Saturday, January 13, 2007

Adventures in Luang Prabang, Laos.

We continue to love this little town. It was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1995 because of its excellent examples of French colonial architecture and numerous impressive Buddhist temples. We hiked Phu Si for a stunning sunset. On reaching the top, however, we encountered two young Lao women hawking birds crammed into incredibly small bamboo cages (pictured). Apparently Siddhartha was fond of freeing birds during his lifetime, so these locals are able to sell the birds—two to a cage—to tourists who feel they are following the Buddha’s example.

Incensed, we tried to make these women understand—as if it’s not obvious—the cruelty of imprisoning two birds in a 2” x 2” cage. I wrote the word “CRUEL” on a piece of paper and told one of the girls to look it up when she got home. Because she is Buddhist (and therefore believes in reincarnation), I suggested she would likely come back as an imprisoned animal in her next life. They didn’t seem to care. Though we don’t want to encourage them in this scheme, we attempted to purchase all of the birds for 60,000 kip; they refused. Finally, after much debate, we broke down and bought two cages—four birds. While I hummed the melody to Lynard Skynard’s “Freebird,” we pried open the cages and watched the birds fly into the sunset.

Today, I took a Lao cooking class, taught by Leng Lee, of the Tamnak Restaurant. Among the dishes we made was the crowd-pleasing Luang Prabang Salad (pictured). Other favorites included Chicken Larp and Tamnak Lao Jeowbong (chili paste). Tomorrow, we’re going to rent a bicycle and visit the Royal Palace Museum. On Monday, we'll fly to Pakse.


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