lovely panorama by dusk
Picture taken at about 5:40 p.m. Just shows that you can have a lovely evening sky without any color at all.

Friday, November 11: in Luang Prabang

Photos taken in transit:
Tom on excalator

Tom: Da Nang (big image, small).

Terry, sitting

Terry: Da Nang (big image, small).

three travelers in the Hanoi airport

Barb, Carol, and Tom: Hanoi (big image, small).

Mark sits in the Hanoi airport

Hanoi airport (big image, small).

outside the Luang Prabang terminal

The Luang Prabang terminal (big image, small).

We had to get up very early to catch our flight from Da Nang to Hanoi. From there to Luang Prabang, which would be our base in Laos.

the unappealing Nam Khan, as seen from our restaurant

The Nam Khan (big image, small).

foodless restaurant table

The table, before the food arrived (big image, small).

We met our Laotian guide, Toby, and im­med­i­ate­ly piled into two vans for our lunch at a res­tau­rant by the Nam Khan River. As you see in the pictures, it is hardly scenic, leastways at the point where our restaurant overlooked it.

The meal here was not as dull as the view. Although the basic ingredients seemed much like what we had been having in Viet Nam, something about the seasoning and combination of flavors made everyone agree that this was a meal far above average.

Let me quote from my journal here: «From the restaurant we stopped by a scenic overlook where one might see where the Nam Khan flows into the Mekong. The big river flows very fast here, not at all like the Mississippi, not to mention the all-sluggish Amazon.

ornate all-white ceremonial gate

The gate to the temple (big image, small).

flower on restaurant grounds

Big image, small.

people watch the river

The fast-flowing Mekong in the distance (big image, small).

two gentlemen’s heads, with strange towers in the background

Tom and Mark, with interesting background (big image, small).

winding path down to the river

To the overlook (big image, small).

red-clad fisherman on narrow boat

Fisherman with his nets (big image, small).

large elaborate temple

The main temple building, Wat Xieng Thong Sim — I spent relatively little time there (big image, small).

«From there to an amazing temple complex, the Wat Xieng Thong, which is here because Luang Pra­bang was once the capital of Laos. I spent the most time in the structure de­vot­ed to roy­al funerals. The interior was dom­i­nat­ed by a funerary chariot, but the art on the walls definitely seized me as well. Many pictures.»

broad walk with abstract symbolic sculpture

The omnipresent symbol of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites (big image, small).

walking toward a temple

Approaching the temple (big image, small).

golden stupa

The funerary chapel — get a larger version, too. (Sorry, but I didn’t catch the roof peak.)

golden carvings, I

Left of the doorway(big image, small).

golden carvings, II

Right of the doorway(big image, small).

golden carvings, III

Top panel (big image, small).

golden carvings, III

Middle panel (big image, small).

golden carvings, III

Bottom panel (big image, small).

There’s not much to say here. I’ll have to let the pictures speak for themselves, since I did not in most cases know what I was looking at. Anyway, below are some of the “many pictures” I mentioned above.

In the lower row above, the last three pictures show the royal funerary chariot,which I persist in thinking of as a barge. The first (middle of the row) is of the stern, the next might be the urn for the royal ashes, and the last is the prow. The whole thing is immense, and if my photographic equipment had been capable of making a movie in the very low light here, I might have tried to walk along it, stern to stem, to give an idea of its size.

a Big Buddha

The temple’s Buddha (big image, small).

a strange wall-hanging?

The inexplicable ¿ mural ? (big image, small).

the ringing gong

The ringing gong (big image, small).

the gong again

A smaller gong (big image, small), with more hellish activity behind.

ornate door

Door at a temple entrance, evidently carved wood (big image, small).

closeup of the above

The same, from closer up (big image, small).

Then I walked over to the main temple, which is where most of our group spent their time, I think. I ev­i­dent­ly did not spend much time there, though, since I took only a few pictures in it. The Buddha, which you see to the left, did not seize my interest, but I seem to have seen something to photograph in the strange wall dec­o­ra­tion in the mid­dle of that top row. Looking at the picture now, I see that it was even more interesting than I realized at the time, for in it are depicted any number of people doing all sorts of ghastly things to other people. Is it historical? Religious? A depiction of some kind of hell? I’ll never know, any more than I’ll know what the medium was, whether it was painted on the wall, or hung there, or what.

More comprehensible was the big gong that you see in the right picture in the top row—if you had just the right touch, you could make it resonate and ring, like a wine glass or the “ringing bowls” that you see here and there at home. I see that the mysterious imagery I mention above was there behind the gong as well, as it was behind the smaller gong in the left-hand picture in the lower row. The other picture in that row shows interesting architectural detail: I suppose it was carved wood, though it almost looks like bronze. The two pictures to the right show one of two doors to an entrance to the temple. They definitely look like carved wood to me, but gilded in this case.

one larger long narrow boat, several sampans

The ferry we’d take to cross the Mekong (big image, small).

pink flower

Unknown flower (big image, small).

somewhat dilapidated structure

Big image, small.

well-kept street, with very deep gutter alongside

Walking into the town (big image, small).

private shrine, purplish-colored

A nice little shrine (big image, small).

stone dog, old but fairly crudely rendered

Arf (big image, small).

staircase way up, to another temple

Big climb (big image, small).

pink flower

Local temple (big image, small).

parrot in a cage

Parrot at supper (big image, small).

view across the river, lovely sky, no color

Another view from the top (big image, small).

From there, we drove to the riverside, where we took long narrow boats across the Me­kong. On the other side, we climbed a little way to get to a village where, as Mark remarks, all was tidy. Note the extremely deep gutter along­side the street, in the top picture of the right­hand column of the block to the left. I wouldn’t like to mis­tak­en­ly put my foot into that at night!

Third down in the left column is a rather ragged structure that I guess might be a bath-house. For precise information on things we passed, I usually call on Mark’s account, but he doesn’t mention this building there, nor does he have a pic­ture. In the village there was a little temple, which we didn’t stop to enter, though of course we took pictures. You see one of its guardian dogs in the block to the right, upper left. The temple itself is upper right corner of that block.

Last before returning for supper was a long climb up to another shrine, where we got the terrific view across the river that you see at the top of this page as well as in the lower right picture in the right-hand block. I took no pictures of the shrine proper, but I did pull a snap of the little house that you see below. It seemed so perfectly maintained that I’m guessing that it was for the monks attached to the shrine.

charming and impeccably maintained little house the pool of the hotel, with Mark walking away to our room
The little house at the top
of the hill (big image, small).
The hotel’s pool (big image, small).

For the rest of the evening, I rely on my journal: «From there, to our hotel, the Villa Maly, again a very elegant place, though perhaps a bit more rustic than the Al Manity. We had about an hour to shower and relax, then to dinner in the hotel.

«But dinner was preceded by a Buddhist-animist ceremony of welcome, involving (a) chanting; (b) the tying of ceremonial cotton strings about our wrists: many of them, one by each of the eight-or-so celebrants; and (c) little snacks offered to all of us guests.

«Dinner was again Chinese restaurant style, that is, bowls containing the various courses were put out for us to choose from. Very good, but did not hit the spot as well as this day’s lunch.

«Thence to bed, and as soon as I hit the mattress, I was out.»

But tomorrow would be another day. Read about it.