Luang Prabang: Return to Phu Si Hill

Lori’s work commitments were finished Friday evening, and our flight back to Vientiane wasn’t until 6pm Sunday, which meant that we had a nice chunk of time to spend roaming around Luang Prabang together. Better yet, the sun returned, with a nice bit of cloud cover to keep the heat down — but dry, dry, dry, through the rest of our stay.

First thing on the agenda Saturday morning was to head up to the top of Phu Si (pronounced Poo-See). Generally, most people do this just before sunset, which is what Lori and I had done four years prior. Today, we wanted to go early to beat the crowds and the heat.

We opted for a different route up the hill. Instead of fighting crowds and fatigue on the 300+ steps to the top, we heard that you could amble your way slowly through the alleyways of a neighborhood perched on the side of the hill. The pathway is accessed just to the left of TAEC, which immediately drops you into the narrow alleyways before becoming a long and pleasant dirt path along the side of the hill.

OpenMaps, my new favorite online mapping toy, particularly here in Laos — it is in many ways far superior to Google Maps. Think of it as the Wikipedia of mapping. I’ve been using a version on my phone for years called CityMaps2Go, which is a really great offline map app that keeps getting better. It’s particularly useful for urban and rural hiking, as it has far more trails than Google Maps. And best of all, it’s a not-for-profit endeavor supported by regular people with a passion for mapping their world — no tracking, no ads, no B.S. When Noe’s a little older, I’m looking forward to mapping the various local shops, restaurants and services in our area in Vientiane for OpenMaps (in Lao and English) to help fill our vibrant and bustling neighborhood’s digital void. O.k., back to Phu Si!

Moments after emerging from the hillside neighborhood, we get our first view of the city and surrounding mountains. Onward!

After reaching the ticket booth and paying our entrance fee to the hilltop temple complex, we come across this cave…

Upon further inspection, we realize the cave continues deeper into the hillside. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The way up to the top is lined with Buddhist statues and carvings.

Back in 2012:

And in 2016:

Upon reaching the top, a walk around the summit offers views in nearly every direction.

Looking northeast, back toward the Old Town peninsula and Mekong:

Looking south, toward the newer part of town, the old bridge, and the Nam Khan (river).

After coming down from the hill, we make a pitstop at one of the many little eateries lining the Nam Khan for a beverage. A Fanta sounded good. We assumed it would be the all pervasive Orange Fanta, but instead it was the radioactive green-colored Fanta.

Sticky rice cakes, drying in the sun.

Later, we stopped by one of Luang Prabang’s most historic and well-known landmarks, Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City), which dates to the 16th century.

Gleaming white Wat Chomphet, viewed across the Mekong from the steps of Wat Xieng Thong.

Last time Lori and I were here, we hired a boat from this point to take us across. This visit, we’re going to save a few bucks and take the public ferry from the center of town.

We saw a sign at one of the many eateries along the Mekong offering Indian thali dishes, and we couldn’t resist. We shared one veg and one meat thali. It was midday, so we thought, in true thali fashion that they were pre-made and ready to go. These, however, ended up taking quite a while and we’re certain they were made to order. Delicious, nonetheless, but not quite the fast lunch we were expecting. Being that we are in Laos, the extra wait didn’t bother us too much.

Mekong sunset, through the trees — the best I could do before the sun darted behind the hill.

The road we stayed on, a tourist-ghetto of sorts, with perhaps the highest concentration of guesthouses I’ve seen in Laos.

After getting the Mister down to sleep in the Ergo carrier, we returned to the market to do a bit of shopping for our house. We bought several things here four years ago that we’ve regularly used in our various homes in DC, Belize and Portland. It was more trouble than it was worth to bring those back out to Laos, so we planned on getting some new things for the house on our first visit to LP. We love the sofa pillow shams, in particular. Easily one of the best nightly local craft markets we’ve ever been to anywhere, and far less crowded than Chiang Mai’s weekend night walking market. That place is a zoo.

We walked by this place and it looked intriguing. We took a peek at the menu and it intrigued us even more.

La Casa Lao. Streeside seating, manchego, baguette, fried calamari and great wine on a lovely evening with wifey. Can’t ask for much more.

O.k., maybe just one other thing…

Sleeping baby. Now we’re talking!

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