Monday, 17 January 2011

Wat tastic

Monday 17th January 2011

MP3 track of the day: Illuminati -Fat Boy Slim

Weather: With no clouds in the sky the sun has been beating down all day making it very hot, much hotter than any other day here.

Due to going to sleep at 9pm the previous night I was up around 7am this morning and, after updating my blog etc, I was out for 10am. I haven't really seen any of the town so far and so, without anymore distractions, I set to checking out all the temples ('Wat's') located within Louang Phabang. I grabbed 'breakfast to go', which consisted of two cakes (A lemon cake and a pineapple cake … the lemon is my favorite) and a bottle of water. I decided to head to the most impressive temple -according to my guidebook – first which was called 'Wat Xiang Thong'. This temple was at the opposite end of town to my accommodation and so it took me quite a while to reach it. On my way I stopped at 'Wat That' again to find a window that, according to my guidebook, is “...perhaps the most photographed window within Louang Phabang...”. I still couldn't find it.

'Wat Xiang Thong' is a world heritage site and being so meant that the Lao people could make money out of it. 20,000 kip (£1.70) later I was past the ticket office and into the complex. My guidebook stated that “...unlike nearly every other temple in Louang Phabang, it was neither razed by Chinese marauders nor over-enthusiastically restored...”. It certainly looked old, and was quite pretty, however I much preferred another temple within town. I didn't spend long there as I had another seventeen - yes seventeen - temples to visit. I won't bore you with the details of each temple however below is a list – in order of viewing – of the temples that I have seen today:

  • Wat Xiang Thong

  • Wat Khili

  • Wat Sop

  • Wat Saen

  • Wat Pa Khe

  • Wat Mai

  • Wat Choum Khong

  • Wat Xiang Mouan

  • Wat Nong

  • Wat Pa Phai

  • Wat Aphal

  • Wat Aham

  • Wat Viscoun

  • Wat Manolom

  • Wat That Louang

  • Wat Pa Houak

  • Wat That Chomsi

  • Wat Pha Phoutthabat

Apart from 'Wat Viscoun' all the other temple sites followed the same architectural pattern of one main building with a tower erected close by. I didn't go inside any of the temples – apart from 'Wat Xiang Thong' – as I couldn't face taking my shoes off seventeen times in one day. It didn't take me long to see the outside of each temple; in fact as I got down the list the temples got quicker and quicker to see. Three from the end of the list and I was pretty templed out.

It was now 1pm and before visiting the last three temples I went in search of an ATM. I had changed £40.00 worth of Baht into Kip and besides paying for accommodation that money has lasted me five days … which is pretty impressive (and I still had £15.00 worth of kip left). However the good times can't last forever and tonight I want to visit the night market to get my Laos souvenirs, plus a few lanterns, before posting a parcel off tomorrow so additional money would be required.

The first three ATM's didn't accept my 'Plus' card. I was starting to get a little worried that I would have to withdraw money off my credit card until I eventually found an ATM that accepted my card. I withdrew one million kip (£80.00) which, annoyingly, was the maximum that I could take out in one withdrawal. Fortunately the ATM didn't charge me for it's usage. I made it back to my hostel to separate said money into different places on my person and my bag; the cleaners where within my dorm at the time and so I had to be discreet. Once done I headed back towards town. It was only 3pm and I had done everything that I had planned for the day; I therefore decided to move onto tomorrows activities which included climbing 'Phou Si'.

'Phou Si' is a small hill located within Louang Phabang; it's Louang's spiritual, and geographical, center and costs 20,000 kip (£1.70) to climb up. Now being a hot day climbing a hill might not be seen to be the wisest move, however the staircase up was pretty shaded. Once on top of the hill the temples where okay, however the view was more impressive. I could see all of Louang Phabang, the Mekong River and, on the opposite side to the river, I could see the mountains of Laos. The view was pretty impressive. On my way down I followed the signs to see the 'Buddha's footprint' located at the northern end of the hill. It took a good fifteen minutes to get there and it was about as enlightening as being hit continuously by a house brick.

At 4pm I made it down the hill and headed back to my hostel to chill before the night market opened. At around 7pm I was in the heart of the market looking for fabric souvenirs and four lanterns. The fabric souvenirs – which I thought would be the hardest to purchase as I wasn't sure what I wanted exactly – didn't take me long to purchase and soon I ended up with a piece of cloth, used as a table center piece, and a lovely pair of babies shoes (hand made … I think). It cost me 35,000 kip for the cloth and another 13,000 kip for the shoes so, in total, I spent around £4. Next I went to the spot were the lantern stall was yesterday only to find that it wasn't there tonight. I double checked to see if I had missed it but no, it wasn't there. I looked around the rest of the market, to see if he had moved to a better location, only to find another stall selling the same product. After a bit of bartering I ended up with two large, but nicely wrapped, parcels containing four lanterns (two white and two red … not sure if red was the best choice) for 150,000 kip (£12.00 … £3.00 each) which I didn't think was too bad. Looking at my £16.00 worth of purchases I worried about how much the postage was going to cost (considering I also had a Thai cook book, a photo book, a Buddha and a Santa hat to post home) however that was for another day and so I headed to the food stalls to get something cheap for tea. I sat down and eat the same soup as yesterday; whilst eating I chatted to three Aussie guys who seemed very nice indeed. Tomorrow they are coming to check into Spicy which will b good as my other Aussie friends checked out today. Once I had finished eating I headed back to my hostel.

The only thing left in Louang Phabang, that I want to see, is across the 'Nam Khan River'.; There's a bamboo bridge (which costs 5,000 kip to cross) that leads to a local village … which sounds pretty good. This shouldn't take me all day and so after this I need to decided whether to head to Phonsavan on Wednesday or stay another day here and travel to Phonsavan on Thursday instead. I will have to look around town and try to get the best deal on transport and then go onto the internet to see if I can find some accommodation in Phonsavan, which is going to be pretty time consuming. I wish things where as easy here as they where in other countries that I have visited.

Toodle Pip!

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