While everybody goes to Luang Prabang to enjoy the alms ceremony and the waterfalls nearby (have to blog about both some other time), one of my first impressions of this Lao cultural centre, was captured by a night market.
Click here: to check out the Iranian markets of Doha, Qatar.
Laos is the Rapunzel of South East Asia. Extremely beautiful, but hid away from mainstream eyes. With a good mix of socialist core values, and creeping commercialism, some interesting and much-needed laws (did you know foreigners will be jailed if they have sex with a local person!), and a very colourful culture, Laos is indeed one of the gems of South East Asia. But because of lack of too many direct flights, lack of infrastructure, and the excessive touristic appeals of neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand, Laos does not get too many tourists. And the few that visit, often head out to Vang Vieng for its tubing ceremony.
Thank you, you drunk tourists! For keeping LP relatively less crowded!
Well, I did find a cheap flight into Vientiane from Kuala Lumpur, so headed out to explore the country for 10 days. And one of the first sites I went to, was of course Luang Prabang. And my very first evening, I had a chance to marvel at the Sisavangvong night market.
I had seen some incredible night markets during my visit to Taipei, but Sisavangvong was a totally different experience. This night market opened in 2002, and was called the candle market then because of lack of electricity. And it was supposed to be open only for a few weeks. But the popularity ensured that it stayed open ever since.
Located in the centre of the town, the market opens everyday at 5 pm and stays open till 10 or 11. And even when the market closes down, some of the stalls selling crepes and baguettes stay open till late in the night, especially for the revellers.
The choice in the market is quite vast, actually. There are everything from ceramic handicrafts to beerlao tshirts, coffee and tea to bamboo lamps, antiques to shoes. Pretty much anything that you associate with Lao culture, can be found in the stalls of the night market.
But the best thing about Sisavangvong, is not the goods on display. Its the people who sell them. Remarkable for South East Asia, you will come across very low number of pushy salesmen. And then, really low margins to bargain. The guys here haven’t caught on yet to the mad price-hiking that you see elsewhere in the region. So, if you go with your mind set on bargaining – like I was – you will find that you dont need to do that in the first place!
And because of the lack of pushy vendors, you are in no compulsion to buy anything when you stroll through this market. On the other hand, simply take a stroll to see the local life of Laos. Or to enjoy the smell of local spices. Or taste local delicacies which are a blend of Asian and French cuisines.
And in the offing, if you like something that you see, you can buy it too.