I walked down the last few steps of the path from Mount Phou Si and entered onto the street. The muddy brown waters of the Nam Khan River flowed lazily by on the other side of the road. I waited for a tuk tuk carrying a family of four to drive past before crossing the road and looking out over the river. On the opposite bank, a farmer was out tending to his vegetable garden, his boat tied up to a makeshift wooden dock. As I looked back towards the hill that I had just descended, two orange robed monks holding umbrellas walked past, while a bicycle sat unattended leaning against the wall, it’s owner obviously not having to worry about it being stolen.
I wandered along the river bank, watching life go by as I realised that I was suddenly feeling hungry. Not much further down the river, I came to an almost empty restaurant looking out over the river, and I ordered some noodles and a cold banana shake to refresh me from the heat and humidity. A light rain began to fall, a typical occurrence in the afternoons in the wet season, and I was forced the stay under the plastic covering that acted as a roof in the restaurant. But this didn’t bother me, because I didn’t need to be anywhere. I was sinking into the normal pace of life in Laos, and nothing needed to be done in a hurry.
As the rain eventually eased down to a drizzle, I put on my rain coat and continued to walk down the road following along the river. On my left, the French Colonial influenced buildings were mixed with typical Asian style houses, providing me with a look into Luang Prabang’s past. A lady rode her bicycle down one of the side streets and past a beautiful old guest house, it’s white walls standing out against the brown wooden windows and the reddy brown roof tiles.
As I walked around a bend in the road, I noticed a rough path leading down towards the river bank on my right, and with no plans and no where that I had to be, I let my adventurous nature lead me down the muddy path. Carefully, I walked down the slippery steps and past an empty wooden shelter. I was now standing on the bank of the Nam Khan River, looking out to where it flows into the mighty Mekong, it’s muddy waters adding onto the already huge volume of water that flowed down the largest river in South East Asia.
Walking back up the path, I continued to follow the road that now had the Mekong River on it’s right. A slow boat took off from the banks, taking passengers across to the other side of the river, it’s noisy motor struggling against the strong current to avoid being washed down stream. A line of tuk tuks and songtheaws were parked along the side of the road, some with their driver’s having an afternoon nap inside. One or two casually asked if I needed a ride, and they didn’t seem too bothered when I said no. They seemed quite content to stay exactly where they were.
Further along the road, a little girl ran out across the street, happy that the rain had finally stopped and she could go outside to play. She wiped the rain drops off of the seat of a motorbike parked on the side of the road, and when I asked if I could take a picture, she answered me with a shy smile and posed for the camera. I put the photo up on my camera screen and showed it to her, and the huge smile that it gave her could have brightened up the dark cloudy sky.
I felt a sense of peace with the world as I wandered down the road, and I realised that this is what life is about in Laos. Luang Prabang had given me so much just from walking along one of it’s roads, and for me, this is what travel is all about.