Laos > Luang Prabang
LUANG PRABANG, 03 Oct 2009
Late afternoon, and I’m suffering from wat-fatigue already, so this is my last wat for the day – Wat Mahathat, built mid-16th century by a king based in faraway Chiangmai. That explains the original stupa (foreground) built in the style of the ancient Lanna kingdom which ruled present-day northern Thailand during 13th-16th century. The Lanna stupa is interesting because the tips of the Petronas Twin Towers resemble it.
Just around the corner of the wat, another flashback – a house made of bamboo weaves. Used to see a lot of such houses in the villages in rural Kelantan when I was a little kid. Now no more.
Still looking sturdy with occupants. Not good when there’s a thunderstorm, the walls leak; not good when kids run around, the whole house shakes; not good when making love, people peep.
We stroll back towards the town area, and at a deserted junction we have … a traffic accident! Nothing on the road, just the two of them, moving ever so slowly, and yet they collide. The hapless girl wants to lift her bike and disappear, but the man insists on calling the police. Soon spectators build up, just like anywhere in the world.
We pop into a shop full of traditional Lao sinh skirts. They are so presentable, even with nobody wearing them, and my imagination runs wild. Have I sinh-ed again, my Lord?
Along the road leading into the town centre, vendors sell marigold offerings for temple devotees.
Freshly-harvested wriggling maggots are also sold. Stir-fried in a wok with a little oil and some onions, they look apetising.
Though still daylight, the famous Luang Prabang daily night market is taking shape, and this road specialises in foodstuff.
Roasted chicken are very popular here …
… either whole or in portions held by bamboo sticks.
Pork does not seem so popular, but I manage to find its stall when I caught a waft of the roast. Look, even the poor bugger’s head is roasted whole.
But we are here for something truly harmless – for some sweet ‘chiku’ or ‘sawo nilo’ as we Kelantanese say it. In English it’s called ‘sapodilla’, origin is Central America but introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish colonists. Now the fruit is found all over South-east Asia and India.
Nightfall and the night market proper is in full swing. It occupies the main road of Luang Prabang, almost 500m of it, which is closed to traffic.
The nice thing about this market is, they generally sell genuine local products, not rip-offs from China or Thailand, say.
Local ethnic people come here and sell their stuff, every night, and there are pretty good bargains to be had.
Oil paintings are popular …
… and they are always about Lord Buddha or local landscapes.
The traders are generally polite and helpful, and haggling is a non-issue, thanks to the ubiquitous large digital calculators.
I like these lanterns, made with the saa paper described earlier.
As the evening progresses, business picks up. The prices at this night market are still reasonable, but with the inevitable influx of foreigners armed with oodles of USD, this is not sustainable. Luang Prabang is going to be the ‘next’ hot destination in South-east Asia, I tell ya!
Ahhh … the missus is running out of Lao Kips. I’m saved, time to go home!
Before retiring for the night, another notice catches my eye. So my humble wooden Luang Prabang abode is a World Heritage Building in a World Heritage Site. I feel like a World Heritage Visitor now. Good night all, till tomorrow …
[MORE TO FOLLOW …]