Luang Prabang

It wasn’t on my bucket list, but it deserves to be: having breakfast with muesli, yoghurt and fruit, overlooking the Mekong River in the cool morning air. Later drinking strong Lao coffee. It was a very pleasant experience indeed.

Luang Prabang is another UNESCO heritage site, but sadly, it’s being so has also resulted in a sterile, sanitised old city. Families that lived here before had rented their houses to restaurants and guesthouses and had left the city to the tourists and monks. There is none of the frantic traffic, street stalls, etcetera, that are so familiar in other parts of Asia. It is eerily silent.
Hello, waterfall.
No, I don’t want to go to a waterfall. I don’t do waterfalls anymore, I stopped doing waterfalls a long time ago. If I want to see water fall, I take a shower.

Luang Prabang is built at the confluence of the Nam Khan and the mighty Mekong river. There’s lots of history here. It’s the ancient capital of Lan Xang, the Land of a Million Elephants and the White Parasol. The founding father of the country is Fa Ngum who was born with 33 teeth and that was the wrong number (normal is 32, I googled that) and he got exiled for that. Then he became the ruler, fought many battles and ran the kingdom, much as he pleased. Sadly, at the end of his life he got exiled again…

Reading up about the history, I was somewhat surprised to learn that it was a Dutchman who was the first European to travel to Laos in 1641. In search of trade. The trade didn’t take off as the journey was too  long and arduous, but Gerrit van Wuysthoff wrote  a travelogue that was later translated into French. This was the guidebook for Laos in the next few centuries. Basically till the first Lonely Planet of that country was published.

One day after enthusiastically using the squat toilet in my hotel, I got pain in the back of my knees (both) again. After my struggles in the Algarve, in Portugal, I was anxious about this new development, but luckily the pain subsided and the next day was business as usual. I have no idea what caused the pain, but I go easy on the toilets now. We used to call squat toilets French toilets.  Funnily, the French call them toilette à la turque.

In a small supermarket I had found some of the local liquor. Its label made some wildly inaccurate claims about its supposed benefits for the health of the prospected imbiber: Alcohol is traditional medicine (..) [it is] to relieve nerve pain, back and waist pain, to have an appetite and sleep well. Suitable for the elderly and labor. That was too good to be true. I bought it.



This watercolour was done in a hurry and is unfortunately not finished. Maybe I will continue working on it later. The reason was the sun that forced me to abandon my place in the little park opposite the building where I had been able to work for some time. That is the bane of working on location in the tropics: during noon the shadows are not moving fast, giving the painter time to set up an outline and to get the colours right, but the light is not very good and it is extremely hot. Later, conditions are more favourable, the light gets better as the sun moves lower, but the shadows start running and the colours change. One has to work faster and faster. Then it gets dark…


2 thoughts on “Luang Prabang

  1. Bego

    Ha, ha, I also had 33 teeth! That was before my dentist thought they were too many and removed some of them 😉 Laotian coffee is supposed to be really good, enjoy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s