Indochina Day Seven
08.02.2020 - 08.02.2020
It was nearly time to leave Cambodia for the next country on our tour of Indochina, Laos.
A final look at Siem Reap
River scene, Siem Reap
But as we weren't due to leave for Siem Reap's airport until after lunch, we had a more leisurely start to the day. We lingered a bit over breakfast and sorted our bags before taking a walk into town, starting with a stroll by the river where it was already getting quite hot.
Statue by the river
Hibiscus flower by the river
We hadn't really explored properly in daylight, and we found lots of interesting details to photograph, including adding to my growing collection of quirky Cambodian motorcycle helmets!
After leaving the river we started to explore some of the streets in and around the market area a couple of blocks away.
Craft stall, and art gallery window display
Old house, and lamp post
Wat Preah Prom Rath
Our wanderings led us to Wat Preah Prom Rath, a beautiful Buddhist temple.
Old temple roof
Naga, and Buddha
A plaque on one wall told the story behind the temple and its statue of the reclining Buddha:
‘In the year 1500 AD there was a Buddhist monk who always travelled by boat to ask for food at Long Vek, the ancient capital of Cambodia, which is situated near the capital city of Phnom Penh. It is a long way from here to the ancient capital. But whenever he returned to this place from Long Vek, the rice in his pot was still fresh and so people nicknamed him Preah Ang Chong Han Hoy which means ‘monk with freshly cooked rice in his pot’.
One day, while he was travelling in his boat, some sharks attacked the boat and the boat broke into two pieces. Instead of sinking into the lake one piece of the boat floated to Wat Boribo in Kompang Chang Province’s Boribo district. The Buddhists there built a standing statue. The other piece, the prow part, brought him back here safely. It was going with great speed that the water could not flow into it. Because of this wonderful event, our Buddhists decided to build the statue of reclining Buddha made of the wooden piece of the boat.’
Unfortunately there was some sort of meeting or ceremony going on in the main temple building so we didn't feel we could intrude to see the reclining Buddha, but there was plenty more to see around the tranquil grounds.
Temple building, and small shrine
Gold Buddha and resting man
Monk, and peacock statues
We then started to retrace our steps, stopping in the idiosyncratic Fifty 5 café/bar for an iced coffee on the way.
Street corner in Siem Reap
Decoration in Fifty 5 coffee shop
I took a few more photos as we passed the local market but we didn't hang around as we knew we needed to vacate our room by midday.
Rice for sale
Shopping for rice in the market, and art shop
But arriving back at the hotel and asking for an extra thirty minutes, our request was easily granted with a smile. So we had time to cool off in the a/c before checking out. We then had a leisurely lunch in the hotel restaurant (very good fresh spring rolls and a mango juice) before Sam came to pick us up for the short drive to the airport.
View from our lunch table
Spring rolls for lunch
Flying to Luang Prabang
Due to its proximity to a UNESCO Heritage Site (only seven kilometres from the Angkor ruins) Siem Reap airport is necessarily compact and only small planes are permitted to use it. We had to wait to check in as we were there more than two hours before our flight, but after that everything went very smoothly with no queues at passport control or security. We had plenty of time for a coffee and for me to buy a couple of small souvenirs (reed coaster sets for us and for my sister) before boarding was announced. There were only a handful of passengers so boarding also went quickly and we took off about twenty minutes early.
Siem Reap Airport
Boarding the plane
The twin prop AT72 was comfortable enough for this short flight - I do rather like flying in a propeller plane as it feels more like 'real' flying! We were served a soft drink and snack (sandwich and choc chip cookie) just after take-off, and helpfully given both visa and landing card forms to complete - not the easiest of tasks as some of the questions were ambiguous (was my 'respective country' my country of residence? - I took it to be so!)
Soon after take-off
Coming in to land at Luang Prabang Airport
We landed early and our passage through the airport from that point until we were met by our new guide Lee was perhaps the fastest we have ever experienced - certainly for an international flight and considering that we needed to get our Laos visas on arrival. We were climbing into the car outside within less than 15 minutes of touching down.
Lee was very chatty and full of information as we drove into town, and also showed the sort of flexibility in planning our agenda here that we had expected and not got at Angkor. When we arrived at our hotel, the Villa Chitdara, he saw us checked in and left after arranging to meet at 8.30 tomorrow morning.
First evening in Luang Prabang
We settled into our room, which was another large one and nicely decorated. And we loved the Villa Chitdara’s pretty garden (too dark to photograph this evening) and its proximity to the centre of town.
Our room at the Villa Chitdara
Then we went out to explore the immediate vicinity, change some money (Lee had warned us that smaller premises here wouldn't take US dollars, unlike in Cambodia) and have a drink and a light meal. We found the latter in the friendly Maolin Tavern where we enjoyed a Beer Lao (or two, or three ...!) and shared a cheese board, as we didn't feel we wanted a full dinner after the snack on the plane.
In the Maolin Tavern
After our meal and the beers, we had a short stroll to see the Night Market, which was already closing down for the night, and got our first sight of the shrine at the Royal Palace, Haw Pha Bang, which we were to visit tomorrow.
Haw Pha Bang, Royal Palace
Then we headed back to the hotel, passing one of the town’s many temples, Wat Pa Phai, to finish settling in before bedtime.
Wat Pa Phai at night