Ahh, Laos. Or as I usually have to describe it, that tiny landlocked country between Thailand and Vietnam. I’ve actually visited the home of my ancestors before, twelve years ago to be exact. But in all honesty? The experience was totally wasted on my siblings and I. For starters, our stay lasted several weeks, which is way too long to be spending in one place. Not to mention, very few ten-year-olds can appreciate centuries worth of ancient temples when they see it!
Anyway, the specific place we visited was Luang Prabang, aka my dad’s hometown. Further north of the capital Vientiane, Luang Prabang is known as the religious centre of Laos, earning it a UNESCO listing in recent years. It’s not hard to see why, either. For such a small place, there are so many temples it’s impossible to keep track of them all. While one week might seem like a long stay, I for one was glad; it meant that we could go with the flow and explore at our own pace. Not to mention the whole reason for our trip in the first place was to spend time with my grandma, who I only get to see once in a blue moon.
In Laos, it’s safe to say that monks are literally everywhere. It’s not uncommon to see them strolling down the street, riding tuk tuks… heck, most of the ones I spotted even had their own smartphones! For all the adult monks I saw, there were just as many young ones too. Reasons for going down the path of monkhood vary greatly – some kids might not have family, or anywhere to go besides the temple. For others, it might be their only chance at getting some form of education. In any case, they’re all dedicated to their monk duties. Everyday when the sun goes down, you can hear the echoes of young monks chanting from their respective temples. Even though it’s impossible to decipher what they’re saying, you can’t help but be mesmerised by the beauty of it all.
How adorable is this little guy! Everyday we walked past the local primary school and each time, the students would hang over the fence to wave or say hello to us. They were even happy to pose for photos, which was just too precious for my heart to handle.
Apparently (at least according to my dad) this house used to be home to the former Prince of Laos. Not exactly sure who lives there now, but I did see an unsuspecting tourist get chased out by some very aggressive guard dogs later on!
Remnants of French colonial architecture. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to walk down the street and actually understand some of the signs here. Looks like ten years of Lao language school didn’t totally go to waste!
If my family’s anything to go by, Lao people totally believe in ghosts. And after my little trip to Laos, it’s really not hard to see why. Spirituality is a huge part of daily life here, as you’d expect from a town so embedded in religion and tradition. Not to mention the fact that there are barely any street lights, so at night everything is pitch black and just a bit spooky. This house is actually on temple grounds, but apparently used to serve as a funeral house. Lights are installed underneath it, because how else will you scare the evil spirits away?
Every night the main street is closed off to make way for the night markets, where locals sell everything from t-shirts to handcrafted bags and clothing. You can even get your hands on some snake-infused liquor, if you’re into that kinda thing! It’s pretty much the most tourist-y place you can possibly visit here, but still a fun experience nonetheless. I even made sure to revisit a few times just to get my fill of souvenir-shopping.
A strict curfew is actually applied in Luang Prabang, so you’ll find the place pretty much becomes a ghost town after 11pm. Nevertheless, it’s still totally worth wandering around for the sights. The same temple as before, Wat Xieng Mouane, looks even more magical when lit up at night. More photos to come from my Laos trip soon!