I’d been languishing for ten days in Luang Prabang while waiting for Ally’s arrival.
During that time, I’d drunk a lot of beer. But each night as I’d sat by the river, my curiosity was piqued by the smoke rising from the opposite shore. When Ally finally arrived, it was time to discover exactly what was on the Mekong’s other side.
Luang Prabang’s surrounding villages
We crossed the Mekong by local ferry, the ramshackle barge barely staying above the waterline. Relieved to reach the other side, the trucks drove off the ferry and struggled up the riverbank, their wheels spinning furiously in the mud. We’d left Luang Prabang only minutes ago, but it already felt like a distant memory.
Ally and I followed the trucks into the small village of Xiengman. A husband gutted fish while his wife barbecued them over a wood fire. Mangoes were stacked into piles while men gathered around a deceased motorbike. The village was poor, but everyone was smiling and happy. It was a far cry from the miserable looking Laotians working in boutique hotels across the river.
A minute of walking put the village far behind us. The river was to our right, but we couldn’t see it through the thick trees. The sound of men working came banging through the jungle. It was surprising to find that the noise came from some novice monks mixing cement.
We continued upriver, pressing on despite the heat. More temples revealed themselves, hidden away from the prying eyes of tourists with their DSLRs. The jungle was a welcome respite from Luang Prabang, and I regretted not coming here sooner.
It was charming to see traditional temple life thriving in Laos. I spied a group of monks huddled on the riverbank, their position revealed by their bright saffron robes. Another monk bathed in the river, or perhaps he was just seeking relief from the heat.
Eventually the jungle thinned, and we had only the red earth and blue sky for company. It was almost time to turn around, but then a golden Buddha appeared from the trees. It stood with its back to the river, as if purposely ignoring the spectacular view. I wondered why it was here, a place that very few people visit.
As I contemplated this, I reached for my drink bottle and took a swig, only to find that it was empty. The sun raged furiously overhead, and I thought about the long walk back to the ferry without water. The Buddha stared at me, completely unmoved. For the first time in ten days, I had a strong urge to be in Luang Prabang.
Have you explored Luang Prabang’s surrounding villages? Leave your thoughts in the comments below