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Friday, November 1, 2013

Exploring Luang Prabang

When I was invited by Arugaan to join them at the One Asia Breastfeeding Forum 9 in Luang Prabang, I was very excited to say yes but also worried.  It was the first time that I would be traveling away from E who was still breastfeeding often, especially at night.  I was given the option to bring him but of course, I needed someone to tend to him while I was at the forum.  I am really thankful that Stan agreed to come to handle the kids and because N was on sembreak, she came as well.

Luang Prabang is a World Heritage Site in Lao People's Democratic Republic.  During the planning stage, my mom was worried about us bringing the kids because Laos is a developing country and it was our first time there.  However, we believed that exposing the kids to a new country will educate them and expand their horizon.  We also decided not to bring a yaya because we could bring the kids to the forum and let them learn from the other foreign participants. 

Getting to Luang Prabang was a challenge.  There were no direct flights from Manila.  We caught the early Cebu Pacific flight to Bangkok and had a 6-hour lay-over there.  Fortunately, our connecting flight to Luang Prabang via Bangkok Airways allowed us to use their boutique lounge.  

Visting Luang Prabang is a great experience for the kids.  The airport reminded me of the old Davao airport.  Tourism is on the rise and on our way to town, we passed by their much smaller airport.   The airport was about 30-minutes away from the town center.  Because Philippines was part of ASEAN, no visa is required for a Filipino visitor and there is a special lane for ASEAN travelers.

We stayed at New Daraphet Villa, a guest house which was in the center of town.  It is a quaint little guest house that is full of character.  We loved how they designed the guesthouse using Lao architecture.  The Lao people were also very gentle and helpful.   Although people spoke limited English, it was enough for us to understand each other, especially when booking tours and asking for directions.   I was also happy that there was laundry service (about 98 pesos per kilo) at the guesthouse and I wouldn't have to handwash E's diapers.  There was a cheaper service (54 pesos per kilo) but we had to walk into town. 

Traveling with N and E was made easier because they ate anything and everything.  With E, we practiced baby led feeding so I didn't have to worry about packing meals for him for this trip.  There were also no high chairs as we ate anywhere and everywhere - including the street noodle corners.  To manage, E sat on me while Stan ate then we exchanged places.  N could eat by herself but needed prodding so we were able to get by. 

Lao food is spicy.  Before the trip, Stan and I already told N what to expect. I was also able to buy her a 25pesos book from the book fair which explained about Lao people, food and culture.  Because we got her excited for a new experience, she was open to try things, including food which she normally wouldn't it back home.  We took the opportunity to dine at different places - nice restaurants, street vendors, "carinderyas".  For 10,000 kips (about 54 pesos) you could already get a carinderya buffet or a bowl of noodles or a baguette sandwich - good enough for 1 meal.  Fruit shakes were abundant and salads (especially the Lao style salad) was really delicious and fresh.  

Although Luang Prabang is known for its temples, we chose nature or interactive activities to keep the kids entertained.  We visited a bear sanctuary, waterfalls, rode an elephant and cultural villages.  According to N, it was her first time to see such big waterfalls.  Meanwhile, there was nothing I could do to stop E from running and skipping as we went up to see the falls.  I repeatedly tried to carry him but failed. 

Babywearing and breastfeeding also made our trip enjoyable.  E could get a snack anytime anywhere and we didn't have to worry about strollers - not that it was a stroller-friendly destination. 

Traveling with kids without help is not an insurmountable challenge.  Yes, it may take extra effort but the rewards are worth it.  Of course, you must have a cooperative partner who would be willing to split tasks and take over when you're busy (thanks Stan!).  
thanks for this photo Lei!
Next stop... Rain City for the Christmas holidays!

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