Laos, wasn’t exactly in any of my travel bucket lists. But it’s great how a single visit can completely change your mind about a place. As the saying goes, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Visiting the sleepy town of Luang Prabang, Laos, has definitely reshaped the way I view travel. I tend to search for places exotic, exciting, with bold sights, sounds, and flavours…and I still do. But once in a while, it’s also good to just step back, let the day run its course, and revel in the relaxed state of having nothing in particular to see, eat, or do.
So that was sort of the theme of my recent Laos visit. I had a business trip to the capital Vientiane and since I was already in the country, I thought I might as well take a side trip to the UNESCO Heritage town of Luang Prabang. But I was too busy to make real plans and was not exactly excited to make any plans as well. I just decided to play it by ear.
So what did I end up doing in Luang Prabang when I had nothing planned?
I ended up taking a 10K trek through farmland, jungle and mountains to see the Kuang Si Falls. The falls were beautiful (no doubt about that!) but extremely cold. Still, after the 3-hour trek in all that humidity, it was rewarding to take a cold dip in the multi-layered pools.
But most rewarding was the realization that I could actually do a 10K trek! I was never an outdoorsy person and treks were never my thing. Plus, since this was not exactly planned, I didn’t have the shoes to pull it off. I trekked in beach slippers but I pulled it off! I was with a group of new friends who had the gear but I did not slow them down! That was a proud moment for me!
I walked around town at the height of the Pi Mai festival and got soaked to the bone. Pi Mai is Laos’ equivalent to Thailand’s more crazy and popular SongKran Festival. The concept is the same and there was a bit of craziness here and there. But the town, overall, was pretty laid back. People tend to seek your approval first before they water you down – especially if you seem to be a decent tourist.
I ended up practising yoga in a deserted bar/yoga retreat. Utopia, has developed quite the reputation among backpackers and yogis alike for its bohemian vibe and fantastic location along the banks of Nam Khan river. Being a new yoga enthusiast, I decided when I woke up one day that I wanted to check the place out.
It was a bit hard to find but when I finally found it…it was closed for Pi Mai! What luck! But, the place’s caretaker, seeing my disappointment, offered to let me chill at the place and practice some yoga. We even had a beer together!
I woke up early to see Buddhist monks humbly accepting alms from the homes in our hotel’s neighbourhood.
Oh! And I crossed the river everyday to and from my hotel to the main town. Much better than taking the tuktuk!
Sometimes, no plan is the best plan after all!