Hearing that Laos is a lot like Thailand only more rural, we bid farewell and headed east to Luang Prabang.
Amidst mountains and pink sunsets, Luang Prabang is set at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers. A UNESCO World Heritage City, Luang Prabang is made up of preserved or restored traditional Lao wooden homes, and beautiful, golden roofed temples. 32 temples to be exact. Because it was at one time colonized by the french, there are hints of European architecture, making it feel like a Southeast Asian version of New Orleans.
The first couple of days were spent exploring the tiny city, wandering aimlessly through the quiet, narrow alleyways, marveling at the architecture and simple life in the streets: food drying out on sidewalks, laundry hanging everywhere, kids playing, women sitting in their shops chatting, groups of young monks collecting alms, men taking naps in their tuk tuks, or folks lazily watching the Mekong River flow by.
Because the city is so small but has so many temples, quiet, ancient grounds are scattered every few blocks. Wandering the temples, one can catch glimpses of the monks' daily routines or watch the light change across these ancient structures. The evening was the best time to pass by. That was when the boys would sit in groups on the steps, either deep in conversation, singing, or goofing off. The presence of monks is my favorite thing about Southeast Asia, and a sight I wish we had in the states.
Relying on the trusty motorbike rental, we spent the next few days exploring the countryside, following windy rodes in search of waterfalls (recommended: Kuang Si Waterfall). These waterfalls are no less then an hour's drive, which provided us with plenty of opportunity to explore and get lost.
We passed off the grid villages, roadside markets and veggie stands, farms and farmers, wild dogs, water buffalo, men fishing on long wooden boats, livestock, kids playing in large groups while their mothers huddled in their own circles…all surrounded by this lush and vibrant landscape that was jaw dropping, turn after turn. As I watched tourists barreling past in their vans without stopping, I so appreciated the freedom our little motorbike provided. I look forward to our next trip here, so I can explore the rest of this beautiful country.