Luang Prabang, Laos
Muesli and multigrain bread for breakfast. This town really does have everything. On the downside we had to change hotel rooms, (ours was pre-booked) and the room we moved into was definitely a step down. The main problem was the shower: it was hip height. We had to kneel to get underneath it.
We were feeling energetic today so we hired mountain bikes and set off to find the Pak Ou Caves. There was no map for anywhere outside the main town, just a general "go that way" and hope for the best. The travel agent said it was 25 km, flat road, sealed all the way except for the last few kilometres. Well, not quite. It was 25 km via the river but over 30 km via the road. There were short, steep hills everywhere and the last 11 km was as rocky as it gets. At the end of the road was a small town where we were charged an entrance fee, then we had to pay again to be transported via boat across the river to reach the caves. None of this was explained to us by the travel agent. In the end it would have been cheaper to travel by boat the whole way.
When we finally made it across the river we powered up 250 steps to the top of the cave (as if we hadn't had enough exercise yet). The inside was full of hundreds of Buddha statues of various sizes. That was pretty much it. No stunning rock formations that I was used to seeing. Overall we weren't that impressed - it definitely wasn't worth all the trouble.
We returned to the water to go back across the river but our boat driver had disappeared. We jumped on someone else's boat, and of course the driver tried to make us pay again - not a chance. After another 1 hour and 45 minute ride in the heat across the bumpy landscape we arrived back in town. It was the most exercise we had performed in weeks.
Towards the end of the day we were walking along the river and spotted a dazzling sunset. There were only a couple of other people there, plus a few locals bringing food up from the boats below. We stayed there for about half an hour watching the sun go down, surprised that there weren't more people around. Who needs to pay for the sunset cruise when you get views like this for free?
For dinner we tried Laos food, some of which was tasty, some not so much. For dessert we bought pancakes again, with lemon and sugar on top (an old school favourite) and a bottle of red wine. We also returned to our favourite bakery, this time for ginger cake. It wasn't ginger cake as we know it (with ground spices) but instead it was a plain cake with strands of fresh ginger. I think I prefer the version I grew up with. Lucky we did all that exercise today to justify the feast we devoured.