Archive for July, 2010

We have had quite a number of pho ( noodles)  for breakfast while we were in Luang Prabang,  now that we are back in Vientiane we decide to give pho a rest and have baguettes instead .

We studied the menu on display outside Samsenthai Hotel ( which was a few steps away from our guesthouse) and was agreeable to the 20,000 kip ( RM8) for baguette plus tea/coffee seemed reasonable.

 

The baguette was about 1 foot long, toasted – warm and crispy  ! Mine came with a slice of cheese, bacon, an omelet ( with bits of tomatoes and onions)

 

This was by far the most filling breakfast among all that I have in Laos! After the meal, discovered that I left crumbs all over the table and all over myself , talk about being a messy eater !

We walked up the street to Wat Mixayaram ( Wat Mixay in short) which faces the main road. 2 green faced giant guard the temple entrance

 

Close up of the the elaborate details at the gate

 

Extracted from http://www.culturalprofiles.net/laos/Units/735.html

Wat Mixay, the ‘Temple of Victory’ was originally constructed during the reign of King Sai Setthathirat I (1550-1571) to celebrate victory in battle against the Burmese in 1569. The current buildings are in Bangkok style and date from the early 20th century. A public primary school is located in the compound of the temple.

 

Within the compound, there are a number of stupa bearing the remains of folks that had transcended to the other plain, there were  a number of stupa with Chinese characters  on them too

 

A door in striking gold and green – depicting characters from the Ramayana

 

We saw this flowering tree at the compound of the temple

 

We left Wat Mixay and headed off to the National Museum, Opposite the museum was the very prominent building – the  Lao National Cultural Hall – opened in march 2000, this was  constructed with the aid from China. The Hall has a 1,500 seat auditorium which occasionally hosts cultural events.

 

 The Nasional Museum appeared to be a bit dilapidated – cracking paint and all, we paid 10,000 kip ,  left our stuff at the counter and started our tour.

The ground floor theme was on early history, findings from excavations were displayed –stone and bronze aged artifacts, statues of the Buddha, jars  beads etc. The first floor provided details of the struggle of the people of Laos against the Thais, French and Americans. There were many interesting (old) pictures on display.

After touring inside the museum we headed to the rear of the museum where we saw 2 big stone jars– well since we didn’t get to visit Phonsavanh –plain of jars, this was the closest one could get lah. As they say, no prawn, fish also can !

We stopped by a kopitiam for a drink – by the look of the interior of this shop  – with the altars for the gods, the Chinese New Yeay auspicious wall stickers etc – this could be what we find in a kopitiam back home too horr ?

Offerings outside one the houses , marigolds on banana leaves , incense, candles and water

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After spending 4 wonderful days in Luang Prabang, it was time to say good bye. We will be leaving on the 9 am bus headed for Vientiane . We walked to the market in search for breakfast and settled for a bowl of pho at a stall beside the market.

 

This was the first time that we get to choose the type of noodles to have, either meehoon, koayteow or the laksa type thicker noodles, since we hadn’t tried the latter, both of us choose to have the thicker rice noodles, and as was customary, we get our basket of greens plus another plate consisting of chili padi, long beans, spring onions and lime.

 

This was probably the best pho that we had in Luang Prabang, the noodles were springy the soup was delicious ,  the meat was tender – no complaints ! We paid 10,000kip ( ~RM4 per bowl- which was the charge for foreigners as we saw locals paying 7,000kip/bowl)

 

As we still have some time, we took a walk at the market place and see if we can buy something for the road, we were curious what were wrapped in the banana leaves parcels and bought one of each (500kip and 1,000 kip respectively)

 

Walked back to the hotel and saw a tuk2 parked in front of our guest house, ahhh ! he is early, lucky we were all packed,rushed up to our room to get our luggage and settled the bill for our 5 night stay at Oudomsouk Guest House ( total USD40)

The tuk2 dropped us off at the Bannaluang bus station – nice and clean, no heavy fumes and the best thing was the toilets were clean !

 

While waiting for the bus, we decide to settle the mystery of the banana parcels : the 500kip parcel was a black blob- with a  chewy starchy texture probably made with glutinous rice flour and coconut milk – this was good ! after unwrapping 3 layers of leaves, we unveiled the the 1,000kip parcel , turned out to be black glutinous rice topped with some coconut milk creamy thingy (  it even came with a plastic spoon – so considerate one lah), again, another hit ! Yummy

 

At about 8:45, we were asked to get on the bus and at 9 am, the bus left the station, I wonder if buses in Malaysia are so prompt? The bus was rather empty ( I think there was only ~ 10 pax ?) and we could sit where we wanted to ( although seat numbers were written on the tickets) .

I find the bus journey  from Luang Prabang to Vientiane  much tougher that from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, namely because we didn’t have much time to get acclimatized to the bus and then we already came to the unending winding roads. I looked away as I saw someone sitting in front reaching for the plastic (vomit) bag…..

We stopped for lunch at a really nice looking restaurant ( lunch was included in the 130,000 kip ticket) at the hillside, the weather was very cool ( read : cold) and we could see the hills and the clouds as we have lunch.

Finaaalllly, after 9 hours on the bus, we arrived at Vientiane. We shared a tuk2 with some other passenger and headed to the city centre and back to the guest house that we stayed earlier – Sousouly Guesthouse…it’s nice to have some familiarity – I guess..

After a bit of a wash, we headed out for dinner – pizza at Via Veing – which according to some sites on the www – served the best pizza in Vientiene

The environment was nice and cozy , red table cloth draped over wooded table, some of the dinners seemed to be regulars, some came for takeaways as well

 

I ordered a soda lime and HC had a 7 up, and follow up with a sangria ( which caused a bit of a lightheadedness later )

 

For the pizza, we were greedy and went for the ‘4 seasons’ which have the most ingredients compared to the other toppings on the menu.

 

Total bill came to 45,000kip ( ~ RM18).  I won’t say it was sensational pizza, taste just like regular pizza we can get back home

It was a really really hot day in Luang Prabang, well, not that I will be cycling about in KL under the mid day sun – what a good excuse to have a fruit shake, after trying the various fruit combination, I think the best was still mixed fruit –dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, apple, orange etc etc. Some of the fruit shake stall will have the fruits cut and packed in the plastic cup, and we will just need to point to any of the cups with the fruit that you fancy and then they will blend that – add a bit of milk ( some add coconut milk too) , sugar syrup etc…heavenly….

After the refreshing fruit shake, we decide to hide from the sun by visiting the National Museum (former Royal Palace), a lovely building blending French and Laos architecture.

Read more about it here :  http://www.culturalprofiles.net/laos/Units/153.html

Extracts : Built by the French colonial government for King Sisavangvong between 1904 and 1909 on the foundations of a much older palace building, the former Royal Palace was taken over by the revolutionary government in 1975 and reopened to the public as a national museum on 13 March 1976.

We paid 30,000 kip each ( ~RM12) for the entrance ticket, lockers were provided to store our cameras/bags etc. The items on display include gifts from countries to the King, books from China ( gifts from 1968 – well, at this rate, I could be a museum piece too lah), the funniest we saw was a space explorer thingy gift from the US, which looked like it was made from milk tins- guess it was probably impressive at that time guarr ?

Behind the museum, there was a collection of motorcars used by the King and an art exhibition titled ‘The Floating Buddha’ – beautiful photos..a woman with hair just shorn, teardrops on her face, shorn hairs on her shoulder ; a hand rubbing flower petals on a young nun bald head and many more, felt my eyes watering looking at these beautiful pictures.

From the Museum, we cycled to Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham – built in 1796 by King Anourout, is  the biggest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang. When I look at the structure , I was rather confused, as it seemed like one third of the temple is facing one way and the other two third is facing another direction

 

Well, turn out that it was  a very elaborate front veranda of the main sim. I was in awe of the elaborate black and gold stenciled columns at the veranda

 

We sat at the stone benches , taking in the view of the Wat Mai and then at 4pm, we saw 2 novice heading towards the drum tower. One started to beat on the drum and the other on a cymbal like equipment, it was a simple rhythm but rather mesmerizing, the drum beating activity must be tiring work, as they changed 3 novices within the 10 minutes.

Read more about Wat Mai here : http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/laos/luangprabang/wat-mai.php

 For dinner that day, we enjoyed a Laotian BBQ meal, which was rather similar to steamboat/teppanyaki combination. The stall is along the row of stalls along the Mekong bank, you won’t miss it as it’s one of it’s  kind around this region.

Firstly, load the charcoal

Pour enough soup into the holding area part of the ‘stove’ and rub some fat on the BBQ area

 

Cook the thinly sliced beef over the fire

 

We paid 40,000kip for the meal.Overall, I find this average only , more for the novelty of it than anything

 NB: if you have the chance try the banana fritters sold at this stall, they are delicious !