I really did love Luang Prabang, but after spending an entire week there... I was broke and more than a little bit bored.
The boutique had worn on me...
If I were to live in Southeast Asia for the rest of my life, I swear I would never get used to the excessive sounds of dogs barking or people horking up phlegm. It’s awful. Aren't mucus and phlegm meant to act as a cleansing system to defend us from toxins? Maybe we should work on keeping that stuff in... and down.
I find it difficult to imagine that everyone here suffers from chronic cough or pollutant exposure.
Seriously... WHAT is going on with this?
Are they smoking too much?
Not getting enough water?
It's culturally accepted as well... and never done in the privacy of one’s own home or bathroom. Phlegm is hacked up in the streets, at the temples, in the hotels… and in the restaurants. Luang Prabang was no exception to the rule. Boutique or not, you were almost guaranteed to be woken up to the coarse sounds of someone excessively clearing their throat.
Anyway... onwards & upwards...
I spent Christmas here in Luang Prabang... and this boutique village was exactly the holiday spot that fairytales are made of. It was nice that I'd made a few friends from the Mekong River boat trip, as well as the Elephant Sanctuary, so I had people surrounding me for some of the festivities of the season.
A crew of us spent Christms eve dinner at a posh restaurant called 3 Nagas. Beside the fact that I don't think any of the staff knew what they were doing at all, it was wonderful. Honestly... it was a bit comical at times...
Do you have the wine?
Are you bringing me the wine?
No... we no have.
You don't have the wine?
Yes... we have, but only bottle.
Ok... I'll buy the bottle.
I can't buy the bottle?
We no have.
Is this the food I ordered?
Yes. This you food.
I ordered pork. This looks like chicken. Is this pork?
Yes. Pork for you. Is pork.
No eat! That not you food. That chicken.
Ok. I ordered pork.
Yes. Is pork for you.
It's not chicken?
That not for you. That chicken.
This is chicken?
No. Is pork.
It looks like chicken.
The meal was taken away and replaced in front of me on at least four separate occasions, each time with another forkful of pork/chicken removed from it. Of course, it didn't end up being my meal at all, but by the time that conclusion had been reached, I'd already eaten a quarter of it and was tired of the game. I usually pride myself on knowing the difference between pork and chicken- if not by appearance, then definitely by taste... but this was like a Who's on First skit.
Kevin brought something to my attention, which I hadn't really thought about. Most of these staff have probably never been in a restaurant setting like this. It true. To us, going to eat in restaurants is an all-the-time thing... but to them, not so much at all. Especially expecting superior customer service, consistency and exceptional food. When you alter your thinking to consider that viewpoint, everything makes a little more sense. I've often found myself wondering why no one will ever come to clear the table or do a quality check or ask me if I need another drink... or why they look confused when I ask for a knife... or some pepper. They take the order and apart from dropping the meal onto your table, their job is pretty much finished... until they have to collect payment. There is zero table maintenance unless you actually wave down a staff member or leave the building.
First world problems. I know...
Originally, I had been worried that a Christmas set menu might be slightly out of my price range, but when I arrived, I was delighted to find I could order items off the regular menu, so I was able to keep my spending in control. I definitely earned my lesson with overspending on Christmas Day in Zanzibar and I wasn't prepared to make the same mistake twice.
In total, there were 7 of us at the restaurant. There was Kevin & Terry... as well as Sue & Tony, who I had met in Pak Beng, and another couple from Australia ~ I can't remember their names!
Shame on me...
Prior to the meal, we decided to throw a Secret Santa gift exchange into the mix, with a maximum spending amount of 100,000kip. I was the lucky recipient of a bottle of flavoured Laos-Laos whisky... but I think most people know I'm not such a huge fan of that particular type of alcohol. I did give it my best shot... really I did! A couple times I attempted to swig it back like a pro... but I eventually replaced the lid and ended up gifting it to my hotel owners as a very Merry Christmas to them. They loved it!
Everything was lavishly decorated and at one point during our meal, a jolly crew of Santa's elves entered the restaurant singing 'Jingle Bells.' I suspect they didn't quite know all the words to the song, as it was merely a repetition of the first two lines. Over & over & over again, they sang the first part of the festive verse until they all threw their hands in the air and had their finalé with a loud, "Hey!"
They then made their way around the room, handing out little gifts from the big Santa sack they were carrying. I got a Christmas snowman pen. I think.
On Christmas day, a crew of us decided to visit the Kuang Si Waterfalls. Martin & Anna, Maia & Dawson, Kevin & Wendy... and me!
What better way to celebrate the season than to visit Lao's most scenic cascading waterfalls?
These picturesque waterfalls were located about 45 minutes outside of Luang Prabang and at 9am, we all piled into a van and made our way there.
Kuang Si is like a long, tangled ribbon of cascades. The path leads alongside the falls, as you make your way up each tier, past deep lagoons and brilliant blue paddling pools. I must have taken at least 200 photos. They say it might be one of the most beautiful tiers of waterfalls in the world and I would tend to agree.
I had worn my bathing suit, ever hopeful I might dive in, but I wasn't brave enough. I did have my jacket on almost the entire time. It was chilly!
Apparently the pools were warm and refreshing, but the few people that did venture in became such bait for background selfies, I really wasn't in the mood for my blubbery bootie to be captured by the masses. And the masses were there, though not as many as I've heard there normally are. Guess we avoided the rush by going on Christmas Day.
So that was Christmas...
On Christmas evening, I wandered through the night market again, which was as busy as it normally is. I made my way into the food court and had a Christmas feast of pan-fried cheese & onion roti pancake. Despite my request to refrain from doing so, the man put cilantro in it...
Christmas dinner... ruined.
... don't feel too sad for me though, as I made up for the blunder by treating myself to a chocolate milkshake.