Southeast Asia with Peter – Page 02

Southeast Asia with Peter – Day 4

We started  Day 4 at the Pantip Suites Hotel,  still sore from last night’s beating.

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IMG_4110After a nice  breakfast we said “good bye” to the Generalissimo at the door and headed to the airport.  That’s Will Andrews from CA.  He was single and chummed around with us  lot. He was a good natured guy! He taught me how to use “Facetime” on the iPhone and how to use the “Siri” voice recognition feature, also on the iPhone.  I conversed with my wife and daughter several times during the trip using Facetime.   It was real handy: Talking and seeing in real time!!  

IMG_4117IMG_4121We flew from Bangkok to Luang Prabang, Laos on a small Cambodian Airlines “prop job” It was a nice smooth flight with views of the countryside.  It was a short 1 and 3/4 hour flight to a modern airport and terminal.

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After clearing Imigrations we were bussed to the “Grand” hotel and resort. It is situated on the grounds of the Xiengkeo Palace which belonged to the famous nationalist hero of Luang Prabang, Prince Phetsarath.  He chose this site for its tranquility, its stunning views of the mighty Mekong River, and the breathtaking landscape of mountains surrounding Luang Prabang

My room was clean and tidy and the view of the lily pond and the lawns from my private veranda and our breakfast veranda on the riverwere outstanding. It was a serene place, indeed.

IMG_4120Another of Ole’s sketches. Luang Prabang is at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Kahn rivers. It was the center of the Lao Kingdom from the 14th  to 16th century when the capital was moved to Vientiane and it became one of the 3 Lao Kingdoms (Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champasak).

Luang Prabang is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This designation requires the town to restrict development and preserve historical sites.  By doing this, the town has enjoyed the “prosperity” of numerous foreign visitors and their currencies.IMG_4129This is Dao, our Laotian country guide. He was quite knowledgeable in Laotian history and culture.  He also told us lots of stories about his family life. IMG_4135Here’s Pete and I blocking the view of the Wat Xieng Thong temple. It is the subject of Ole’s sketch (above).  The temple was built in 1560. It has low sweeping roofs and is decorated with glass tile mosaics. The little white building on the left is a place where worshipers can leave offerings.  The little pointy buildings in the far right are “Stupas” which are funeral memorials.

IMG_4136In a separate building is this 40 foot long funeral chariot last used in 1959 for the funeral of King Sisavangvong (say that 3 times fast?).  It is decorated with guilded “Nagas”.

The Buddhist Naga generally has the form of a large cobra-like snake, usually with a single head but sometimes with as many as nine. At least some of the Nagas are capable of using magic powers to transform themselves into a human semblance.

Nagas are believed to live in the Laotian stretch of the Mekong river or estuaries. Lao mythology maintains that the Nagas are the protectors of Vientiane and by extension, the Lao state. The Naga is incorporated extensively into Lao iconography, and features prominently in Lao culture throughout the length of the country, not only in Vientiane.

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This is the interior of the Wat Xieng Thong temple. The Buddha is sitting there surrounded by golden offerings.  I don’t know what stops people from swiping a souvenir. Apparently, that’s not done in temples here.  On the right is Janet Swartz from Iowa.  A better picture is ahead.  She had a good sense of humor and answered to “Dammit Janet” occasionally.

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IMG_4141These two pictures go together.  The top one is a special Buddha that is washed with an overhead shower fed from the gold pipe above it.  The bottom picture shows the elephant head drain pipe on the outside of the temple.  The faithful would collect the wash water and use it as “holy water” 

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Here’s Dao explaining the colorful stories depicted in beautiful tiny glass mosaics on the back wall of the temple.

The top picture tells the story of a poor peasant who falls in love with a princess.  His love is doomed until he performed some special feat and became acceptable.  The bottom picture shows a hunter who trapped a deer.  The trap was cut by a turtle and the deer ran off.  The hunter was lured away from the turtle by birds who later flew off. The hunter was foiled and the animals lived happily ever after (or until they got caught again).

IMG_4150 IMG_4148I enjoyed photographing  the different means of transportation on the trip.

IMG_4146 IMG_4156 I also enjoyed photographing critters.

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After visiting the temple, we all walked along the Nam Kahn river looking at the street sights: A Laotian Tuk Tuk, a cycle rickshaw, a “lion” dog, a couple of chickens, a bamboo bridge over the river, a typical street scene, and finally a communist flag.  This was a reminder that Laos PDR  (Peoples Democratic Repubic) is controlled by the Communists (but you never feel their presence). Some folks say that Laos PDR means “Laotion People Don’t Rush”.

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IMG_4165We were “downtown” in time to see the night market being set up.  Every night people come from the surrounding area to sell stuff: Fabrics, foods, trinkets, handicrafts, clothing, etc.  After a day working on the farms and households, they continue their labors at the night markets (all over SE Asia) in hopes of earning a few extra “dollars”. There’s always a big crowd, but I saw very little being sold. I guess it’s a social occasion for many.

IMG_4164Peter did buy this small bottle of rice whiskey.  As you can see it contains a small pickled cobra.  He thought his son Ryan and his buddies might enjoy daring each other to drink some.  I guess some people do buy things at the night market. IMG_4172 IMG_4176 IMG_4174We returned to the hotel, got cleaned up, put on a warm jacket and headed back to town for dinner at the Pakhouymeexai restaurant and then back to the hotel and bed.  So ended  Day 4.

The folks in these photos are: Top: Will Andrews and Ole.  Middle: Debbie Hudson from Oregon. And, bottom: Gloria Jesaitis from NY and Carol Green from Hawaii.  Gloria just got through exclaming “Oh, My God!”.

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