Archive for January, 2012

January 31, 2012

Thai Island Hopping, Kinda

by Johnny

I had made big plans in my brain for our final week in the Thai islands after scuba diving in Koh Tao.  We were going to head over to Krabi, check out Railay Beach, boat over to Koh Phi Phi and finally ferry down to Koh Lanta.  Well, none of that happened.  In fact, Anna, Peter, Sheryl and I headed straight back to Thong Nai Pan Yai on Koh Phangan.  We all figured, why schlep our stuff all over southern Thailand in search of paradise when we had just come from it?  Longtail Beach Resort was all booked, so we found rooms at Dreamland Resort, where $25/night got us a nice, clean bungalow and hot water shower.  As a bonus, Dreamland has a gorgeous pool right on the beach…complete with swim up bar and super cool bartender, Ram.  For the next week, we did nothing but hang by the pool, eat delicious Thai food, drink as many fresh coconuts as possible, light off a few more lanterns, catch up on our blog and reflect on an amazing couple of months in Southeast Asia.

Hmmm, where should we go next? I know! Thong Nai Pan Yai
Who can complain? Sheryl and Anna are happy
Pete’s happy Johnny’s happy
Swim up bar Pete put in some serious hours at the swim up bar
Fresh coconuts Our favorite bartender, Ram
Taking pics of fire dancers Our new best friend, Beach Dog
Another great night at Dreamland Writing wishes on our lanterns
More lanterns Ram lets one fly
We’ll miss you Pete and Shery (and Southeast Asia)!!!

Getting scuba certified in Koh Chang, exploring the temples of Angkor, dodging scooters in Hanoi, ringing in the New Year in Luang Prabang, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand…it’s incredible to think of all that we’ve done in the past 70 days since we arrived in Southeast Asia.  While we’re really looking forward to Australia and New Zealand, we can’t help but feel a little sad to leave this beautiful part of the world and its friendly people (I almost choked up ordering my final Pad Thai tonight).  We definitely hope to be back one day.

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January 31, 2012

Unda Da Sea

by Anna

Although sad to see our friends go, we were excited to head off to Koh Tao for some scuba diving with my brother and Sheryl!

Arriving on Koh Tao

After navigating through the crazily crowded ferry station, we headed to Sairee Beach where Scuba Junction is located to check in, get our gear fitted and settle at our new bungalows. We were a little horrified when we finally saw Sairee Beach…I guess we’d been spoiled by Thong Nai Pan Yai’s protected cove, white sand and serenity. Sairee Beach was long, narrow and crowded. There wasn’t a whole lot of “beach” and sadly, there was trash in the water. We soon realized that this beach was for diving and partying. In spite of this, it was still a beautiful setting and we made the most of it over the next few days. The most fun part about Sairee was the “yellow brick road” – a long narrow road that stretched alongside the beach, lined with shops, restaurants, bars, resorts, massage spots, etc. It was a lively happening road to stroll down at night, and we had a great time watching all the action and enjoying the restaurants.

Sairee Beach Johnny and Peter pondering the meaning of life
Lunch time!

During the mornings and early afternoons we spent our time in a much quieter underwater world. Although a couple of our dive spots were a little crowded with other dive boats, we still had an amazing time swimming amongst the coral with the fish. On day one, we were paired with a bit of a Danish dive nazi, but on day two, we had the cutest little Swiss dive master named Vera, who was super fun and easy going. It was really exciting for Johnny and I to put our PADI skills to the test on our first ‘Fun Dives,’ and it couldn’t have been better getting to dive alongside my brother and Sheryl.

The advanced divers The novice divers

Peter also was able to get some awesome video footage of us on the dive:

Leaning back after the dive at Shark Island

Besides diving, the other highlight of Sairee Beach was the BBQ! I don’t know if we had just worked up an appetite from diving or if the setting along the beach with the sunset influenced our taste buds, OR if the fact that we haven’t really had much BBQ in 8 months, but this was one of the best BBQs I’ve ever had! And the best part was that two giant skewers, salad and a baked potato cost 100 baht, or roughly $3.00. After watching some pretty athletic ladyboys dominate a volleyball game on the beach and taking in a beautiful sunset, we ate a whole lot of BBQ. It was so good, and we felt that it could only get better topped off with a peanut butter banana crepe from a street cart on the yellow brick road. As if this weren’t indulgent enough, Peter and Sheryl also decided that a foot massage was in order. A pretty perfect day if you ask me. In fact, it was so great, that we basically repeated it the next day: scuba – lunch – beach – volleyball – sunset – BBQ. Before we knew it, our time on Koh Tao had come to an end, and we were packing up our bags to make a return visit to Koh Phangan!

Enjoying the view… …and ready for BBQ
Nightly volleyball tourney Nightly awesome sunset
Not a bad spot for dinner The beach lights up at night
BBQ!
So. Excited. For. BBQ. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Top it all off with a banana peanut butter deep-fried crepe drizzled with condensed milk. That’s right. I said it!
And top that all off with an hour-long foot massage…am I in heaven??
Final night on Koh Tao Prepping for BBQ Round 2
January 30, 2012

Koh Phangan

by Johnny

Anna and I had been looking forward to coming back to the Thai islands ever since we left Koh Chang in late November, and the fact that we were going to share the next few days in this beautiful part of the world with some of our favorite people made us downright giddy. A bumpy, partly off-road minibus ride brought us from Haad Rin (home to the infamous Full Moon Party) to Thong Nai Pan, where two coves form a scenic double bay on the northeast of Koh Phangan. We stayed on the southerly Thong Nai Pan Yai, which had enough going on to keep our attention for a few days while being off-the-beaten-path enough to make us feel like castaways. After checking into our bungalows at Longtail Beach Resort, we had just enough time for a quick dip before it got dark. Swimming in the clear, warm water with our entourage of eight while looking back at the white sand beach and surrounding lush jungle in the afternoon light definitely gave me a case of the warm and fuzzies. We grabbed some dinner at a beachside restaurant, hit the sack early and spent the entire next day lounging on the beach.

Thong Nai Pan Yai
Stoked to be back in the islands! Serious game of Chinese checkers
My wife and my best bud in Thailand…not bad! Marinating in the Gulf of Thailand

On our second full day, we boarded a boat for Angthong Marine Park, an archipelago of 42 islands to the west of Koh Phangan and presumably the setting for everybody’s favorite backpacking novel, Alex Garland’s The Beach.  Our boat, Orion, was a little slow, crowded and grubby, but the scenery…and super cool upper-deck diving board…more than made up for it.  We arrived to the cluster of islands after about an hour boat ride trough some tropical morning showers.  Anna and I thought the scenery looked a little bit like a less dramatic, more tropical Ha Long Bay.  We stopped off for a quick snorkel in Koh Wao before heading to Koh Mae Ko and hiking up to a viewpoint of the island’s stunning, emerald green saltwater lagoon.  The steep hike and climb up some makeshift ladders was a little gnarly.  Let’s put it this way, if it was in the U.S., we would have had to sign insurance waivers and be strapped into harnesses.  However, as you can see in the pictures below, it was worth the effort.  Seeing this beautiful lagoon hidden on a tiny island in the middle of a protected marine park definitely had us feeling a little bit like the characters in The Beach (with me being Leonardo DiCaprio, obvi).  After some lunch on the boat and a beach break at Koh Wua Talap, Orion brought us slowly but surely back to Koh Phangan for some well-deserved Singhas.

Rainbow on the way to Angthong Marine Park
The scenery reminded us a little of Ha Long Bay Angthong Marine Park
Snorkeling at Koh Wao
Mortal Kombat! Judges gave Greg a 10!
Hi Mom and Dad!
Emerald lagoon at Koh Mae Ko Greg and Hillary taking in the view
Tommy and Michelle making the climb They made it to the top
Peter and Sheryl on Orion Lounging on the way back to Koh Phangan
The view from Koh Mae Ko Koh Wua Talap

On our third and final full day, we took a longtail boat to Haad Khuat (otherwise known as Bottle Beach), regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Koh Phangan.  Only accessible by boat, Bottle Beach felt even more remote than Thong Nai Pan Yai, and we spent the entire day drinking fruity drinks, playing cards, eating Thai food and frolicking in the water.  Later that night, after our usual routine of some drinks in Tommy and Michelle’s Boat House, we grabbed a taxi to Thong Nai Pan Noi for dinner at the luxurious Santhiya Resort.  With views over both bays, live music and dancing, and an all-you-can-eat Thai food buffet, we had a great final meal together.  After dinner, Greg and Hillary surprised us with some sky lanterns they had bought earlier in the day, and we all took turns sending them off before heading to Flip Flop Pharmacy Bar for a final nightcap.  What a perfect way to end an amazing week.

Longtail boat ride to Haad Khuat (Bottle Beach) Bro and sis
Sending postcards from Bottle Beach
2016 Olympics synchronized swimming gold medalists Bottle Beach or Muscle Beach?
Drinks in the Boat House The best bartender in Thailand
Chantara Restaurant at Santhiya Resort Dinner entertainment
Plateful of Thai food from the buffet
Lanterns are for sissies; Tommy opts for the bottle rockets
Our final night at Flip Flop Pharmacy Bar…we’ll miss our Thailand gang

We had such an awesome time with Tommy, Michelle, Greg and Hillary and feel so lucky that they used their precious time off to come join us on our trip. Even though the week went by way too fast, we certainly made the most of it and it’s amazing to look back at all that we did.  After everybody left, I probably got the most homesick I’ve been this entire trip.  Luckily, Peter and Sheryl were stuck with us for another week, and I quickly learned that homesickness is easily curable by scuba diving and more Singhas.

January 29, 2012

Chiang Mai

by Anna

Johnny and I arrived in Chiang Mai about a week ahead of our friends and set out to explore the city and all it had to offer. After having been in the picturesque, sleepy town of Luang Prabang for the past couple of weeks, the congestion and modern conveniences of Chiang Mai were a little overwhelming for us at first. But we couldn’t complain after having some pretty legit chicken burritos (with avocado!!!), picking up new books at an enormous used bookstore, and re-stocking all of our toiletries at 7-Eleven.

Chiang Mai, the old capital of Thailand and the cultural heart of the country, is packed full of juxtapositions…ancient and contemporary, European and Asian, natural and industrial. Walking down the street, one might pass a gilded temple buzzing with orange-clad monks, a food stall hawking mango sticky rice, a funky shop featuring wares from an up-and-coming Thai designer and a fashionable boutique hotel – all in the same block. Intrigued by this eclectic mix, we covered a lot of ground over the next four days on foot, by bike and by scooter. Our favorite area to wander was within the old walled city where we’d pop in and out of temples (wats), explore the market and food stalls (with mango sticky rice being the stand-out) and stroll along the moat that creates a giant square around the city center. We also navigated the crazy night market that seemed to stretch on forever, rode up Doi Suthep mountain to Wat Phrathat, tried some restaurants in the Nimanaman area known for its hip boutiques, cafes and university crowd, and checked out the nightlife at some spots along the Ping river. We even had a chance to meet up with our friend from Luang Prabang, Joel, at the lovely Ginger & Kafe restaurant.

Moat and the remains of the city walls
Old meets new at Wat Chedi Luang Buddha
Tha Phae Gate
Saturday night market Kalare food center & night bazaar

After all this romping around Chiang Mai, we were feeling a little pooped and just couldn’t wait for all of our friends to arrive. On our expeditions through the city, we had discovered a Le Meridien right in the heart of the lively night market area. We decided to treat ourselves to a couple of luxurious nights with our Starwood points and get out of the less-than-stellar Funky Monkey guesthouse where we had been staying. We took full advantage of all of Le Meridien’s amenities (especially the pool!) and felt refreshed and ready for action when everyone arrived.

Enjoying the amenities at Le Meridien Like kids in a candy store

We could barely contain our excitement when we met our dear friends Tommy, Michelle, Greg and Hillary at our new boutique hotel, Aruntura (which, by the way, was amazing!!). My brother and Sheryl rolled in a few hours later and our happy crew of 8 was off to celebrate our first night together with dinner at the Mandarin Oriental.

Over the course of three days, we managed to pack in a lot of activities, including a pretty ridiculous Muay Thai fight, a harrowing scooter ride through burly traffic and one way streets and up Doi Suthep mountain for a return visit to Wat Phrathat, the insanely packed Sunday night market, some questionable but entertaining Thai live music along the Ping River and some delicious Thai meals, of course.

Our new spot along the Ping River at Aruntura Our first of many Red Car taxi rides
Sheryl lovin’ the Red Cars! Maneuvering the Sunday Night Market
Muay Thai
Look out Ladyboys! Ringside

We had no idea what was going on with this fight, but it was pure comedy:

The scooter gang
No lack of traffic in Chiang Mai Charging up Doi Suthep
The fearless scooter captains take a high-five break at a scenic point on Doi Suthep
Peter reenacting a picture that my dad took here in 1969 Wat Phrathat
Wat Phrathat
Wat Phrathat Wat Phrathat
A monk touching up the bright paint Greg & Hillary in front of a gold chedi
Tommy, Greg and Michelle lighting candles and incense in the inner sanctuary

But of all these activities, the most memorable and incredible experience came with our visit to the Patara Elephant Farm, where we were all “elephant owners for the day.” We first discovered Patara through a mutual friends’ blog, Two Packed Bags, a couple similar to ourselves traveling the world. We were so inspired by their post that we immediately decided that we would have to visit Patara while in Chiang Mai. Luckily, our friends were all in agreement, making it even more special to have the experience all together. There are many reasons why we felt Patara was more legitimate than some of the other “elephant farms,” which we had heard could be depressing and “circus-ey.” In addition to being “a Thai-owned and managed farm focusing on health-care and breeding management for friendly, beautiful and special elephants to produce healthy elephants to live on Earth,” Patara works with Chiang Mai university on elephant conservation and creates their interaction program so that visitors can really learn about the health and care of elephants.

 
Ready to start the day in our hand-made “elephant trainer” tops

In the morning, once our elephants “chose us,” based on personality – kind of like elephant Love Connection -, we fed our elephants bananas and bamboo and checked to make sure they were happy and healthy by reading their body language, checking that they had slept correctly the night before, checking to be sure they were hydrated (did you know elephants sweat from their toenails??) and the best part – checking their poop! Not only did we have to count their dungs, but we also had to squeeze the masses to check for fluid and tear them apart to check that all was digested properly. Luckily the poop didn’t smell – another sign of good health! We then dusted the dirt off our elephants with leaves and bathed them in the nearby river.

Snack time with our elephants Bananas and bamboo…yum yum!

Our first whiffs of the dung…surprisingly not smelly at all! See poop action sequence below:

My elephant, Boon Pak, was clearly enjoying his dust-off Peter’s elephant gets the royal treatment
Greg’s elephant enjoys a facial While Johnny’s elephant gets a full body scrub
Bath time would not be complete without a water fight!

After learning some basic commands in Thai (like “good boy/girl,” “go,” and “stop”), we watched a demonstration on how to mount our elephants and were then sent out to give it a go. This was both hilarious and a little intimidating as you either had to launch yourself over the elephant’s head, or do a one-footed trunk rise or a one-footed leg rise up to the top of the elephant’s head. Needless to say, it was a pretty awesome experience to sit atop our elephants for the first time, bare-back, with our feet tucked behind their warm flapping ears and feeling the prickly hairs on the top of their heads.

Hillary gracefully rises to her elephants head Tommy goes for the frontal launch
 
We ♥ our elephant friends!!!

We proceeded to take about an hour-long trek on our elephants to a waterfall where we stopped to feast on a ridiculously delicious meal of sticky rices and coconut treats. Once we fed our elephants our leftovers, we were able to swim with our elephants in the river! We were all a little apprehensive that we’d be crushed by the elephants rolling in the water, but after my brother hopped in and tumbled on his elephant harm-free, Johnny, Greg, Sheryl and I followed suit and were pretty hysterical the whole time we slipped around with our big wet elephants in the water.

We ate our delicious meal on banana leaves… …and drank Johnny’s Kool-Aid
Swimming with my main man, Boon Pak Peter & Sheryl
Peter goes “face first” into the action
Practicing Muay Thai So much fun

By the end of the day, I was pretty smitten with my elephant, Boon Pak. I felt so sad to say goodbye to this big, gentle, beautiful creature. We had all really bonded with our elephants who each had a very unique appearance and personality. In the morning when we first arrived, we were all a little scared to get too close to the massive elephants (even the babies!), and they all looked pretty similar to me. But after spending the whole day with our “elephant friends,” we were playing around with them like they were puppies. And each elephant could not have appeared more different from one another. Not only was the whole day extremely fun, but also very educational. It was a truly incredible experience with amazing friends in a magical place, and we were so grateful to be sent home with two CDs of awesome photos from the day shot by our Patara guide, Ben!!

Chiang Mai was a blast, but we were all eager to head south to the islands! Our entourage headed out with wheelie beasts in tow and headed for the airport – next stop: Koh Phangan!

Foot massages at the airport Good thing we pack light:)
Banana pancakes & card games kept us busy while we waited Finally en route to Koh Phangan!
January 27, 2012

Roughing It

by Anna

We’ve been having an amazing time with our friends in Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao…more posts coming soon!

It’s hard to blog when you’re underwater! Peter, Sheryl, Johnny & Anna diving on Koh Tao
January 16, 2012

The Only Thing We Like More Than Traveling

by Johnny

…is traveling with family and friends!  So happy to be joined in Thailand by Anna’s brother Peter, his girlfriend Sheryl and our great friends Tommy, Michelle, Greg and Hillary!

January 12, 2012

Muang Ngoi

by Johnny

We did manage to tear ourselves away from Luang Prabang for a couple days to visit Muang Ngoi, a sleepy riverside town only accessible by boat.  Did you know you can fit 14 people in a minivan?  Well, you can in Laos.  Packed like sardines with backpacks on our laps, a four-hour minivan ride brought us to the town of Nong Khiaw, where we caught the boat to Muang Ngoi.  The jaw-dropping scenery and the tiny villages en route almost made us forget that we were sandwiched knee to knee with tourists and locals (one with a live pig in a bamboo basket) in a tiny boat.

Muang Ngoi is pretty rustic.  The town only has limited electricity from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, limited hot water, ice needs to be brought in by boat each morning and roosters are the alarm clock of choice.  It definitely feels like a place lost in time.  We had planned on going on a trek to visit some of the villages in the area, but unfortunately it was raining both days we were there.  Not to worry, as we bought a couple books from a used book store, posted up at a riverside restaurant and spent our days reading, listening to the rain fall and taking in the Land of the Lost-esque scenery, which more than made up for living without the comforts of home for a few days.

Passing fishermen on our way to Muang Ngoi
Our spacious boat ride to Muang Ngoi…anybody know where the life jackets are?
Approaching Muang Ngoi Muang Ngoi’s main street
Gardens down by the river View from our $12 bungalow
Home-made fishing nets
Hand-written menus from a Muang Ngoi restaurant

Another crammed boat ride and torturous minivan ride (this time with live chickens and plastic picnic chairs) brought us back to Luang Prabang.  Two shower free-days in Muang Ngoi coupled with two hectic travel days left me smelling pretty fresh.  Normally I enjoy a little body odor, as it makes me feel macho, but not this time.  I’m not kidding, PowerBait thought I smelled bad.  Good thing we have friends bringing Old Spice reinforcements to Chiang Mai, Thailand in a couple days!

January 11, 2012

Me Love You Luang Time

by Johnny

Can you tell that we love Luang Prabang?  To us, it’s the most perfect Southeast Asian spot.  It combines everything we’ve enjoyed about the other places we’ve visited in the region in one beautiful riverside town.  It’s got the laid-back vibe of Koh Chang, the friendly locals of Siem Reap, the charm of Hoi An, and the French influence and tasty grub of Hanoi.  Here are some more scenes from a great couple of weeks.

 
Seeing the Haw Pha Bang in the afternoon sunlight never got old
Feeling enlightened in Luang Prabang
Day trip to the Kouang Si waterfalls
The view from Old Bridge The view towards Mount Phousi
Lost in translation?
Our favorite meal at Phakdee (fried noodles with chicken, spicy Lao chicken salad and sticky rice)
Our room at Villa Chitdara 2 Our room at Villa Champa
The beach where we would watch many beautiful sunsets over the Mekong
Sunset boat ride on the Mekong
Making friends with the locals
Luang Prabang blessed us with many beautiful sunsets over the Mekong
January 7, 2012

Market Madness

by Anna

Throughout our travels we’ve always enjoyed checking out the markets, with some of our favorites being Les Halles in Avignon, France, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market in Istanbul, Turkey and the Neighbourgoods Market in Capetown, South Africa. Southeast Asia has not let us down so far with its many, often crazy maze-like markets and prices that can’t be beat! Luang Prabang, in particular, has kept us enamored by its lovely, slow-paced food and handicraft markets.

The first market we discovered upon arriving to Luang Prabang was the Night Handicraft Market, which lines the main street beginning at 5:00pm every night. Th Sisavangvong is closed down for several blocks along the perimeter of the Royal Palace complex, and vendors pack the street with beautiful lanterns, jewelry, scarves, antiques, hand-stitched linens, embroidered bags and clothes, paintings and hand-made journals, to name just a few of the offerings on display. Even when we’re not shopping (or more accurately, when I’m not shopping and Johnny is waiting patiently nearby), we love strolling through the market at night on our way to and from dinner to watch the men and women at their stalls quietly embroidering, painting watercolors or hammering jewelry. It is such a relaxed, calming atmosphere, that it is hard to believe we’re actually in a market at times.

Towards the end of the Night Handicraft Market, food stalls start to pop up and intersperse with handicraft stalls. Baguette sandwiches, fruit shakes and the scent of grilled bananas begin to fill the air. Turning down a small alleyway, you enter the wonderful world of the Night Food Market. The crowded, bustling tables piled with food, opposite communal tables crammed with patrons, the Night Market snaps you out of the daze from the Handicraft market and gets you back on your toes to pick out the perfect meal for the night. For about $1.25, you can get a plate and pile it high with as many dishes as you like from a buffet-like Laos offering, or you can get a BBQed whole fish on a bamboo stick, or you can have a fresh papaya salad chopped up, or you can indulge in my and Johnny’s favorite find, some delicious soup from “Mrs. Noodle.” Not only is “Mrs. Noodle” the sweetest, most lovely woman, but she also slings some mean noodle soup. Similar to pho, she piles noodles of your choice plus fresh herbs and veggies into a divine broth and then gives you a plate piled high with other herbs, limes and chilies to personalize your flavor. We will most definitely miss sipping soup and Beerlao at Mrs. Noodle’s table. Our other favorite offering at the Night Food Market is the coconut rice balls. They are steaming, sweet little bite-size morsels that are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. With the ability to buy 6 for around 50 cents, we’ve pretty much developed a nightly habit of eating these tasty treats.

Last but not least, Luang Prabang’s morning market is a wonderful place to walk through first thing in the morning. The bountiful selection of herbs, fruits and veggies are displayed beautifully, big fish flop around in metal tubs, live chickens await their fate and there are of course all sorts of meats and animal parts to choose from.  All the freshly-picked fruits and veggies reminded us of the smell from our CSA farm basket back home.  Our first visit to the Morning Market was around 7am after we had attended the alms giving ceremony along the streets with Vong. At 7am the market had obviously already been bustling for hours, making me wish I was more of an early riser!

January 7, 2012

Tak Bat

by Johnny

In Luang Prabang, the daily alms giving ceremony, known locally as tak bat, is a beautiful thing to witness.  Each morning around sunrise, hundreds of saffron-clad Buddhist monks set out from the over 60 temples spread throughout Luang Prabang to collect food offerings from the local people.  In silence, they walk past kneeling alms-givers, who place a handful of sticky rice or fruit into each monk’s bowl.  This collection of offerings is all the monks will have to eat for the entire day.  The ceremony supports both the monks (who need the food) and the alms givers (who earn merit and blessings).

Anna and I were fortunate join Vong, our awesome guesthouse owner, one morning for his daily tak bat routine.  First, Vong took us to his local temple, Wat Nong Sikhounmuang, where Anna and I sat in silence as he meditated and prayed in front of Buddha statues for several minutes.  Next, Vong led us out to the street for tak bat, where he handed out sticky rice to each and every monk that passed by.  Some people have complained that tak bat has turned into too much of a tourist spectacle, and they may be right.  However, seeing Vong’s daily devotion to the monks made Anna and I realize what a sacred, special and genuine ritual tak bat is, and we felt very fortunate for the opportunity to join him.

Wat Nong Sikhounmuang Vong’s temple, Wat Nong Sikhounmuang
Vong passing out sticky rice to the monks

The numerous beautiful temples, the flashes of saffron robes that catch your eye throughout the day, the chants and drums of the monks in the afternoon, the iconic tak bat ceremony…one can’t help but feel some sense of spirituality while in Luang Prabang.  Definitely a special place.