Monday, August 30, 2010


The Ban Phnom weaving village is about 7 kms. away from the Luang Prabang. This is a good place to buy cotton and silk textiles where you can also observe traditional weaving techniques of the Lao people.

This village became one of the acknowledged suppliers of the King. The ban Phnom village is full of history, culture and a weaving experience that you can still find in some other villages in Laos where methods, techniques and patterns are still those of old times.

The majority of the village's production is done according to a technique that uses cotton and silk. The weave is done using thick cotton threads that are often in different colors, which gives it a shimmering effect. Nearly all the families in this village possess 1 or more weaving looms. Some have even created small workshops. The prices of their handicrafts here in the village are a lot cheaper than that of the Night Market.

Sunday, August 29, 2010



When traveling to Laos, there are many places and sights to see. But one of the most unique and interesting destinations has to be the Pak Ou caves. These caves are one of the most sacred sights in the country. They are still being used as a place of worship. Every New Year, people from Luang Prabang make a pilgrimage to the caves containing over 4000 Buddha images and statues. These underground sanctuaries have been venerated for centuries where thousands of Buddha statues are housed. The caves can be reached either by a short trip on the Mekong River or by road to Ban Shang Hai Village.

Today  ----  let me take you to the PAK OU CAVES. These caves are found 25 kms. outside the city of Luang Prabang. We decided to go by tuk tuk rather than taking a boat on the Mekong river... The roads to the caves were not paved.. so it was a bit dusty on our way to there. Half way to the caves--- we asked the tuk tuk driver to stop for a while so we could take some photos of the Mekong River.

When we reached our destination---- we still had to hike some 350 meters to the boat landing where we would be taking a small boat to bring us to the caves.

It was nearly lunch so Oskie and I decided to have our lunch at the restaurant near the boat landing. The name of the restaurant was MANIVANH.  Here is what we had for lunch...

Deep fried  srping rolls..

Fried Fish ( caught in the Mekong River ) with pineapples...

Stir fried ginger with chicken....

After lunch, we met a boatman by the river bank and we haggled with him on the price he was  going to charge us just to take us across the river. He charged us 20,000 Kip ( which was roughly $ 3.00 ) to take us across... It was a good price, so we agreed. The boatman helped me get in the boat... the chairs were like the kind you would find in a little girl's tea set ---- small , wooden and very uncomfortable. Then the boatman pushed his oar off the dock and we slowly slipped into the current. The rattle of the motor drowned the sounds of life along the Mekong .... but we had a beautiful view.

The Pak Ou caves hosts thousands of interesting small and bigger Buddha images, mostly donated by the local people. There are 2 caves.... the upper and the lower cave. The lower cave is clearly visible from the river and is accessible by boat, while the higher level can be reached by climbing some stairs.... ( I counted almost 120 steps going up ).

Saturday, August 28, 2010


You don't have to come close to a temple in Luang Prabang to see Buddhist monks.... and you do not need to know anything about Buddhism to recognize them. These monks are unmistakeably dressed in bright orange or saffron colored outfits. The more brownish orange is reserved for the wise and senior. They fill the streets everywhere. You can hear them sing heavenly chants in Buddhist temples or see them walking around a temple with a disposable camera, taking pictures of Buddha statues, some of these monks even have cellphones. Yes, the thing that strikes many visitors to Luang Prabang, besides the beauty and the solitude of the place is the incredible number of Buddhist monks walking around.

Their appearance colours the streets. If you are awake at the crack of dawn... you might even see them going around the streets to collect food offered by Laotians or fellow tourists like me. They come in groups , sometimes alone.... but one thing for sure.... these monks walk with dignity. Dressed in those trademark saffron robes,  you will easily spot them walking in pairs, usually with an umbrella in hand to ward of sun rays or raindrops.

I was up very early one morning since Ton Lee ( the night manager at the Villa Treasure ) told me that one of the attractions in Luang Prabang was the Alms Giving every morning which starts at 5:30 am till 6:30am... where I will be able to see hundreds of saffron clothed monks walking down the streets.

At 5:00am....Oskie and I took a tuk tuk to Sisavangvong to witness this alms giving event. I even bought a small bucket of sticky rice and took my place in the sidewalk to wait for the monks to pass. Suddenly there is an orange line gleaming in the morning mist. A line of monks started to walk down the street... They looked like orange soldiers... in a single file... walking barefoot carrying a silver bucket where they will put whatever alms will be given to them. A line of Lao women is waiting, kneeling on mats with baskets of sticky rice, bananas and cookies. It was short after six o'clock in the morning. It is the daily procession of the monks through the streets of Luang Prabang. The women were ready to gain merits as they share some sticky rice to the monks. Merits are very important in Buddhism. Monks earn their merits through meditation, chanting and more rituals. One way women can earn merits is cooking and serving food to the monks, giving alms to them. When the monks pass by, the women take the food out of their baskets and put it on the bowls of the monks. It was indeed a magical moment!!

As they passed me... I stood up and tried to give my bucket of rice... but they didn't want to accept it... I looked puzzled at their reaction.. One Lao lady approached me and told me that I have to give a handful of sticky rice to each of the monks that passed me... I had to SHARE the sticky rice and not dump it on one of the monks... so -- I asked her if she could do it for me... while I continue taking photos of the monks.. and she obliged.

It was very surprising to see a considerable amount of very young monks ( the youngest monk I saw that morning was about 6 years old)... " They must have been found without parents to take care of them ", I said to myself.... I wanted to ask one monk if by staying in the monastery and becoming a monk was one way to pay for tribute to their survival.. and perhaps one day they will be able to better themselves when they finish their studies and find a job in the outside world....

If you pay a visit to any temple in town it is highly likely that a polite young monk-- or a group of them -- will initiate a conversation with you. Most of these curious, conversational monks are of the novice variety... they are usually in their teens still in school and not yet full-fledged men of the cloth. Many of these novice monks come from poor villages throughout Laos to live and study at the temples of Luang Prabang. Being Buddhist monks, they are focused on learning about the teachings of Buddha, but the novices also study a variety of academic subjects like English and Math. Many of the monks that I have met at Wat Mai... can understand and speak English. The monks that want to pursue their education at a university must relocate themselves to the capital of Luang Prabang which is Vientiane which has a university for monks.

I was lucky to have talked to a few monks and found out some things about them while I was in Luang Prabang. I would like to share them with you:

They shave their heads every 15 days.

They wake up at 4:00am every morning and go to the temple to pray before they start walking the streets of Luang Prabang for alms.

They only eat 2 meals a day. Breakfast and lunch. Breakfast consists of what they collect in the streets that morning and some donations from the villagers. Lunch to them is at 12:30pm.

At 6:00pm... the monks go to the temple to do their vespers... they chant verses and do some meditation afterwards. One evening I was in WAT MAI temple at around 6:30pm and I was able to hear the monks doing their evening chanting. It was so eerie !! It felt like I was stepping back into time. Can you imagine yourself sitting inside the centuries' old wats immersed in the sound of the monks chanting?? It gave me goosebumps when I was listening to them.

Between 7:00pm and 8:00pm -- they have their evening classes.

They are in bed by 9:00pm.

There are many beautiful natural attractions to see in Laos, everything from mysterious caves and pristine waterfalls to craggy mountains and raging rivers. Perhaps the attractions that sticks in most people's mind the longest though, are those charming monks in saffron robes.... I remember what one of the monks told me one afternoon while chatting with them in their temple......


                                           SABAI DEE !!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Kuong Si Waterfalls is located 35 kms. outside Luang Prabang. Another main attraction you should not miss while visiting Luang Prabang. This beautiful park is captivating with limestone formations and beautiful jungle pools for swimming. Oskie and I hired a tuk tuk for that day to bring us there. I enjoyed the ride which brought us down some unpaved dirt road past little villages and dry fields. Some people even waved their hands at us when we passed them down the road.

An hour later we arrived at the waterfalls.. and I even ran into some people who had been on our other tour to the Pak Ou caves. Luang Prabang and the tourist trail in general is so small that in Laos you hardly are surprised to run into the same people over and over again. On the entry of the park are many shops where you can buy drinks, souvenirs and lunch. The entry fee for this waterfall is 20,000 Kip which is equivalent to $ 3.50.

When you arrive at the falls you have to hike up a hill ( at least 1 1/2km. ) to get to the falls itself. Since I had a foot injury last February --- I was walking up the hill at my pace.... which was really slow. When you get to the bottom of the falls, it is very organized with some tables and chairs to sit on and a couple of bridges.

" WOW !! This is really beautiful !! " was what I could say about the Kuong Si waterfalls. I immediately set up my tripod on the little terrace meant for tourists in order to view the falls... I was not  happy with my first few shots... I decided to walk down to the bridge that was facing the falls. The current was very strong and the spray coming from the falls kept on getting in my way while I was taking my shots. I had to keep on getting out of my spot to a drier place just to wipe the lens of my camera and take some lightning shots with my camera in order for it not to get too wet from the spray.

The Kuong Si waterfalls were picture perfect!!! the view of the clear waterfall flowing into the beautiful turquoise colored pools surrounded by lush green plants was simply awesome !!! It was like spending an afternoon in paradise!!!  This waterfall is one of the tourist attractions here in Luang Prabang that surely lived up to its reputation. Luckily, the day I was at the falls, there were not that many tourists either, so it allowed us to experience the beauty in relative peace. The waterfalls consist of a 55 meter main waterfall, and several 3 meter cascades. The Kuong Si waterfall flows over a high limestone cliff through bamboo forests and tall jungle. Mists from the waterfall danced through the air as I started to take my photos of this lovely paradise. The only scary thing you should watch out for is the steps to the waterfall is quite slippery.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS- Going back in time

                                   SABAI DEE  LUANG PRABANG!!  
                                           ( WELCOME to LUANG PRABANG )

Luang Prabang is nestled in the valleys of the mountainous north with the mighty Mekong River in the west and the Truong Son Range mountains in the east offer natural borders to Thailand and Vietnam respectively, while Laos also shares borders with China in the north, Myanmar in the northwest and Cambodia in the south. It was the former royal capital and now a World Heritage Site listed by the UNESCO.

Today Oskie and I flew to Luang Prabang via Lao Airlines which we took from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our plane trip took one hour.  We stayed at Villa Treasure Guest House. It is a 15 minute walk to the city center. The main street is SISAVANGVONG.... this is where the night market is located and most of the tourist attractions of Luang Prabang.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Celebrating a milestone at RED- Shangrila, Makati

RED is a very sophisticated yet cozy fine dining restaurant located at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. It boasts of French-inspired menu with a touch of Asian influence. Though the food is a quite pricey, the artistic and imaginative way Red serves its dishes make it a great eating experience. Red opened its doors to the public in 2003 and through word of mouth--- this restaurant has been a  "MUST TRY " for every serious food lover's list...

It is not everyday that I get to indulge in fancy dining...but today is different... I am going to celebrate a milestone with a dinner at the Red with my family and very close friends... The first thing that entered my mind was... Why did they call this fine dining restaurant at Shangri-La named Red??.... Is it because of the red upholstery of the furniture in the resto??... I sent text messages to my invited guests to come in black , gray or white... not RED.. or they might blend with the interiors of the restaurant...

Monday, August 9, 2010


I joined the Rockwell Club's WALKAPEDIA Tours with my friend Oskie and his cousin, Juni , who was visiting from the States. Our destination was Binondo and Chinatown... what made me join this tour???.... I joined it because I heard it was going to be a walking culinary tour.  There are walking tours in Binondo.. but I liked this culinary Binondo Wok of Ivan Man Dy the best.

According to the flyer, this culinary walking tour will last  4 hours. Here are some things you are required to do when you go on this kind of tours----

**  You should wear light clothing.
**  Put on comfortable walking shoes ( sneakers and rubber shoes is a MUST ).
**  Bring a camera ( you will need it to take a lot of photos along the way ).....
**  Bring some sun or rain protection ( umbrella-- if possible )
**  Do not eat breakfast if you are planning to join a culinary tour--- you will be eating along the way....
**  Have an open mind about the food you will be tasting and experiencing for the first time.
**  and the most important item ..... bring a bottle of water with you....

Are you all set????  Come and follow me as I walk this BINONDO WOK..