Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang is amazing! It's had enough of a European influence that I can find dairy and cereal and bakeries and all the things I've been missing. It does mean things are a bit pricier though, but I'm willing to pay more for these luxuries. It is a fairly small town yet there are over 30 temples. We can't walk down the street without seeing at least five. Everything is slow paced, people don't use their horns, we don't feel like we are going to be run over and everyone is friendly. All the tourists are hippies or wannabe hippies, but the relaxed feel they bring to the place is a welcome change.
We spent most of today wandering the streets. Luang Prabang consists of one main street lined with restaurants, travel agents and massage parlours, plus two quieter streets which follow the rivers on either side of town. It didn't take long to see the area but it was so beautiful and peaceful that we lapped it a few times. The humidity is a lovely, bearable 30%. On our travels we decided that there must only be five professions in LP: stallholder in the market, hospitality worker (who also performed the massages), tuk-tuk driver, travel agent and monk. That's it.
As there were massage signs everywhere we were subliminally forced into having one. We opted for a one hour foot/leg massage, which included a quick shoulder massage at the end. It was fantastic and only cost $6. I may end up on a first-name basis with my masseuse over the next few days.
I am in food heaven. There is a bakery which has a cake stall out the front with a huge range of individual (but massive) cakes. I'm on track to sample every variety before we leave. Today we opted for a pumpkin cake (which tasted like plain sponge, but I think it had a few strands of grated pumpkin on top to justify the name), a coconut cake and a peanut butter slice. They were sooo good. I also ordered a peanut butter crepe from a street vendor. I've been missing peanut butter. Definitely a fat day today.
In the evening we hit the Hmong night market, which took over the main street for hundreds of metres. There was not a fake brand or pushy salesman in sight. We stocked up on crap we didn't need, including massive, cushioned elephant slippers for Danny that felt like walking on clouds. We bought dinner here too - Danny found barbecued meat in a baguette, I chose make-your-own noodles, which was popular with the locals and only $1 a plate. There was some crazy food for sale, including half a pig's head, intestines, organs of all shapes and size, plus miscellaneous items we didn't recognise. We stayed well clear of that section. Instead we bought freshly made Laos poffertjes, which we think were made with rice but were still fantastic. We also found brown bread (for the second time in Asia) but it was full of sugar and barely edible.
The main drawback is the mosquitoes. They are everywhere. We need to sleep under a mosquito net just to get away from them. Every two hours we're putting on more repellent because we can feel them crawling all over our skin. But the food here really makes up for it.