It was six in the morning and I sat on the balcony of our simple guesthouse, relishing the slight chill in the air and smooth teak floors under my bare feet. I was watching and listening as the day came to life. I wanted to soak it all in.
A door creaked and the young wife across the street emerged, gingerly carrying something. She placed a protective votive of marigolds wrapped in banana leaves on the windshield of her husband’s white truck; said a prayer and patted the hood to keep him safe for the day.
Mornings in Luang Prabang engaged all my senses. Neighborhood roosters announced the day while drowsy women swept sidewalks with their fluffy brooms. Yawning shopkeepers opened their doors, and the toddler across the street sucked on her juice cup and giggled as her teenage sister started her scooter to head off to school.
The sun had just popped over the misty mountains, framed by roof tops and palm trees. Grandmothers stoked breakfast cooking fires, and even the smoke smelled delicious. It reminded me of a camping morning. I felt like Pavlov’s dog anticipating treats to come.
Sleepy backpackers rolled in from an early-morning bus arrival, toting their cumbersome loads, Kelty and North Face strapped both front and back. I wondered, What in the world are they carrying in those massive backpacks? They were looking for a place to stay and I overheard part of their rate negotiation with the proprietor. “We can only afford $5 per person. $10! No, that’s too much.” So they ambled on down the road … with attitude.
The street vendors started their daily parade, selling, everything from fruit juice and sticky rice, to charcoal and rope. My favorite “plant lady” passed by with her bamboo pole laden with a basket balanced on each end, stuffed with staghorn ferns! Who would have guessed those were a door-to-door product?
Next came the serious, young Buddhist monks clad in saffron on their regular morning trek to receive alms from the faithful.
But my favorite event of the morning was “The Haircut on the Curb.” For most families, the street out front is an extension of their living space, used daily for routine chores. The Shopkeeper Dad next door is dedicated to his two cute sons, regularly comforting them when they fall; feeding them dinner in the evening while Mom minds the cash register. That morning must have been something special because Dad brought big brother out to the curb for a haircut before school. You could sense the love … and Dad seemed to know what he was doing!
Luang Prabang is a very special place – one of my favorite stops on our RTW. I knew I was going to miss the daily rhythm of life … but it will always be with me. I’ve read many other traveler’s accounts of visiting LP several years ago, and how it’s changed – become more commercial and overrun by tourists. I can see that … and I wish I could have seen it then. But I am content.