My friend Nok invited me for Buddhist New Year in Luang Prabang, Laos. I flew into Vientiane where Nok and her husband met me at the airport. We spent five days sight seeing, eating, shopping and seeing friends and family. I attended a funeral dinner, a birthday party, and tried new food and drink when Nok allowed me to (she didn't want me to get sick!). My favorite Lao food is Nam Khao or Crispy Rice with pork and garlic. This makes sense, since my favorite Japanese food is gyoza.
We flew on Lao Air to Phonsavan with three more friends, first class, since Nok has friends everywhere! We stayed at a hotel overlooking all of Phonsavan, a real treat. Our van driver knew the best restaurants, and drove us to the morning market, two Plain of Jars sites, a silk farm, a hot spring, an old Buddha, and a stupa. Sometimes the girls made me sit with the guys, both retired airline pilots like me, so we cold talk airline and they could speak Thai!
On our fourth day in Phonsavon, Nok, Mike, Keak, Jim and I took the mountain road to Luang Prabang. What an experience! The narrow road had hairpin curves, landslides, and slash burns. Each village was a new view into Lao life, and we were so glad Nok's cousin had found us a great driver.
Arriving in Luang Prabang, Nok ran into more friends on the street... no surprise since Nok grew up in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. For five days we toured temples, markets, shopped, ate (only what Nok let me eat!), and had fun with Nok's family and friends. We had water fights in the street for the New Year celebration, fed the monks, experienced a Lao house blessing and birthday party, and relaxed. We were melting in the humid 100 degree days, so we napped or had massages during the hottest parts. One day we fed elephants, hiked an amazing waterfall, went swimming, and lunched at Vanvisa Guesthouse (I love their black chicken!). On our last day we took a longboat ride up the Mekong River to a Buddhist cave, before celebrating Nok's birthday at the Viewpoint Café. What an amazing two weeks. There is no better way to see a country than with a friend who is a local!