Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A World Heritage Town

Day 167
Luang Prabang
Time: Half Day
Distance: 5 or 6 km
Avg Speed: Cruising
Terrain: World Heritage City
Location: 19˚ 53” 9.4’ N, 102˚ 8’ 30.1” E

I think we finally found what we’ve pictured in our minds for so long. Long boats floating past lush green jungle along the banks of the Mekong River. French colonial buildings amongst ancient Buddhist temples. The fragrance of frangipanis mingling with the aroma of fresh coffee.

We slept in a little this morning. I’m always amazed at how tired I can get from just a little activity. I’m sure it’s due to the fact that we’ve haven’t ridden in almost a week. Once awake we made a plan to find a café. I had read in one of our guidebooks (we always carry a few) that there was good coffee to be had in Luang Prabang. We noted the location from the book and then pedaled our way to the main part of town. JoMa Café soon came into view and we quickly made a beeline for the sidewalk. Upon closer inspection, we found a tandem bicycle parked outside. As we walked to the door a guy sitting out front asked us if we were touring. We said yes and then asked him about the tandem. It wasn’t his, but he was also touring. After a short chat we found out that he has seen many people riding through Laos. Good news – maybe we can get some info from some fellow cyclists. We wished him luck and ventured in to find some breakfast.
It didn’t take long to order up some fine pastries with a cup of joe. We haven’t had great coffee since Australia so this was quite a treat. From our table on the veranda we watched the morning’s activities. To our surprise (and excitement), we saw a few more bicycle tourists cruising about.
After breakfast we hit the money changer. In Laos, we can use any combination of US dollars, Thai baht and Lao kip. Not complicated, right? We didn’t think so at first, but after buying one meal we realized that it would be wise to deal in the local currency. Chris changed over the equivalent of US $300 and we are now millionaires (about 2.8 million worth). Ha – it will be as close as we ever get!
The rest of the morning was spent coasting around town through a patchwork of old buildings and stone alleyways, tropical gardens and busy monks. There is no doubt, Luang Prabang is very charming. At one point we stopped to gaze across the Nam Khan River. The background was a collage of dark wooden houses, green jungle and towering mountains. Right below us, a fisherman tossed his net into the river and waded in. Right then we both agreed that this was the Southeast Asia of our dreams.

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