Cruising the Mekong at sunset can be an unforgettable experience, if you do it right. In Luang Prabang, there are large, with tourists packed loud boats taking you for a ride as anywhere on the bucket list map, but you can go small scale to avoid it. The intimacy of a small boat, free from phones snapping the moment which you have basically missed yourself, is worth paying for.
The golden hour of the sun nesting into its bed of horizon filters the light into a warm bath of airy presence. Facing towards Thailand, our wooden boat glided on the silky ruffles of the water’s surface. We were dreaming of the tangible possibility of eternal beauty here and now. It wasn’t the wine only that tricked us into such a romantic illusion, the scenery intoxicated us with its serene calm. The cinematic narratives of the Mekong’s charm we knew from movies played a live stream right in front of us. Surrounding to this moment, I felt romantic, like the teenager sitting in front of a campfire, musing on the magic life we humans have the opportunity to participate in. I want to be the part of that spiritual life! I thought.
Another put off is the unromantic reality of the wasteful, cheap and utilitarian lifestyle we consume today. Environmental pollution is not a priority in the impoverished Laos. Plastic trash pops up in the forest on trekking trails, around the less touristy temples, as well as floating on the surface of the magnetising Mekong river.
Shifting reality through your consciousness
What alarms one’s eyes though, does not bother another’s mind. The Lao people do not seem to be aware of this piling up of trash being a problem, so for now let me just close one eye and savour the soul-melting sunset over the Mekong.
I get deeper in my connection when I close my eyes. I can better immerse myself into being in the moment and in my budding visual creativity. Further, like with kissing, my feelings intensify with my eyelids shut. My breath becomes my sight. The mind travels through the body and I sense more fully my surroundings. This river of breath carries me far away from any fear, pain or worries. Each inhale frees more space between my body tissues. I expand, freed. The exhales liberate the nods and tension stressing my muscles that crave relaxation. Like melting chocolate from its heavy form into a fluid cup of pleasure. Huh, feeling great!
I opened my eyes.
The surrounding natural canvas changed from the lazy cosiness of the afternoon palette to the deep, restful blue hues of the evening. This was one of these experiences when a little wine accentuates the tiniest layer into something more clearly enunciated (which does not work in other, mainly to productivity-geared activities). The gold imprinted on the veneer of the temple walls and roofs, on the ponds at the nearby Royal Palace, and the Mekong would be muted very soon.
As the night descended upon our melancholic state, reality tapped in. Our captain steered the boat back to the mooring in the gently lit-up town. Luang Prabang does not waste its public electricity on the sparkly light show of many cities. The dimness feels very cosy though. One wants to cuddle in and just chill.
Market life by the Mekong in Luang Prabang
In town, the night market was in its full, local pace. Browsing the crafts, textiles, organic soaps, mostly silly T-shirts and some tacky souvenirs, there was still authentic quality to be found. I needed a toiletry bag as the zipper of my past Christmas gift just broke down, and I found the perfect, handmade one. Girlfriends chit-chatting at one of their mother’s stand exchanged smiles with us, their 20 years older selves. I empathised with them having their special moment out at night. In their age, I thought this would be so rare, a cherished outing. Unlike in Cambodia or India, they did not push us into buying anything. I was impressed. Then, I was amused. A toddler dressed in a grass green dinosaur costume trod around the colour paintings at another stand. His mum was chatting with another lady. A family life live at the night market, no need for media.
The morning food market nearby is more interesting produce-wise, at least for me, an avid cook seeking always new local and seasonal ingredients. I was offered to taste almost everything, but some strangely looking river fish that I’d rather not see. On the other side the fried bamboo shoots and banana chips made a perfect snack, while the river weed without the saltiness of seaweed intriguingly seasoned many local plates from chicken to rice.