The bad thing about having expectations, is that you can easily be disappointed. On the other hand, the good thing about surprises is that you never know when they are coming your way. I went to Laos and Luang Prabang with none (or perhaps low) expectations, but guess what, a good surprise was waiting for me.
Actually so good that I can say that this is one of my favorite stops on the entire trip. It’s fair to wonder why. One of the reasons might have been that I went through Vietnam pretty fast by bus and motorbike, and was ready to stay in one place for at least 4-5 nights. Also Vietnam was pretty hectic, and Luang Prabang the straight opposite; very calm and laid-back!
Sounds idyllic, right? And it was. On the other hand I know myself pretty well and would usually get bored staying 4-5 days in a small place, but the good thing about Luang Prabang is that the nearby areas offer so much to do. Hiking, swimming in waterfall, lots of culture, elephants, architecture and to just drive around in the countryside is an experience in itself. Every day was rounded off by a majestic sunset. The heat and humidity (it was warm but not superhumid) made the sunsets incredible. Really red, orange and pink. It was very cheap as well and you could easily get a dinner for 3-4 US Dollar. Back home I never go to cafés, but it’s something I’ve done a lot on this trip, especially lately. If I like it, I probably go there again and again. Very often I end up eating at the same place 2-3 days per day for 2-3 days. First of all this creates a feeling of “home” in a way, having YOUR table and you also get to know the people working there.
Here in Luang Prabang I chose to treat myself with a little luxury. It wasn’t much, but well-spent money and time. For a day I went to a nice hotel and used their swimming pool to relax and cool down in the heat. For a price of 8 Euros I could spend the entire day there, use the gym and also got a 10 minute massage for that price. Well-spent money I would say and a perfect way to recharge a little bit between the adventures. The good thing about traveling the world when you are 30 years old and not twenty is that you can probably tolerate a higher budget and have some comfort from time to time. Trust me, I’ve never lived as a simple life as the last 7 months, but 3 times I have treated myself with a some comfort. And in the end, what’s the point of having a little so called “f*ck-you-money” if you never gonna say f%$# you?
There are lots of Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang and after spending 5 days here I’ve done some reflections and take-aways. I would say Buddhism in one way is a radical religion – not in the way of terror, but the limitations for the life of the monks. Imagine you get brought into this world and without knowing better, you are being raised as a monk – with LOTS of limitations denying you some of the joys that life offer. You can call it being raised, I say it’s being brainwashed. Let kids do what they want to! A reflection is that I NEVER saw a single monk smiling, but I saw lots of other kids and teenagers (non monks) that looked very happy and full of joy. I also think that it’s a shame that muslim girls need to cover themselves at a young age, just because of some old book. Religion, in addition to money, is often the root of all evil and I think we need less of evil – and radical religions – in this world. Let kids be kids and use common sense when raising them. If there is one thing I have got from growing up on a farm, it’s common sense and rational thinking, even though my mom probably doesn’t think so 😉