From the capital of Luang Prabang, we made our way out to a more village setting. Or as Dad puts it, a more local and less touristy setting. We ventured to Vang Lae Village.
The place Dad chose for the next 2 nights of our holiday was the Nam Ou Riverside Hotel and Resort. There is a saying that it is not the place but the people that makes the difference. I would have to concur with that saying. Not saying that the place is not beautiful, in fact, the place was fantastic - spacious rooms with high ceilings, hard wood floors (hence the good quality, comfy room slippers), spacious bathrooms, colourful gardens, rows of flowering mango trees, infinity swimming pool and serene surroundings.
Due to the availability of rooms, I had the privilege to experience one night each in a room in both the river view villa and the garden wing and each had their uniqueness.
Rooms in the Garden Wing are nearer to the Reception Desk, and therefore would have stronger wifi reception and are more brightly lit at night. The block with these rooms are also newer. The River View Villas are exactly what they are - rooms with a view of the Nam Ou River. Wifi connection is weaker and walking back at night after dinner is a little dark. All rooms do not come with a TV. But who needs TV when you have Mother Nature and yourself to reconnect to?
The menu, although limited, left an impression. The simple Laotian home-style cooking was a delight to the tastebuds (but then again, we are Malaysians so perhaps we find it a tad easier than Westerners to enjoy certain tastes). We made a booking to go on a river cruise to the Whisky Village across the river and Pak Ou Caves further down the river.
It seemed that every village had their own temple or shrine.
As we were led towards an unassuming hut, there was a waft of arak smell. Ah, we were definitely in the Whisky Village.
Just further up the road from the lady selling whisky was a primary school. We asked if we could enter for a visit and there was warm welcome.
It seemed like it was recess time, as the children were out playing. I approached what seemed like a court to watch what the group of boys were playing and noticed that it looked like lawn bowls.
The school building was simple and had the bare minimum. They had what we would call Compound Classes, where age groups were mixed. They did not have enough resources and I suspected, not enough students to have one full class.
We made a donation to the school and you could tell from their expressions and body language that they were very thankful. We were told that the money will go towards building a proper fence for the school to prevent cows from crashing in and eating the grass and their vegetables.
Simple but so happy, the children here. Made me think that children back home (both KL and Sydney) have no idea how incredibly blessed they are.
From the Whisky Village, we made our way to Pak Ou Caves. The view during the cruise (in a simple sampan) was breathtaking.
The sacred cave was noticeable from far, as sampans were lined up on the water.
It was a steep climb up into the cave, where hundreds of statues of Buddha in various forms and sizes stood.
The Buddha statues were overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, as if watching over the safety of the boats traveling and living off the rivers.
From the Lower Cave, we made a long and tiring climb up to the Upper Cave. Every so often, we had to stop and catch our breaths.
It was extremely dark in the Upper Cave and felt a little scary, which deterred us from entering. I also noticed some drawings on the wall and wondered if they were original ancient stone markings or modern day graffiti.
We crossed the river to have lunch. To have very local Laotian lunch.
When we returned to the hotel, Mum and Dad had a siesta on the porch overlooking the river. After they woke up, I suggested to go explore the river.
Dad also booked an elephant feeding session. Although most of the elephants have been relocated to a newer sanctuary nearer to Kuang Si Waterfall, there was a pair of mother-daughter elephants left. The baby elephant was adorable and very cheeky while the mother elephant was gentle. We do not agree to the idea of elephant riding, and so only fed the pair.
I really enjoyed feeding the elephants but sincerely hope that they would stop allowing elephant rides. I don't know, to me, it seems a form of animal abuse to ride on the elephant.
I enjoyed every part of my stay here but the part I enjoyed the most was the hospitality provided by the staff, especially Sai, the person-in-charge when we were there, and the all-rounder bellboy/boatman/tour guide/mahout/handyman/security guard, Boon Koung.