorful and entertaining: baskets of large toads hopping around, crickets trying to escape their bowl, birds in small bamboo cages (these are not for food, we were told), eels, three sizes of white grubs…the list goes on.  I would need to get an English translation of a Lao cookbook to know where to start with food preparation.

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On the way to the river for a boat tour on the Mekong, we passed through small villages.  Everywhere children are a delight, and were happy to pose for us, with no expectation of getting anything in return (not always the case in rural areas where tourists come through).

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This man with a large and small elephant.  Traditionally used for carrying tons of wood from the mountains for sale or making furniture and buildings, the farmers can earn more by giving rides to tourists.  The small elephant is about 4 years old.

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The day ended by a 45 minute cruise down river on the Mekong, with the gentle light of dusk outlining the boats on the river.