Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dusk in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a bijou city of golden temples, terracotta rooves, chic cafes and winsome French colonial architecture. Dusk is a good time to wander as the pink sun sinks slowly into the Mekong River. At Wat Xieng Thong, the most exquisitely decorated of the city’s temples, monks chant while seated on the floor as the last of the visitors eye the vibrant mosaics. Children use the low-slung iron fence around a relic chamber as a goal post in an impromptu game of footie, meanwhile, up the road, a wat courtyard has been converted into a badminton court and the shuttlecock flies back and forth in front of the gilded eaves of the wat; it’s a mesmerising sight. As the light fades, the back streets are lit by the latest manmade craze. Fancy, bendy, chrome-and-colour skateboards sport wheels that illuminate on the move and all over town pre-teen boys show off their balancing act while trying to avoid tourists, dogs and motorbikes. Looking down on them are visitors who have crowded onto their guesthouse balconies or inched slowly into a chair for a Beer Lao at the many riverside cafes.
In the back streets, old Lao women sit under door frames peeling vegetables for dinner. In other homes, small cauldrons are already burning outside homes as young mothers scoop up playing toddlers. At the tip of the peninsula, the silence is broken as tuk-tuk drivers screech around the bend at a three-wheel angle ruffling the bougainvillea as they conquer their racetrack urges.

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