Drive Around The World (Australia)

One family, one car, one year, one planet

Luang Prabang, Laos – by Maddy

Luang Prabang, Laos – by Maddy

Soundtrack:

Revolution – The Beatles

Keep Yourself Alive – Queen

Beautiful Life – Something For Kate

It’s The Life – Grant Lee Buffalo

Life During Wartime – Talking Heads

There’s More To Life Than This – Björk

Time Bomb – Nick Barker

Wrong Side Of The Road – Tom Waits

Laos is great. Not only the country itself, but the people, the food and the atmosphere. My favourite town, Luang Prabang, is on the mighty Mekong River, and is probably one of the most relaxed and slow-moving places we’ve been on this trip. Driving in was easy, but like almost every Asian country (well, south east Asian country, at least) the dodgy Chinese scooters and motorbikes and cheap, crappy trucks were a bit annoying.

I’ve worked out that every country in Asia we’ve travelled through has its own style of tuk-tuks (which are basically the front of a motor bike welded onto a small trailer, in which passengers sit). In Bangkok for example, the tuk-tuks sound a bit like the sound you make when you roll your tongue in the back of your throat. The tuk-tuks in Laos are literally how I explained the tuk-tuks: the front of a motorbike welded onto a small trailer, in which passengers sit. The motorbikes that they use for the tuk-tuks look a bit like a Royal Enfields – well sort of.

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A Luang Prabang Tuk-Tuk

Back to Luang Prabang. We stayed at two hotels, ‘sister hotels’ as mum likes to call it. The first hotel had a nice, big room but it wasn’t the hotel we were after. Earlier that day, mum had called their other hotel, booking a nice family room for that night. They asked her what time we’d be there, at the hotel and she said “maybe 2 o’clock”. We got there a about 4 o’clock, just to be told that they had given our room away to some other family. Great. So then we went to their sister hotel and got the nice, big room. The next morning we had to pack up and move to the second hotel-the right one.

Some of the main foods and drinks in Laos include sticky rice (naturally glutinous rice, very filling), salty grilled fish (usually round and flat), green papaya salad (in most of south east Asia), Beerlao (literally everywhere in Laos), Ovaltine (made with an inch or so of sweetened condensed milk), Lao coffee, and the usual soft drinks (which are just about everywhere in the world).

Tamarind: A Taste of Laos is a restaurant run by the daughter of one of mum’s colleagues at work. Caroline Gaylard is a waiter as well as the owner in her small, but busy restaurant, in Luang Prabang. The restaurant basically explains to tourists all about Lao food. You order a plate or two, they cook it, it comes, and then she tells you how to eat it. We went to the restaurant three times, I think, and each time was delicious. Every Friday night they do a dinner of steamed fish in banana leaves, sticky rice and a platter or two of dried (Mekong) river moss with four kinds of pastes and dips. The day before or any time before that Friday night, you have to book how ever many people and pay a deposit to get your seats. Basically all you do is enjoy the different flavours of Lao food, chat with other travellers, and have fun. Unfortunately, that evening mum had a stomach bug, and so she couldn’t come. That same night, I caught it too, and I threw up five times during the night, and so did Raffy. So for the couple of days after that, I had to stay home, along with Raffy, my younger brother who had also had caught it. Anyway, we met some lovely people at the dinner, and Raf and I even got to serve up the dessert! Many thanks to Caroline for a very pleasant evening and once again for the Vegemite!

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Who wants dessert?

Dad and I also did a cooking class, run by Caroline’s partner, Joy, who was very good at his job. First stop was a market, with fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, pre-made curries and fish stews. Joy told us about different herbs, vegetables and meats the two kinds of buffalo skin, one type for cooking, and the other type for just snacking on. The cooking class itself took place at a very peaceful spot about a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride from Luang Prabang. It had a large pond, and literally everywhere you looked there was green. I could have easily done about three more cooking classes, it was so nice.

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Me, chopping up some veggies at the cooking class  

For the two days before we caught the stomach bug, we ate scrumptious food, met very charming travellers, and played at the edge of the Mekong. I had once fallen into a canal in Venice, Italy, but I had no idea that I would fall in, fully clothed, in the Mekong River, in Laos. But I did. I was climbing on a rock to look at a fish in the water or something, and I must of slipped on some mud and I went in head first. Lucky it wasn’t too shallow! Mum told me after I had been taken across the road to the hotel – with mud dripping off my face and clothes – that she tried so hard not to laugh, as I came out of the water, speechless. Anyway, after we went back to the hotel, I was fine.

The day we left Luang Prabang, I was quite sad to be leaving such a delightful town. It is a town with excellent food, wonderful views of the Mekong, fascinating history, and lovely people. You wouldn’t necessarily call it a town, but you wouldn’t call it a city either. It was more in the middle of the two. Like Brugge, in Belgium, I have to come back to the place. The night market has every kind of Luang Prabang T-shirt available, but I don’t think they have made a top saying “I LOVE LUANG PRABANG”, which I would immediately buy.

Thanks for reading my post! I will possibly write another one when we get close to home.   

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4 Comments»

  Nene wrote @

Hi Maddy,

We loved reading about your adventures in Laos, especially the food and cooking class. Will you practise on us when you get home?

Love, Néné & Louis

  Wally & Eleanor wrote @

Hi Maddy I love your blog. Are you going to be a chef wheh you finish school. Whats with all the stomach bugs every one is getting .You say that the food is wonderful and then you throw up. how are mum and dad are they keeping well. Could you please let me know when you get to Darwin I would love to speak to you all again on skype.Love you all Wally.& Eleanor.

  Hilary wrote @

terrific report maddy; love your style. from this report it looks like you’d be tossing up between a career as a chef or a journalist. good thing that tummy bug was short-lived. we had an earth tremor here in friday night and it felt like the floor had a tummy rumble. i thought: “from beneath you it devours” – and no buffy to rescue us here!
home stretch time now?
hilary

  MaddyRox wrote @

Hey dudes, I love my post! I’d completely forgotten about the cooking class. Any chance we can go back and do another one? Hint hint…


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