So two weeks have past since arriving on my 5th trip to Luang Prabang, I have been busy everyday helping at school, setting up computers for the new computer teaching programme and other IT administration tasks.
Laos is deeply rooted in Buddhist traditions and it does feel like time has stopped here especially in the centre where there is still a very strong colonial french feel. Last weekend I met two new volunteers and walked to the meeting of the Mekong and Khan rivers to drink iced coffee and fruit shakes. I thought we might be in for a sunny dry day for a change but the skies opened and heavy rain feel. That is not too worrying as I am often damp from the heat regardless.
Lao people are very superstitious and I have continued my education on how to scare away ghosts and bad spirits. Houses have a small ‘spirit’ house out front that hold food offerings, Pepsi and incense sometimes. Gold, chilli, garlic and safety pins are used for personal protection.
My guesthouse is basic but convenient to the school. The walk is long enough to get a sweat up, I do wonder about the point of showering. Some evenings I have been invited out for Beerlao. I have to be careful sometimes as Lao people like to mout – bottoms up. Ensuring your beer glass is fill of ice is my usual trick. Every day brings some new experience and learning. Lao food is varied and often full of fresh herbs and watercress, cabbage and lettuce with mint, chilli and dill.
At the beer bar I ate “Buffalo everything”. Lao people like all the parts we don’t eat usually, especially the intestine, bones, feet and cartilage. I had not tried the Buffalo s**t dipping sauce before. It was quite satisfactory (it comes from the intestine before it is passed to the outside). We would call it bile, locals struggle to find the English word so s**t is used, I get the idea. Some evenings the bones just seem too much effort for me so I tend to munch on the chewy Buffalo skin and fried lime leaves.
For breakfast I sometimes get a Lao sandwich which is like a Vietnamese Banh Mi, a baguette filled with chicken, grated carrots, watercress and jaew bong (a fiery sweet blend of chili, ginger, shallots, garlic and fish sauce) and just as cheap at 10,000 kip. I think I’ve been made the Falang version lately as it was not fiery enough.
Sadly the many, many local restaurants along the Mekong and Khan river had neen banished by the Government on UNESCO’s orders in order to compete for the Heritage Awards in December I’m told. It’s a shame as 300 people lost their jobs and it has made Luang Prabang centre very quiet and limited for tourists. I expect they will all start reappearing after December.