Luang Prabang is a UNESCO-protected city with 33 Buddhist temples, the former royal palace built in 1904, and most interestingly, several streets along the river with French colonial buildings. In the 1800’s the French were colonizing throughout Indochina and as this was the residence of the “King Vong” they landed here. After WWI, it was France that again concentrated on negotiating with Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), and China to create borders and form the new country Laos. France then also moved the current capital south to Vientienta. We will be there in several days.
The French colonial streets are lined with Indochinese mansions that are now boutique hotels, fancy shops and elegant restaurants, with Buddha temples interlaced on these streets. It is a very peaceful setting and we enjoyed bicycling and walking around the town. We had to bike over the split tracks of the“Old Town Bridge” along side motorcycles to get around to both sides of the city. We viewed temples and riverside city parks. But at night from our Hotel Bue Villa we used the seasonal “Bamboo Bridge” to walk across the river directly to the French section for dinner. Later, a slick night market is set up on the main street, selling excellent crafts and wares under bright lights; no junk trinkets here.
A highly regarded restaurant in the French section of town is “Tamarind”. This restaurant also offers cooking classes during the day, and a tuk-tuk trip to the food market for ingredients and general descriptions. This is a full day instruction at a classroom kitchen using gas heated woks, where the participants make 5 meals, after the instructors show seven preparations. Our instructors, Mr. Lee and Mr. Yang, were very organized and answered any questions. We got a recipe book, too. Adding to the fun was meeting our cooking companions from Japan. These 2 charming ladies who were childhood friends had met up for this vacation as one now lived in Hawaii, USA. We ate our creations for lunch before going on to other recipes. Those concoctions we boxed up and took home for later evening dinner; The hotel staff helped us plate our cuisine and it was really good too.
The next morning we said good bye to one of our favorite towns. We took a mini van through the mountain passes south to a naturalists town named “Vang Vien”. This ride took 6 hours, not the 3 hours advertised. We chose not to forge ahead another straight 6 hours to the capital city Vientiane, but take in the mountains and natural beauty of this more rural location.