Milford Sound with Southern Discoveries

While planning for my visit to South Island in 2018, I had wanted to stay at least a night or two in the Milford Sound area, but I had to choose between that or a visit to Stewart island, another place that was a priority. So I balanced both by choosing a day trip to Milford Sound from Te Anau and an overnight on Stewart island.

I actually overslept the morning of my Milford Sound tour, due to jet lag and having forgotten to turn on the alarm on my phone. I woke up to knocking on my cottage door at the hostel I was staying at in Te Anau. Quite disoriented, I opened the door not quite understanding why there was someone knocking on my door. A flustered woman said that my tour bus was at the gate to pick me up. I asked her if she could ask them to wait a few minutes for me to get ready. She said she would convey the message but they might not wait. True enough, minutes later, when I made it to the road, I didn’t see any bus. They had left. Terribly disappointed since I was only in Te Anau that day and I had very much wanted to visit Milford Sound, I decided to walk to the Southern Discoveries office and check if there were other options. The staff on duty was the same one that I had met the previous evening, when I had stopped by the office to clarify whether I would be picked for the tour from my hostel or whether I had to come to the office. She calmly replied, “no problem”, when I had explained what had happened. She checked what other tours were going to Milford Sound and when I found out there was one leaving in 2 hours, I was really happy. Without any fuss, she issued me my tickets and asked me to be at the office in two hours. That interaction, the calm and professional manner of the staff member with the right touch of courteous and kind made me like the Southern Discoveries tour operators even before my tour had started.

I decided to get my caffeine fix for the day and went to the nearby Miles High pie shop for an apple pie and coffee.
IMG_3806

This time, when the coach bus came along, I was ready and I settled into my seat at the end of the bus to enjoy the scenic drive.
IMG_3813.JPG

The bus driver stopped the bus in Eglinton Valley and suggested we take a short walk along the boardwalk and admire the views. While there were lots of people on our bus and other buses, since people kept walking, it didn’t feel as crowded as it actually was.

IMG_3838.JPG

Mirror Lakes

IMG_3903.JPG

At the Tutoko Suspension Bridge

I guess the best way to explore Fjordland National Park would be to have your own vehicle to drive through and where you could take time to hike along some walking trails off the road. The driver did stop at a few points along the way, as photo stop points, but with just enough time to stretch your legs, take in the view for a moment, click some photos and get back on the bus. So at the Tutoko suspension bridge, we didn’t have time to walk down the forest trail to see the chasm waterfall. To reach Milford Sound in time to embark on the Milford Sound cruise was the key factor that prevented us from having much time at the stops but at least, we stopped at some points along the way.

The driver/ guide was also recounting stories along the way of places we passed and the story about how Thomas Gunn swam the river to reach the nearest settlement to get assistance for survivors of a helicopter crash was impressive.

IMG_3861

We made it in time for the Milford South lunch cruise and I had a quick lunch so that I could go out onto the deck and enjoy the landscape we passed.

IMG_3911.JPG

Starting with a view of the Mitre Peak, the cruise was a beautiful experience of Milford Sound.

IMG_3914

IMG_3951.JPG

IMG_3959

IMG_3993

Despite the cold, I stayed outside through almost the whole cruise, not wanting to miss the sense of happiness I felt whenever I am out on a boat and on water and can smell the sea air around me and the feel of the wind and water lashing against my face. Only during the last segment of the cruise, I decided to go in for some hot coffee.

The return drive to Te Anau was uneventful, without any stops along the way, nor any story narration. I ended the day with a lovely walk around the waterfront in Te Anau.

IMG_4047

Milford Sound is a must visit place for any traveler to the South Island.

What was your experience of Milford Sound, if you have been there?

Lugu Hu: A Cultural experience of a lifetime

When Yuan first made her presentation on minority ethnic groups in China during the cultural week at the Asia Pacific Leadership Programme at East West Center in Hawai’i, the moment she mentioned that the Mosuo had no word in their vocabulary for father, I was intrigued.

So, when we were asked to do an independent mini study travel, while in Yunnan province, two of my friends and I chose to visit Lugu Hu, where the Mosuo community lived.

With Michelle and I not being able to speak Mandarin and Mami able to manage the bare minimum, it was an interesting travel to the lake area.

We found ourselves doing very touristic things as people assumed that is what we would be interested in.

We tried the local café to see if that would yield more insight into the community, than the tourist narrative but language was a major barrier.

DSC08108

Eventually, we ran into some luck when the taxi driver we hired to take us to a Buddhist temple was quite chatty and he invited us over to his house that evening for some tea with his mother.

He described the Mosuo home design, in which the mother had the central structure – the place of power, and each child had a space built in the courtyard. According to tradition, the children were supposed to live with their mothers. There was no such concept as marriage, though there was a terminology which loosely translated meant walking marriage, where a male or female met someone they liked during the festivals etc. Any resulting child would stay with the mother and be raised by her family. So there were words for uncle and brother, only not for father.

DSC08172

While my curiosity had been piqued, I felt that we lost a lot since we were hardly able to communicate with anyone in the village. Also, I felt that a lot of the narrative that was being shared with us was a touristic version intended to attract the visitor to the region.

Therefore, I asked my friend Yuan, who had obviously not joined us on our study tour to China and instead had chosen to go to DC and NY during that time, whether we could go on an exploratory visit of our own into a more rural area of the Mosuo community. She agreed and we decided that it would be good to set an objective for the visit rather than simply an exploratory visit. I was to be responsible for writing the human interest stories and Yuan, the photography. With this agreement, the next year, I returned to Yunnan province looking forward to understanding the community better.

During this visit, not only did I have Yuan, a native Mandarin speaker with a postdoctoral specialization in minority ethnic Chinese communities with me, she had also linked up through her academic network to someone from the Mosuo community, who lived further north to Lugu Hu, and who offered to host us at her home for a week or so.

We arrived at her home in the evening after a long bus drive from Lijiang and I don’t quite remember my first impressions. I only remember that when I woke up in the morning, I was greeted outside my room to the beautiful view of the mountain.

DSC00170

Over a breakfast of yak butter tea and mantou, Anna spoke about her family and her siblings. It was only her parents who now lived in their family home and she and her siblings had moved to town and cities as required for their jobs and livelihoods. She mentioned that was the case with most of the families in the village, where only the older generation were mostly left in the village.

We also learnt that her brother’s family would be visiting that week as the Moon festival was during the week we were there. I learnt as I visited with various neighbours of Anna that family lives in the Mosuo community were now similar to the rest of China. What was a tourist narrative in Lugu Hu was not the day-to-day reality of the people, who for decades now have been in legally, binding monogamous marriages and where the family unit comprises of the husband, wife and child and as in any other patriarchal society, the father is the head of the household.

I remember we went for walks around the village, admiring the beautiful views, visiting family friends of Anna and with Anna as our Mosuo translator listening to them speak of their families and lives. Yuan and I planned to write out the stories that touched us, but somehow this got derailed at the beginning as we found that three way translations didn’t work and it was decided that Yuan would at the end translate what was being discussed to me. It never did happen though we meant to do it at some point after we returned home. I have the audio recordings of our talks and I never felt it right that I have it translated by any other Mandarin speaker as this was a joint undertaking by Yuan and I.

DSC00256

Perhaps it doesn’t really matter – our originally aim of a joint initiative of human interest stories accompanied by Yuan’s photography didn’t materialize. The connections I made with the family we stayed with, despite the language barrier, and the people we met was enough to understand their way of living, to understand the common thread of family concerns they had. If I cannot write a human interest story on the specific elderly people we interviewed, I can at least remember that Anna’s mother treated us as her daughters and that she opened up her home to us with a warm hospitality. I can remember that we celebrated the Moon festival, a time for family reunions with Anna’s family where they included us as part of the family without question.

DSC00261

For all the delicious home-cooked meals that Anna and her mother made us during our stay, Yuan and I decided to cook dinner one day for them. I attempted to cook a curry with hardly any spices and I don’t think it went well with our hosts but they remade it to a tasty dish blending it with rice noodles for lunch the next day.

On our last day, Anna’s mother took Yuan and me to the Yongning temple, the temple she connected with the most, so that we could pray there before we left.

I hope I can revisit Lugu Hu in Yunnan province again and visit Anna’s family with Yuan once more for the Moon festival.

Special Six: Highlights of Kathmandu

Earlier this year, before the travel restrictions were put in place, I was in Kathmandu for a training.

This was the first time I had been to Nepal so I was very much looking forward to exploring the city. However, on the very first day, I had two nasty falls – the second fall resulting in cutting my lip very badly and traumatizing my teeth, that for the rest of the week I could not eat any solid food. That accident pretty much cut my exploratory mood. However, I had managed to visit some places before I fell on my first day and I did regain some of my exploring spirit during the last days.

The following are the special six highlights of my trip:

(1) Swayumbunath Temple:

Anjal, one of my two friends, who had volunteered to take me around during my first Sunday in Kathmandu, took me to his favourite place in the city – Swayumbunath Temple.

IMG_2951

One of the oldest religious places in the city, the temple is considered to have self-sprung. The temple is located on top of a little hill from which one can see the crowded city.

(2) Patan Durbar Square:

The second place that Anjal stated was his favourite was the Patan Durbar square, one of the three ancient city squares in Kathmandu. Patan Durbar square had lovely architecture which was beautifully preserved.

We also visited the museum overlooking the square, which had a very good collection of artwork and information on the cultural evolution over the centuries.

(3) Boudhanath Stupa:

Towards the last days of the training, I began to recover physically and a couple of colleagues and I decided to visit Boudhanath stupa, an UNESCO world heritage site.

IMG_3023

By the time we navigated the traffic and reached the temple, the temple was closed but we walked around the stupa a couple of times before heading off to have some pho at a noodle shop overlooking the temple.

(4) Hindu temple:

With Rekha, my other friend, who had volunteered to take me around on my first Sunday and with whom my outing in Thamel was cut short after my fall, we decided to attempt another outing towards the end of my trip mainly to give her a sense of satisfaction. She said she had felt a bit traumatized as well seeing my accident and the resulting injury.

I asked her if we could simply go to a Hindu temple as I had been to a couple of Buddhist temples and was interested in experiencing a puja at a Hindu temple. I remembered that when Rekha had visited Colombo, she had wanted to go to a specific Hindu temple and she had remarked that the way the puja was done in Colombo was very different to the way it was in Kathmandu.

She took me to a couple of Hindu temples, which did not have the ‘gopurams’ or towers that Indian or Sri Lankan temples have but were mostly small spaces in corners. There was also no specific priest. There was a woman with a child when we went in. She gave me some kumkumam (turmeric mixed with other ingredients) and then asked for some cash.

IMG_3037

(5) Basantapur Durbar Square:

After the visit to a couple of Hindu temples, Rekha suggested we go to Basantapur Durbar square. Another UNESCO world heritage site, this was badly affected by the 2015 earthquake.

We walked around a bit and then after dinner, we decided to take a trishaw from the square back to the hotel. While I wouldn’t take the trishaw again, once would be good to experience.

(6) Kathmandu cuisine

Kathmandu has a variety of cuisine that would be interesting to try out. On the first day, Anjal had recommended the restaurant Raithaane in Patan for its offering of a variety of local cuisine with a fusion touch. However, it was closed when we went. And I was not able to eat anything solid after my first day. I am glad though I tried two different types of Nepali cuisine within my first 24 hours in Kathmandu.

What did/ would you want to experience on your first trip to Kathmandu? Except for the fall in Thamel, of course. 

Special Six: My Memories of Inverness

During my student year in the UK, I had the opportunity to enroll for the Host UK programme. Since I was planning to visit Scotland during the summer, I decided to combine part of it with a stay with a local family and applied for it.  I was paired up with a family in Inverness. A lovely couple who had a long history of hosting foreign students and who actually agreed to host me in the last minute, when my original host in Inverness had fallen sick and they had been contacted on the day I was traveling to Inverness, as Host UK did not want to cancel out on me.

Based on my experience, I would highly recommend any foreign student in the UK to include a Host UK homestay experience as it does enrich your student experience and probably, the friendship that you build lasts beyond your student year.

The special six memories of my homestay experience in Inverness are the following:

(1) Getting to know Helena and David and their lovely neighbourhood:

Helena, with whom I spent the most time, was a retired teacher and an avid historian, loved to cook and was very proud of her garden. I enjoyed accompanying her on her walks around the woods in the neighbourhood, overlooking Loch Ness, short forays into her garden prior to cooking to get some garden produce. I remember planning and cooking a Sri Lankan dinner (they called it tea) once and wondering if her nieces who were not exposed to other cuisines would like it. Her interest in Sri Lankan history and culture and enthusiasm in sharing the Scottish stories was what I remember most about my stay with them.

(2) Culloden Moor

Helena said that I needed to visit Culloden Moor, as it was a place that meant a lot to Scottish people. The site of the 18th century battle was originally not something that I thought I wanted to visit as I have never wanted to visit former battlefields. However, seeing her keenness, I agreed to it. We set out the next morning after my arrival in Inverness, and went to the site. There is a little museum at the site. For me, it is one of the best museums I have seen to-date as it shows the perspectives of all stakeholders (civilians and officials) on both sides pieced together from their letters and journals. I understand there are other museums that have done this as well but this is the first that I have been to.

IMG_0381

The museum then opens out into an open expanse, which you can walk about with an audio guide which talks about different points – such as the points that leaders of various Scottish clans fell.

IMG_0383

The little cottage, which had been the makeshift hospital and neutral ground, evoked a sense of sadness before I learnt that even though the wounded soldiers made their way there to surrender, they had been killed.

IMG_0389

Culloden Moor, a place that Scotland has decided to preserve as part of their heritage and learning, is a place that does raise a lot of questions on the purpose of battles and loss of lives and why human beings are unable to resolve power issues through other means.

(3) Dolphin watching at Chanonry Point:

Helena having taken me to her favourite place in the morning, David decided to take me to his favourite place that afternoon having learnt that I loved dolphins. We went in time for the low tide as apparently the Moray Firth bottle nose dolphins turned up soon after.

There were a few families that had turned up to watch out for the dolphins but though we waited till sunset, we didn’t see any that day.

IMG_0400

(4) Munlochy Clootie well and tree

On the drive back from Canonry Point, we passed an area where there were trees with what looked like rags tied to them. It reminded me of the prayer cloths tied at trees outside Hindu and Buddhist temples. David stopped the car and we went to some of the closest trees. In pre-Christian times, it was believed that a healing spirit inhabited the well and people came to heal themselves with the water from the well and tie rags of cloth to the tree to make a wish of healing. Since Christian times, a Christian saint has replaced the nature spirit in the folk stories but the belief remains the same. And people continue to tie pieces of cloth rags to the trees.

For me, I have always believed in the power of people’s thoughts – to manifest something. That is why I have believed in the power of prayers to heal and to transmit positive thoughts across the oceans. So, whether people believe that something is manifested by their tying a piece of cloth on a tree or offering a puja, the main underlying aspect is the power of their thoughts.

(5) Corrimony Cairn:

The next day, Helena decided on a day out with a picnic to a couple of her favourite places. We first went to Corrimony Cairn. This is a burial chamber from 4000 years ago.

IMG_0408

It is a collective tomb that was built and the passages have an astronomical alignment and orientation.

(6) Plodda Falls

Being a hiker and nature enthusiast, Helena took me to Plodda falls next. This is the highest falls in the area. We discussed the various trails and knowing my mobility issue, she chose the shortest trail that would allow me to see the falls with the least walking effort. It still wasn’t a short or easy walk though.

Returning back to the car park after we went on this short trail, we stopped by a stream and relaxed for a while simply chatting and taking in the fresh air of the forest.

It’s been years since this visit but we still keep in touch. I was happy to hear of the birth of their grandchildren in the years that have followed – one of whom actually shares my birthday, so I am not going to forget him.

I am not sure if I would have especially visited Inverness had it not been for Host UK, as I had other Scottish cities and islands on my priority list. I am also very sure that I would not have visited any of the above mentioned places had it not been for my host family actually taking me to the places that they loved and letting me experience them as well.

So I hope the above is of some help to those planning a visit to Scotland in helping plan a travel to Inverness.

Special Six: First Taste of Yangon

2020 started with a brief trip to Yangon. Over the couple of days that I was there, while I did not have much time to sightsee, I did have the opportunity to try out some nice cafes and restaurants with friends.

Here are the six that I enjoyed:

(1) Rangoon Tea House in the old Town area was my favourite. My friends introduced it to me on the first day and I revisited it with a colleague on the last day of my visit. I tried out Mohinga, a popular breakfast in Myanmar. The Mohinga I tried had a fish broth and egg served with rice noodles and lots of crispy stuff that you could add to your soup.

(2) Shan Shoe Yar was the place my friends chose to treat me for lunch on my last day in Yangon. They chose it for its Shan State cuisine. The flavours were different from the local food I had tried out in Yangon till then. Especially nice was the dessert, which was fried sticky rice dipped in sugar and sesame seeds.

(3) Strand Café was a place I dropped by as I was tired after walking around that area in the hot sun. Strand hotel was built in 1907 and listed in many travel guides to Yangon as a place to try out their famed afternoon tea. I enjoyed relaxing with a book and a cool smoothie in the elegant café.

IMG_5811(4) Bodhi Nava close to Kandawgyi lake is my pick for best coffee in Yangon. I tried out a few places that was recommended as having good coffee but the coffee I liked best was the one served in this little café. They also served a great smoothie bowl for breakfast.

(5) Aung Thukha listed at #17 on Trip Advisor was a place I tried out for lunch one day. It is a busy eating place where you need to select the dishes that you would like from the counter and they bring it to your table.

IMG_2857(6) Sharky’s was an organic restaurant that I went to a couple of times during my visit. It has a lovely ambience and some great food. I did not try the local food offering there but tried out their sausage platter instead with a lovely coloured sweet pea and lime drink.

If you have visited Yangon, which was your favourite restaurant or café? Of the six mentioned here, which would you like to try out?

 

Special Six: Highlights of Bangkok

During my work travels to Bangkok in 2018 and 2019, I did take a little time to explore a few places during each visit.

The following are the places I enjoyed visiting.

(1) Wat Arun:

The temple known for its sunrise views is the temple I chose to visit during my last trip to Bangkok. The small temple is beautiful especially for its intricately carved structure.

(2) Wat Pho:

This royal temple was the first place I visited during my first trip to Bangkok in 2018. The reclining Buddha is 46 m long.

(3) Dialogue in the Dark

This is the experience I highly recommend in Bangkok. I had been searching for unique travel experiences and came across this museum/ educational center based at the National Science Museum. Dialogue in the Dark is part of a worldwide project that enables the visitor to experience how challenging navigating everyday life can be for the blind. The guides are blind. The experience involves walking into a pitch dark room with a blindfold over your eyes and a guiding stick, with only the voice of your guide to lead you.

(4) Jim Thompson House Museum:

The house museum of Jim Thompson, who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry during the 50s and 60s then mysteriously disappeared in the jungles during a trip with his friends, is open for guided tours. It was a dark and rainy evening when I visited the place so the ambience and the guide’s story telling added to the spookiness of the place. The house though is a lovely traditional house that is worth visiting even without the tales of haunting. The house museum has the art center and shop next to it, where visitors can buy the silk products at exorbitant rates.

(5) Bangkok Art and Cultural Center (BACC):

I had actually gone to BACC for the drip coffee place that was highly recommended. However, the coffee shop was closed for renovation, so I explored the rest of BACC and found it to be a lovely center with art galleries and little crafts shops, as well as lovely handmade chocolate shop.

(6) Coffee

As is my usual habit, I tried out a couple of coffee places in Bangkok as well and my favourite to date is Ceresia Coffee Roasters.

IMG_1645What would be your the sites you would visit if you only had a day or two to explore Bangkok?

 

 

 

Special Six: Taste of Stockholm

Going back to Stockholm after nearly 10 years, earlier this year, I had expressed my wish to re-taste the flavours of Stockholm when dining out with friends. Therefore, we tried out traditional restaurants serving Swedish cuisine during this visit. From the numerous dishes that I tried out during this visit, the following six were my favourites.

(1) Västerbottenpaj

A meeting with a former colleague at her favourite café, Gunnarsons Konditori, had me tasting the classic cheese pie for lunch.

IMG_1439(2) Pan fried Salmon with new potatoes

The Gastabud offering of pan fried salmon with new potatoes was delicious and highly recommended. We were there quite early so got a table without having to wait. Currently topping the restaurants in Stockholm for its Swedish cuisine, I observed that many who came after us had to wait in queues for tables to free up.

IMG_1477(3) Stekt strömming 

Sjöpaviljongen, a lovely lakeside restaurant near the hotel I stayed at during this visit, served this traditional fried herring dish.
IMG_1519(4) Ren och viltsKavspanna 

Kvarnen , an eatery serving meals for more than 100 years, was the spot a few colleagues and I decided to try out on our last evening in Stockholm. On a whim, I decided to try their reindeer stew which was good. The first time I did try reindeer stew cooked in a Sami hut, back in 2001, during my visit to Kiruna.

IMG_1522

(5) Kajsas Fisksoppa

Kajsas Fisk at Hotorgshallen, operating since 1984, was highly recommended by a friend and so we both met up there to enjoy their famed fish soup, which was perfect for the chilly afternoon.

(6) Pankakor med jordgubb sylt

At the hotel where I stayed at in Stockholm, they served Swedish pancakes for breakfast and that was what I had each morning.

IMG_1539Apart from main meals, one cannot forget fika when one is in Sweden. My favourite kanelbulle from this visit was the one I had at Bageri Petrus in Sodermalm.

IMG_1391What are your favourite Swedish cuisine flavours?

Special Six: First Glimpse of Nairobi

Earlier this year, I had traveled to Nairobi for a conference. While I was there for nearly a week, I only had the day I arrived free so I booked a car at the hotel to take me and a few colleagues to some places I had wanted to visit.

(1) Giraffe Center: The center is a conservation center for Rothschild giraffes. Visitors can learn more about the endangered species as well as meet a few and feed them.

(2) Karen Blixen Museum:

The home of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, was another place I visited during my afternoon out. While I had not read the autobiography but rather seen the movie in which Meryl Streep acted, it was nice to connect pieces of the story to the place where the author had centered her story.

(3) Kazuri Bead and Factory:

Close to Karen Blixen museum, I had wanted to drop by the place. However, our driver was in a hurry to get back to the hotel so we only had time for a quick viewing and shopping. While I did not have time to take any photos, the Kazuri beads (ceramic beads) shop is a great place to get some gifts for yourself and family.

(4) Rooftop Maasai Market:

I learnt that there was a Maasai Market every Wednesday at the Thika Road Mall, near the hotel we were staying at. So a few of us decided to pop in there at the end of the day. It was a fun shopping experience especially as one of us was an expert bargainer and the rest of us relied on her to help with the bargaining.

(5) Ugali at Java House

During my week in Nairobi, I was looking out for traditional Kenyan dishes. However, while there were international restaurants at the hotel I stayed at, there was no Kenyan specific restaurant nor was there any offering apart from the fried bread served in the breakfast buffet. So, I was delighted to see a Kenyan dish served at Java House at Thika Road Mall. It was Ugali (a cornmeal dish) served with Chicken Dhanya.

(6) Coffee:

While Kenya is both a tea and coffee producer, I was keen to try out Kenya’s coffee. My favourite was the flat white I had at Artcaffe.  IMG_1312
Have you been to Nairobi? If you had less than a day to explore the city, which would be the experiences you choose to have?

 

Special Six: Coffee in Luang Prabang

(1) Café de Laos

It is a quaint little coffee house right on the main street running through the old city and opposite Zurich bakery, which serves delicious pastry. I tried the coffee Laotian style, with thick condensed milk.
IMG_0671.jpg

(2) Saffron

The lovely café served great coffee. I had their cold brew while enjoying the view of the Mekong. On my last day, I revisited the café to buy some coffee for home.

(3) Joma Bakery

The flat white served at the bakery was quite good and their cinnamon rolls even better.

IMG_0898

(4) Dao Coffee House:

The coffee house was another place that served decent coffee. I tried out their iced coffee as the afternoon sun was very warm outside.
IMG_1070

(5) Dexter Café :

Dexter located on the main street of the old city was just opening up for the day, when I stopped by for my morning coffee. I very much liked the flat white I tried here as much as I liked the Saffron coffee.

IMG_1166

(6) Coffee House at the airport:

At the coffee outlet in the farthest corner of the food court, I had some good iced coffee.
IMG_1198

Do you take the effort to try out locally produced coffee or tea when you travel? Any favourites in Luang Prabang?

Special Six: Eating out in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is filled with restaurants and cafes to fit all budgets. These however were the six that I liked from the ones I tried out.

(1) Ock Pop Tok Café:

The café at the Living Crafts Center of Ock Pop Tok has a lovely ambience and I specially enjoyed watching the sunset over the Mekong, while enjoying my dinner of Khao Soi. The café screens movies once a week, and seems to be popular among expat communities in the area.

(2) Secret Pizza:

One of the two Airbnb accommodations I stayed at in during my visit to Luang Prabang was at Secret Pizza. Not only was the place lovely, they served pizzas on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the garden transformed into a lively and bustling meeting place for families with children. Since my room overlooked the garden, I enjoyed my ‘secret’ pizza on the little patio of my room away from the busy center.

IMG_0773

(3) Khai Phaen: A vocational training restaurant, that provides training for youth from marginalized communities, was one place that I had marked that I needed to visit during my travel to Luang Prabang. The place was lovely and the food, Sai Oua with Jeok Mak Keua, was delicious. I was especially happy to see these leaflets on the table on ways travelers could better protect children in local communities.

(4) Dao Coffee House:

Described as a traditional coffee house, I stopped by to try Dao’s coffee and ended up having lunch. I tried out Naam Khao, which is a kind of fried rice ball salad mixed with sausages, nuts, herbs wrapped in green leaves and eaten with a dipping sauce.

IMG_1068

(5) Phon Heuang:

A tiny café near the Garavek theatre, the place served tasty and filling portions of meals for a fraction of the cost of more upscale restaurants like Khai Phaen and Ock Pop Tok. I had rice with basil chicken stir fry. While similar to the Thai dish, there was a difference in the seasoning.

IMG_1197

(6) Night market

A fan of coconut pancakes, I used to buy a portion of coconut pancakes each evening at the night market, during my stay at the heritage house in the old city.

IMG_0891

 If you have been to Luang Prabang, what were some of your favourite places to eat?