Day 315 of 400: Luang Prabang – Laos, Hanoi – Vietnam

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Today is our last morning in Luang Prabang…we packed our bags and enjoyed our breakfast on the river.  We haven’t seen the most well-known temple in town, Phu Si Hill which sits on the top of a hill and gives views of the entire city.

We caught a tuk tuk to the center of town and saw the entrance to Phu Si Hill, it was directly across from the royal palace museum we visited yesterday.  We climbed the stairs, paid a minimal entrance fee and climbed more stairs until we reached the top.  There was a temple with various gold Buddha statues inside and people were praying and lighting candles/incense.  Lighting incense  is very popular amongst the Buddhist people at the dozens of temples/wats in Luang Prabang.  Lighting incense is a gesture of respect to the Buddha…this ritual releases you from material desires and indicates thanks to the Buddha for all his blessings.

After taking our time looking at the views from the top of the hill, we found a path leading to a different area…we followed it and saw numerous Buddha statues with different hand gestures symbolizing different things.  The most impressive statue was a gold Buddha laying down and was taller than Giff and I stacked on top of each other, it was huge.  We continued following the paths around, stopping to take pictures of other temples, naga statues and of course saw multiple monks dressed in orange robes walking around as well.

It was getting late and we had to catch a late afternoon flight to Vietnam…before getting to the airport, we wanted to eat one more lunch made of local cuisine.  We found, Tamarind ( www.tamarindlaos.com) a restaurant and cooking school.  It was super hot outside so opted to eat indoors.  I ordered a refreshing cucumber juice drink and Giff cracked open a Laos Beer which we paired with a starter made of local dried finger foods.  It had those thin crispy mushrooms, dried rice cakes, fried seaweed and thinly sliced dry bananas.  We also munched on a few dips…things like smoked eggplant and red pepper and savored an exotic healthy soup.  Then…the fried bullfrog salad came out…yes bullfrog.  This one was Giff’s pick, the plate had a bunch of mixed greens and sitting in the middle of it was chopped up fried frog.  The pieces were so small and there were so many bones, it was actually a bit frustrating to eat…the way crab legs can be except bones were throughout the meat.  I took a small bite and then watched Giff suck on the remaining pieces.

After lunch, our guide and driver picked us up and brought us the short distance to Luang Prabang airport.  The airport was teeny tiny and we realized we were way too early for an on-time flight let alone the very delayed flight we were about to take.  We sat around in the airport reading and writing until they finally boarded and we were off to Vietnam!

It was evening when we arrived in Vietnam and were greeted by our new local guide.  He was the owner of the Vietnam tour company and was making sure our driver showed up to bring us from the airport to downtown Hanoi…which he did after waiting about 45 minutes.

We checked into our hotel which had a very spacious room and then walked a couple blocks to a restaurant the guide had recommended for dinner.  As we walked in the restaurant…we noticed a bunch of shoes sitting by the stairs.  We followed the tradition, took off our shoes and walked upstairs.  The room was full of people…each were sitting on the floor with food set on a table which was just a flat surface on the floor.  We looked at a menu which did include the English translation.  We ordered two local beers, Bia Ha Noi and Saigon and asked the waiter his thoughts on what to order.  He spoke minimal English and we spoke zero Vietnamese but ended up ordering spring rolls, beef rolls and pigeon as well as a side of veggies.  Everything was pretty good and we got a kick out of sitting on the floor while we ate.  The table next to us was full of teens who were using what they call a hot-pot to cook their food…similar to fondue style.  They were nice and answered some of our questions since it was our first day in Vietnam.

After dinner, we walked back to our place and relaxed a bit before bed.  Tomorrow our tour guide will pick us up early morning.

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