So, I’ve been in Luang Prabang for a few days, and here’s what I’ve figured out:
- I should have rented a house in Luang Prabang, not Vientiane
- Lao tuk-tuk and boat drivers are great fun, and you should get drunk with them
- When you get drunk with them on Lao whiskey, your head hurts really bad the next day… I mean, like, REALLY bad. Don’t let that stop you, though
- When there is sunlight coming from the direction you want, there are thick clouds where you need blue skies. And vice versa
- Tourism hasn’t spoiled the locals
- Luang Prabang is one of the most beautiful small towns on Earth
Will I keep adding stupid lists to all my posts? Keep checking them, and we’ll both find out! For the moment, they serve my purposes. Don’t expect me to expound on each point.
So, if you read into my list at all, as far as my photography is concerned, I’m still struggling. I’m working hard, but I’m not happy with the light. I’ve stopped staying in and not going out to shoot when the light is “wrong”, but, being my own worst critic, I’m not completely satisfied with the work I’ve done so far, because the light is “wrong”. Portraits work really well with diffused light, but diffused and flat, while often found together, are different. Soft shadows are okay. No shadows?? Urgh.
And one thing is unavoidable – shooting temples, buildings, things like this – it doesn’t work unless you’ve got the right light coming in, and good skies behind. Beautiful, golden light on the temple with a flat, grey background? Hell no. Beautiful, blue skies, or even partly cloudy, with nice, fluffy, textured clouds behind… and flat, diffused light on the temple? Super hell no.
Am I giving up? HELL NO. I did get some great stuff today. It wasn’t what I was looking for when I walked out of my guesthouse door this morning, but good stuff is good stuff.
And Luang Prabang is an amazing town, with endless opportunities. Next year when I come back to Laos, I’m coming straight to Luang Prabang and renting a place here, for two good reasons. First, if I get a house across the river and not in the center of town I can get a beautiful spot on the riverfront for $80-$100 a month. Second, and far more importantly, in Luang Prabang I can wander around the streets and get, oh, about a thousand times more good photos than I can in Vientiane. Plus, some of my new boat driver friends have assured me that they can introduce me to the chiefs in hill tribe villages nearby that would be happy to let me stay with them for a week or more for 20 kilos of rice and a bit of cash.
Live and learn. This year I’m going to struggle a bit, and I’m going to make mistakes. I’ve made a few already that I won’t make next time around.
So, anyhow, I have to admit that I drink Beer Lao every single night. At a solid average of $1 for a BIG bottle, I simply can’t afford not to drink it every night. Now, that doesn’t mean I get drunk every night, far from it, in fact. But a night without a Beer Lao here is a foolish, wasted evening indeed. Not only is it by far the most tasty lager available in Asia, it’s also, as I mentioned, $1 for a big bottle. I mean, Jesus… I can ALWAYS afford $1 for a big beer, no? (there’s also a Beer Lao Dark, incredibly good, but about 50% more expensive for a smaller bottle) So, when the weather has been great and I’ve had a good day, I celebrate by drinking a Beer Lao. When the weather sucks and I have a bad/unproductive day, I cheer myself up by drinking a Beer Lao. It’s a vicious, inescapable, numbing and delicious circle. Beer Lao is brewed with no preservatives, so hangovers are rare.