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Kamu Lodge and Villa Maly are featured in Weekendin Singapore, September 2013

Kamu Lodge and Villa Maly are featured in Weekendin Singapore, September 2013

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Published by HangDo-Balcony
www.kamulodge.com
www.villa-maly.com

Weekendin Singapore runs four full pages featuring Luang Prabang, Kamu Lodge and Villa Maly.
www.kamulodge.com
www.villa-maly.com

Weekendin Singapore runs four full pages featuring Luang Prabang, Kamu Lodge and Villa Maly.

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Published by: HangDo-Balcony on Sep 11, 2013
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12/15/2013

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Weekendin
Seven days a weekend |
 
travel
issue
Singapore
Regional Getaways
Thailand
The preferred destination
Bliss on Beach Road
The new Pan Pacific Serviced Suites 
Orient Delights
Great Chinese and Japanese cuisine 
Watch your Arms
 Arm pain treatment from Dr. Prem Pillay 
Running the Ritz
 An interview with Peter Mainguy 
Kuala Lumpur
Stay experiences 
 
06 |
09:13
 
WeekendinFEATURE
47 WeekendinWeekendin 46
WeekendinFEATURE
TRAVEL
reveals a shufing saron column o monksand novices on their daily alms procession. The townspeople treat this ritual with greatreverence. The streets are lined with locals andoreigners who wish to participate in this mostspiritual o ceremonies. I bought some stickyrice, ruit and biscuits enough to eed quite aew monks, as I placed the products in theiralms bowls as each monk approached. Thecost o the ood was negligible compared tothe satisying sensation I gained rom the almsgiving. For 200,000 kip or S$32 it is possibleto suciently supply provisions or two orthree days. Remember though, that this is asolemn ceremony o devotion and strict ruleso behaviour apply. The serenity and spirituality o the earlymorning ceremony provoked a strong senseo inner peace and contentment. As the silentprocession was over, I walked back to myhotel in time or breakast only to reect onthe dierence between the West’s ingrainedconsumerism and the simple lie in a Buddhisttemple where meditation and denial promotesa higher sel-awareness.Indeed it may be that the adherence toBuddhism by the monks have stabilised thecountry through the turmoil o colonialism, war,destruction rom the sky and communist rule.Because Buddhism has been the Laos’past,present and surely its uture, it will continue tobring certainty o a better lie ater the tumulto the today.Rested and rereshed, I retraced my steps to theNational Museum, ormerly the royal palace.Built at the turn o the 19th and 20th centuriesduring the French colonial period, the museumwas the ormer royal palace until 1975 when thelast Lao king Sisavang Vatthana and his amilywere overthrown and placed in captivity to diea ew years later in unexplained circumstances. The museum is a treasure chest o art décorurniture and displays over 50,000 arteacts andpersonal possessions o the royal amily. Thequality o the diplomatic gits presented tothe King displays the importance o his court,especially to the Americans who were thenghting the Vietcong. A cabinet holds a silverpen rom President Kennedy, a loving cup romerstwhile Secretary o State Dean Rusk, a redag and plaque presented by President RichardNixon. An identical cabinet standing oppositeit holds similar items rom the communistregimes; such was the nature o cold wardiplomacy played not only with guns andbombs but trinkets and insincere compliments.During the Vietnam War period, the countryhad the very dubious status as being the mostbombed country in the world. The claim stillstands to this day. In the same room, a largedining table is set out in western dining styleready or the next state banquet that will nevercome. Just as poignantly in the king’s bedroom,his bed is made up as i waiting or his spectreto settle in peaceul sleep. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays,and entrance ee is 30,000 kip or S$ 5.50.Wearied by the early start and templemeanderings, I waited until the sun set overthe mountains then walked to the large andvibrant night market. What a sight greetedme. Ablaze with light and colour the vermilion-canopied stalls lined the road side or whatseemed like miles, selling everything rom reshruit to smoothies, Laos silk shawls and scarves,colourul original paintings and hand cratedcarved wood, silver and pewter objets d’art.I dislike haggling but tried my skills on oneunortunate vender who wanted an outlandishprice or a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt. I wassurprised at my bargaining talent when I paidless than hal the asking price. I smiled and hereplied not with a grimace but a broad smilethat seemed to say, “You win, this time.”I return early to my hotel or I take a three hourboat trip up the Mekong to a Kamu villageretreat the next day. I make my way down tothe banks o the mighty Mekong and board avery long motor boat; two other intrepid ladiesare already settled onto the wooden slattedseats. We pull away rom the makeshit pier andstart the cruise. The sediment-thick waters glidepast as massive limestone clis and the jungleo multi-green hues sedately sashay beore us. Towering blue-green ruggedly peaked distantdusky mountains are set against a blue sky. Wepass shermen and boat builders and childrencavorting in the cooling waters.We eventually stop at the Pak Ou caves, a shrinelled with Buddha statues too many to count.I look at one in a no conict pose and notice acoronet o guano, another whose tiny robes arecaked with the dirt o ages and yet more weredusty and candle wax smeared, some werestanding on one leg, others had no arms, a ewno heads all blindly staring at the lie-givingriver. The Buddhas seemed like an allegoryor the country; maimed and ravished by timeand history but now standing in peaceulcontemplation o the present and uture. The serenity was shattered when approachedby a tourist ocial who asked me what touristswanted. I replied with a simple sentence:“Nothing more than this.”Ater a short while, we continued on our journey to the Kampu Village Lodge, where wewere greeted by an excited gang o village boys,shouting the traditional welcome “Sabaidee”.An elephant and its mahout appeared rom aOnce the capital o the French colony andKingdom o Laos, Luan Prabang is today is ano the track tourist gem.I stood on the steps o an ancient templelooking at a stream o motorcycles roar past,accompanied by the odd tuk tuk (or jumbo asthey are called in the town) and an occasionalJapanese pickup. Fiteen minutes later thestream had slowed to a trickle and peace yetagain reigned in this ultra laidback town. That,I thought, must have been downtown LuangPrabang’s rush hour. Turning my back on the straggling throat-clearing motorbikes, I wandered through awhite washed arch and saw a sight that mademy jaw drop and eyes widened at what laybeore me. This was a gleaming Buddhisttemple prayer hall part o Wat Xieng Thong,Luang Prabang’s oldest and most magnicenttemple.I climbed the two ights o stairs to the prayerhall. Removing my shoes, I am urther awedat a large elevated throne protected rom thepopulace by a gold lea-covered magnicentlycarved screen o Buddhist angles surmountedby serpents. Beyond the screen a throne risesmetres rom the oor and is rooed by a vetiered canopy. The throne, the walls and the supportingpillars are sumptuously decorated with ruby-hued mirrored mosaics that are decoratedwith gilded ornate ligree. The columns aresupported on golden bases and topped withcapitals o carvedwoodpalm leaves again glowing with burnished goldlea. The eect on me was o overwhelmingopulence. Although buddhist temples areopen to all at all times, sitting on the oor o thissite o grandeur were two amilies enjoying anindoor picnic obviously proud o the heritagebut unmindul o what surrounded them.It was dicult to leave so much beauty, andI wanted to stay and revel not just in thelavishness o the interior but to marvel at theskill and workmanship preserved or hundredso years. Tearing mysel away, I emerged romthe coolness to the searing heat o mid-aternoon, blinking at the strong sun allowingmy eyes to adjust to the light.Looking back, the temple is just as magnicentoutside as on the inside, as the entire buildingglinted and sparkled in the sunlight. Again therichness o gold lea-covered ligree decorationwith inll o deep emerald green mosaicscovered the whole surace o the building. AsI wandered around the grounds, I came acrosstraditionally decorated shrines and Buddhas invarious poses. The temple also houses the royal barge house,where the barges were once used to processdown the Mekong or special occasions andauspicious ceremonies.It is not possible to walk very ar in LuangPrabang without stumbling across an ancienttemple. It is this well preserved heritage, alongwith the spectacular sceneryand the Mekong, one o the world’s greatestrivers, thatpersuaded the UN to bestow the coveted statuso World Heritage on the town. By all means,visit the amed temples but also linger in theless amed, poorer and less visited templesthat abound in this town. I wandered into thecourtyard o one undistinguished temple onlyto nd temple boys at their lessons, earnestlystudying the Buddhist scriptures, Maths andEnglish. Bright saron robes uttered limplyon a washing line strung between two monkscells. Younger novices taking a break rom theirlessons ran and pranced between the robesplaying an impromptu game o hide and seek.Spontaneously, they ran up to me to shyly say,“Hello, how are you?”Walking urther into the temple yard, a youngmonk was explaining the Dharma to a smallgroup o teenage girls, who listened intentlyto him. Seeing my curiosity, he called me overin perect English and we chatted while thegirls giggled and dgeted. In ten minutes, Ihad heard his lie story and he part o mine. Aswe parted, he gave me a blessing and a smallamulet or good ortune.I walked through a bougainvillea entwinedarchway and passed a seated monk stroking acat with his right hand and holding a Buddhisttext in the other. I thoughtully kept the smartphone and cameras in my pocket so as notto disturb the beauty o that moment. A ewmore steps and I returned back to reality. The next morning, I rose very early and walkedto the National Museum to participate in whatmust be Luang Prabang’s most amous activity.As the sun rises rom the jungle and mountainsthat encircle the town and dawn slowly, it
Luang Prabang
:
Urban Eden
Once the capital of the French colony and Kingdom ofLaos, Luang Prabang is today an off-the-track tourist gem.

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