Luang Prabang, holiday city

Jumping to the turquoise waters of Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Some years ago there was a TV advertisement in Spain that says “Marina d’Or, holiday city” to promote a holiday resort at the Spanish east coast. And that’s Luang Prabang, a holiday city for families and retired people. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad families and retirees have a place for holidays but honestly, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is pathetic. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world, however Luang Prabang (the center) looks like any other western summer city. An island of opulence which badly contrast with the local poverty. Only some few Laotians benefit from that, the rest still scrape by in the outskirts while westerns multiply business focused on westerns maintaining a community not integrated at all with the social and cultural reality of the country.

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Vang Vieng, learning the way

Landscape in Vang Vieng: karst topography

Vang Vieng, a small town on the way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang which has radically changed since 10 years ago when it was a peaceful place of idyllic landscapes and become later a town of drugs and alcohol with no control at all. That finished when 2 years ago the police closed dozens of bars. Now the landscapes are the same, but monetized to the point of exaggeration, and the young and festive atmosphere of backpackers is more moderated but intense though (similar to Pai in Thailand). By the way, in Laos there is curfew at 23:30 for all the business (although some of them bribe the police to avoid it).

That is the atmosphere where I’d change the way that I think about my trip.

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Pai, backpacker’s town

Pai

I reached Pai from Chiang Rai hitchhiking with Elena (a Russian girl I met in Chiang Mai‘s hostel) through the jungled landscapes of Northern Thailand, its rice fields and its smiling people curious about us.

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Chiang Mai

Don't ride elephants

Beyond the tourist activity of Southern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the northern city everybody tells you to visit. However it has not so much: temples and markets, mainly the same that can be found in any other Thai town but with night life due to the tourism and quite more quiet and not so chaotic like Bangkok.

This city is a good place to be relaxed. In fact, I had there my first Thai massage which was in a local where the masseuses were ex-prisoner women. In Chiang Mai the prisoner women are taught how to give massages to have a job after the prison. My massage was awesome smile

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Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet

Wat Phra Kaeo in Kamphaeng Phet

And hitchhiking I reached Sukhothai, former capital of the kingdom with the same name which existed between XIII and XV centuries before being absorbed by Ayutthaya Kingdom. In this town is found the Historical Park of Sukhothai, a place where are sited the ruins of that kingdom (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like Ayutthaya one). It’s divided in several zones which cost 100 bahts each one (around 2,5€) for farangs (you’ll see that in Thailand everything has officially a local price, normally free, and a farang price, around 5-10 times more expensive). It’s possible to rent a bike by 30 bahts in the places surrounding (+10 bahts to get the bike into the place). 1 or 2 hours is more than enough to go around the central zone with the bike. Rest of zones are similar and I think they’re not worthy (although I didn’t get into).

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Lopburi, Monkey City

Monkeys Fest in Lopburi

After Bangkok I thought about visiting Ayutthaya city (former capital of the kingdom with the same name which existed between XIV and XVIII centuries, precursor of Thailand). Jai, a nice Thai guy I met wandering around Bangkok‘s temples, was born there and I was going to visit him. But then I found out the last Sunday of November every year from 1989 Lopburi celebrates the Monkey Banquet: a feast in which city monkeys are fed with tons of fruit. Continue reading