Luang Prabang

This is my second visit to this town, and it's just as cool as the first time. Sure, there's a guesthouse every five feet and European tourists stroll the narrow streets in endless couples and clatches, but this place sighs with pure charm. It's made up of old colonial french buildings as well as traditional Lao wooden houses, located at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers. Given that it is the rainy season, both are running big and muddy - the water volume is double of what it was when I came here during the dry season.

It took us two days to get here from Luang Nam Tha, riding public Laos minibuses the whole way. Yesterday we wound through endless mountains and valleys and were dropped off in the horrible town of Udomxai, which sits at a three way crossroads. Evidently a lot of Chinese trade goes through the place, which gives it a taste of mercantile prosperity, but otherwise the town is drab and featureless. We spend the evening holed up in a local restaurant, drinking the ubiquitous Beer Laos. This morning we hightailed it out of there and caught another bus to here. I had a very interesting breakfast snack at the bus station that I'll post pics of tomorrow.

Coming back to Laos reminds me of why I love this place so much. The country is truly unspoiled - it has yet to be wrecked. It's clean and beautiful and like stepping into another dimension. The place is really just a collection of villages set among lazy rivers and stunning low mountains and greenery that defies description. It's so green here that it's nearly too much for the eye to take in.

I came here during the rainy season precisely for that reason, to see this country in its lush splendor, and my expecations have been exceeded. The whole place is alive with plants and insects. The forest chirps and whistles at night, and even though it does rain almost daily, you get it the whole storm in one forty-five minute deluge, during which you take shelter, grab a coffee or tea, and nature clean itself. I love the rain showers. They cool off the afternoon sun and cause us to sit back and let the clouds do their work.