Bamboo Bridges

Monday morning in Luang Prabang with family and friends. Miraculously, we beat the retirees to breakfast. Not sure how that happened with the babe, but it happened. A good morning to be up early too with a low fog blowing through the valley. I did not come prepared for the chilly mornings. A micro fleece or long-sleeved shirt would have suited the cool temps, but I knew if I could make it to 9am, I’d very much appreciate my shorts and t-shirt. Noe, on the other hand, got one last wear out of his knitted bear jacket. After the trip, it will undoubtedly be going in the “outgrown” box.

Oh, and Sala Prabang has a pretty great breakfast buffet on the Mekong that’s included in the room rate.

After breakfast, it was off to the Morning Market.

We like the Morning Market because it’s full of locals going about their morning routine — a nice balance to the touristy Night Market, generally packed with visitors.

 

Many English speakers in Laos refer to these markets as “fresh markets.” It certainly doesn’t get much fresher than this.

 

 

 

 

Per the usual, everyone seems quite taken by the little blue-eyed baby.

 

 

 

We stopped by the Royal Palace for a tour before heading back to the main drag.

 

 

I know I’ve said it before, but this was just an awesome time to be in Luang Prabang. The air is clean and dry and the temperature is just about perfect for much of the day. It’s no wonder that this is high season for tourism. Be that as it may, it was still easy to get away from the crowds.

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We returned with our visitors to Viewpoint Cafe at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers. The waters are quite a bit lower now and the weather much more pleasant than when we were last sitting here on U.S. Election Day last November. It was also nice to see the monks out enjoying the beautiful day too.

 

Best. Beer. Koozie. Ever.

This time of year, the waters of the Khan River become low enough to accommodate the construction of multiple bamboo bridges at various points. Two of the better known bridges cross at the end of the Old Town peninsula near the point where the Khan empties into the Mekong, and a little farther up river at the end of Sisavang Vatthana Rd. near Saynamkhan River View hotel. I may have jumped the gun in describing these bridges in a previous post, so in the interest of not repeating myself, I’ll just copy and paste what I wrote a few days ago in case you missed it:

All of the bamboo bridges on the river are constructed from scratch at the end of the rainy season and used until they are washed away by the rising waters of the rainy season, then rebuilt the following season. This practice has been going on for as long as anyone can remember.

I think this strikes a lot of Westerners as troubling and wasteful. But it underscores a universal truth that Buddhists, and Laotians in general, seem much more comfortable with accepting — that nothing is permanent. These bridges in their destruction and reconstruction embody the cycle of rebirth that is at the core of Buddhist belief. With that said, I’d rather not find myself walking across one on the final day of their annual life-cycle.

…though some of the bridges are a bit better constructed than others.

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Drinking may have been involved in the building of this one. Just sayin’…

 

Daddy on Baby Duty.

Apparently the cold brew coffee I’m holding failed to work as intended…

 

A short distance from our guesthouse, just on the other side of the peninsula, we cross the other Old Town bamboo bridge for happy hour.

Straight as an arrow. Wonder how that happened.

So yeah, we made our visitors work for their booze — that’s just the kind of cruel and unusual people we are, I guess. In our defense, it does make the drinks taste that much stronger…

 

Finished with happy hour and dinner, we venture back down the stairs, over the bamboo bridge and up the stairs on the other side. Thankfully, motorbikes do not appear to frequent this bamboo bridge (unlike Vang Vieng), but I can see how it might become a bit harrowing to navigate after one too many Lao whiskeys on the other side.

A funny thing about Noe’s name. To Laotians, it sounds a lot like the Lao word noi, meaning “small” or “little one.” It is not uncommon to walk down the street and see people nod in the direction of Noe and say noi (pronounced noy) falang (literally meaning “little French person,” but more generally meaning “white baby foreigner.” You can imagine the confusion that this has caused when we tell people what Noe’s name is. There are still staff at his daycare that call him Baby Owen, because his bag says “Noe Owen” on it. Others can’t fathom why we would call our child Noi in the first place. Consequently, his name has become No-eeeee (with a major emphasis on the “eeeee”) — which doesn’t seem to help much, but makes us feel better. We picked Noe’s name long before we even knew we’d be moving to Laos, and certainly long before we knew that his name sounds a lot like a Laotian word for “baby.” What are the chances, right?

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