mastercopycat

Virtual meanderings

Luang Prabang Main Street Transformations

         Bustling with people, merchant stalls packed together, thousands of items for sale that the foreigner cannot even recognize, agressive marketing and noise. If there was ever a cliché about Asia, it would be markets.

         Luang Prabang, too, is famous for its night market. I would not know it – markets are really not my love affair – but this time I did not go to the market. The market got to me.

         Since the times of French philosopher Rene Descartes we’ve become accustomed to think about a location in terms of two coordinates – X and Y (or X,Y, Z if we want to express all three spatial dimensions). Yet, to locate Luang Prabang’s night market, you’d need to use Einstein’s theory of relativity which integrates space and time into a single continuum, thus adding a forth dimension – time.

         OK, this was my fancy of saying that the Luang Prabang’s night market is open from 6 to 10pm on the main street. And I mean that literally – on the asphalt just in front of the former Royal Palace. So you can only hit it then – neither earlier, nor later in the day. At 6pm the city police just close the street for motorized traffic and merchants with bags start appearing from all around (as if they were hiding in the neighboring streets).

Before…

Luang Prabang Sisavangvong Road

Courtesy:  lacest20 @ flickr

and after…

Luang Prabang Night Market

Luang Prabang Night Market

Courtesy: Lazy Hiker

         So if you happen to be strolling down the street at about, say, 5pm, and come back the same way at about, say, 7pm – the market’s got you by surprise. Now, here I was wondering whether to quote Shrek’s Princess Fiona’s “By night one way, by day another”  for a second time (I already used this verse once in my post about Khao San Road). But as you see, in the end I decided to not do that.

         The market vendors are given about half an hour to set up and then the street is opened for walking. Tourists start appearing from all around (as if they were hiding in the neighboring streets). At 10pm straight merchants have to pack their stuff and the street is open for traffic – till it all repeats on the next day. Here I was thinking to perhaps make an original point about the cyclical perception of time in the East, versus the linear perception in the West (I have not referred to that in any post yet). But as you see, I refrained from doing so.

         Now let’s tackle the “market = noise and aggressive selling“ cliché as well. I’m telling you, every visitor’s admiration for Laos immediately doubles when they realize that the Luang Prabang night market is the only exception to this iron rule in the whole of Asia. Merchants not only are not marketing their stuff aggressively, they are not even making much noise. It is more of a quiet family affair with grandmothers, mothers and their daughters sitting on the side of their offerings, who would only subtly invite you to pay some attention to them. Lao people have not acquired yet the seasoning and the brazenness of their Thai and Vietnamese counterparts, or the despair of their Cambodian colleagues, or the Chinese sophistication.

Look Ma, no hassling!

Look Ma, no hassling!

Courtesy: Bostjan Frelih @ photo.net

         Wait, there is more. Not only is the experience hassle-free, but in addition the Luang Prabang market offers perhaps the biggest variety and undoubtedly the best handmade crafts in the whole of South East Asia. Yes, in tiny Luang Prabang. Later on my way I came across people who’d begun their Asian journeys from here and had not given the market the attention it deserved (in the mistaken belief that they would find the same stuff later on the way and would not need to carry it). They had realized their mistake and were now bitterly sorry. Do not be like them.

Luang Prabang Market

Courtesy: All Points East Travelblog

Luang Prabang Night Market Paintings

Luang Prabang Night Market Acrylic Paintings

Cortesy: photoportraitpainting.com

Luang Prabang Night Market

Courtesy: www.sabenandlin.com

Random Luang Prabang Market Vendor

Courtesy: www.cringel.com

         One last thing. In addition to featuring the best night market in South East Asia, in Luang Prabang you can also try the best fruit shakes in the entire world. And I am totally serious when I say that.

Best Fruit Shakes in the entire world

Best Fruit Shakes in the entire world

           Like true pieces of art, each cup offers a slightly different combination of colorful fruit bits. Pick one up! When you’ve made your choice the cup contents are put into the blender together with some coconut milk, sugary water and ice – and your stomach is to receive a tasty treat that’s never completely the same so you keep coming back for more. Or so did I.

         Want to know more about Luang Prabang? Try this link or that link.

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One response to “Luang Prabang Main Street Transformations

  1. Pingback: Laos | The Growing Divide « mastercopycat

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