Laos > Luang Prabang
LUANG PRABANG, 05 Oct 2009
Final day in wonderful Luang Prabang and we have a lunchtime flight back to Vientiane, so I take the morning off for a final walkabout. And this is my final wat for this trip – Wat Phouxai, a smallish monastery built late 18th century. The monks are cleaning the compound the morning after Ork Phansa celebration. After the 3 months of Lent, they are supposed to return to their families for a short break. By the way, the Mekong is on the other side of the wat.
The wat is in the morning market area, and morning markets are my favourite, if I can wake up in time that is.
Nicely displayed fresh eggs. I’m not sure why the reddish ones.
Some fresh catch from the Mekong, I presume, and the favourite chickens. The Luang Prabang people do not seem to be in love with pork or beef.
But they are still game for some exotic stuff – maggots in hives and a hapless monitor lizard. Somebody’s lunch for today!
I don’t think these are eels, more like fish which look like eels.
Still alive and wriggling all over the place. Try dipping your hands into that lot.
But this one takes the cake. Cute hairy rodents (seen in the red basket) roasted to perfection. Imagine munching on these for lunch.
Fresh white mushrooms aplenty. I love them. Any steamboat meal, and such mushrooms are my fave.
The market is next to the Mekong, which is still shrouded in morning mist, looking rather surreal.
Looking fragile and lonesome in the middle of the wide Mekong, a boat ferries schoolkids from the village on the other side of the river. I do not see any lifevests on board.
Nearby, brekky is in full steam, with the ever-popular baguettes, found all over Indochina thanks to the French. The interesting thing is they taste and feel exactly the same as the baguettes in Paris, say.
I return to the hotel …
… and then walk the main street again – as sleepy as ever, just the way I love it – to find brekky.
At a ‘Lao Coffee Shop’ we order baguettes and Lao coffee, which is pretty good. Coffee was introduced by the French (again!) early last century and is planted in the highlands of southern Laos – a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans. Quite potent.
Lots of consumer items are imported from Thailand, so too all the sauces on our table. Note the ‘halal’ logo – the Thais are pretty advanced in this halal-ness thingy.
The airport is just 4km away from our hotel, so we decide to use the tuk-tuk.
Pleasant, uneventful open-air ride through unhurried Luang Prabang, and I just love the tuk-tuk’s spare tyre.
From the corner of my eyes, I spot what looks like a road beyond the bushes – that’s the airport runway.
The tuk-tuk leaves us just outside the Luang Prabang LPQ airport gate, and we find our way to the terminal a short distance away.
Check-in is harmless and I’m pleasantly surprised to see our transport to Vientiane VTE today – a China-made Xian MA60 turboprop. This is a ‘rare’ catch!
It’s a close copy of the Russian Antonov AN26 cargo plane. Received its certification from the Chinese authorities in 2000, only a handful have been built and sold, mainly in China. Lao Airlines has 4 of them, hence the rarity.
The cabin is slightly cramped, compared to the ATR72-500 we took to come here 3 days ago. It fits less people as well.
We are soon airborne, and there’s significant vibration from the engines. The Mekong comes into view, so too the telecom tower which is close to our hotel. Bye-bye, Lovely Luang Prabang, been a great experience.
Cruising at 27,000ft, the engines hum along nicely …
… while the rugged, forbidding mountains pass below us.
The safety brochure in the plane is a simple piece of laminated paper. Ah well, as long as it serves the purpose. I’m reminded of an MA60 accident in the Philippines just 3 months ago, a Zest Airways plane.
Some forty-five minutes after leaving LPQ we are back on the ground at VTE. Beats 9-10 hours by road any time! Anyway the MA60 is quite a pleasant plane, good-looking as well.
Yes, we are back in Vientiane with its wide boulevards and interesting traffic.
POSTSCRIPT: Paper tickets of the historic Lao Airlines flights. 🙂
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