Alison Baxter is the May winner of our blog competition. She received £150 in Explore vouchers for sharing her story of the ten things which epitomised her time spent in Luang Prabang.
"‘Tour pace moderate’, the brochure said, but you should never underestimate an Explore trip. That said, the non-stop activity of my second day in Luang Prabang was largely self-inflicted. We arrived in the ancient capital of Laos by boat after a relaxing journey drifting down the Mekong and day one passed in a colourful blur of orange-clad monks, temples, mosaics, and golden buddhas - but that was just the start.
Day two started with thick Lao coffee sweetened with condensed milk (1. caffeine and sugar boost). After breakfast we drove out to the jungle park at Tat Kuang Si, where the hardier members of the group plunged into a pleasantly chilly turquoise pool at the foot of a roaring waterfall –a kind of natural jacuzzi (2. wild swimming). There were colourful butterflies and an enclosure of bears rescued from poachers swinging in hammocks and generally chilling out (3. photographing cuddly animals).
Back in town we grabbed a quick take away lunch from the JoMa French bakery and set off for the library. We’d seen a poster inviting English speakers to volunteer as tutors so together with another former teacher, I did. My student was not a monk but like most young Lao men we met, he was studying at a monastery and had brought his very dull grammar book with him. It had been 30 years since I’d had to explain the future perfect continuous to anyone but sadly it all came back to me (4. rewarding voluntary activity).
However keen the learner, one-to-one tuition is quite tiring so after a couple of hours I felt I deserved a treat, and I went and bought myself a present. In the silversmiths’ quarter by the river they trade from their homes. In a front room where children are watching TV and women are preparing dinner there’s a glass case full of silver jewellery, you pick your item, they weigh it and give you a price (5. purchase of unnecessary silver bangle).
My next stop was the patisserie where, from a bewildering choice, I opted for mango cake – which turned out to be like an English banana loaf, but with mango (6. afternoon tea treat). Despite the energy boost, I was starting to flag, so I went to get my feet massaged at the Red Cross. I’d had reflexology before but never with a wide-eyed toddler watching intently and giggling at my squeals of pain as the masseuse found the tender spots on my feet with unerring accuracy (7. relaxing lie down).
As I left the Red Cross the air was filled with an eerie booming sound. In the Wat Visoun across the road a group of monks were beating a massive gong (8. unexpected spiritual experience).
The day ended with a final visit to the market, where you can indulge yourself with silk scarves of every possible colour (9. hassle-free gift shopping), and a beer Lao by the river (10. spectacular sunset over the Mekong).
Is it any surprise that I’ve been telling people my retirement plan is to go and teach English to monks in Luang Prabang?"
Blog and photos by Alison Baxter. Check out our holidays in Laos for you chance to have your very own perfect day in Luang Prabang.