17/3 : Luang Prabang : douceur de vivre et sourires laotiens

Nous pensions passer 3-4 jours à Luang Prabang, nous y sommes restés 8 jours…c’est vous dire qu’on a bien aimé !

Luang Prabang, située en bordure du Mékong. fut la capitale de Lan Xang (ex Laos), jusqu’au XVIème siècle et est inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l’ Unesco depuis 1995. Ce qui séduit d’emblée, c’est le calme, la tranquillité, les nombreux temples ou monastères tous plus beaux les uns que les autres, les petites gargotes le long du fleuve, les moines vêtus d ‘étoffe d’une belle couleur orangée, les arbres fleuris…et le sourire des laotiens qui vous interpellent d’un joyeux “Sabaidee !” (bonjour ! prononcer Sa-i-ba-i-dii).

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Nous avons trouvé un hôtel charmant, ancienne maison coloniale, et le matin, quand nous ne prenons pas notre petit-déjeuner au bord du Mékong, nous déjeunons sur le balcon de notre chambre qui donne sur  un jardin luxuriant. Le propriétaire, un vieux monsieur –ancien diplomate- parle le français.

Nous nous laissons rapidement contaminer par le rythme lent de la population. Un vieux dicton datant de l’époque coloniale dit : “les vietnamiens plantent le riz, les cambodgiens le regardent pousser et les laotiens l’écoutent”…Plus sérieusement, derrière leur nonchalance affichée, les habitants ont à cœur d’entretenir et d’embellir leur ville. De nombreux monuments ont été restaurés ou sont en cours de restauration – pour certains  avec l’aide du gouvernement français.

Nous flânons dans les petites ruelles pavées de briques rouges, nous ne nous lassons pas de visiter les temples ou monastères qui renferment des trésors (enfin, pour être tout à fait exact, Bernard s’en lasse un peu plus rapidement que moi…). La religion –ou la philosophie- bouddhiste est ici omniprésente. Devant chaque maison, est dressé un petit temple dédié au culte des ancêtres.

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DSC05698 Chaque matin, dès 6 heures, il faut voir les quelques centaines de moines défiler dans les rues de la ville, recevant leur nourriture de la journée, selon un rituel bien établi : les habitants –et les touristes qui le souhaitent- s’installent sur une natte devant leur maison, les hommes debout, les femmes assises, les épaules recouvertes d’un écharpe. et distribuent par petites quantités du riz, des gâteaux, des fruits…

 

 

Un  jour, nous nous rendons d’un coup de “jumbo” (triporteur à moteur) dans le village voisin de Ban Xang Khong où travaillent de nombreux artisans (tissage, sculpture sur bois, confection de “pâte à papier” incrusté de pétales de fleurs…Les soieries sont magnifiques, difficile de résister à la tentation !

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P1010229 Un autre jour, nous partons en excursion à Tat Kuang Si : des cascades descendant sur plusieurs niveaux creusent des bassins où l’on peut se baigner, un vrai régal d’autant que depuis quelques jours, il fait vraiment très chaud !!!

 

 

 

P1010200 Les journées passent ainsi sans que l’on s’en rende compte. Nous commençons à avoir nos habitudes, nos petits restos, notre boulangerie !…Certains midi, nous pique-niquons, assis dans l’enceinte d’un monastère ou attablés dans le jardin de l’hôtel. Et, petit clin d’œil  à nos parents et amis bretons, nous avons même trouvé du pâté Hénaff sur le marché de Luang Prabang, incroyable, non ?…

 

Enfin, nous nous offrons “une petite folie” : 2 jours dans la forêt avec des éléphants !

Le Laos s’appelait antérieurement Lan Xang, ce qui signifiait le royaume du million d’éléphants. Il n’en reste plus aujourd’hui que 1500 et des programmes ont été mis en place afin de sauver cette espèce menacée d’extinction.

DSC05798 Avant de partir en balade à dos d’éléphant, un “mahout” (cornac) nous initie rapidement à la conduite de “l’animal” : au son de “Pai Pai” (tout droit), “Sai” (à gauche) ou “Koa” (à droite), prononcés fermement, l’éléphant est sensé nous obéir…Bon, heureusement que le mahout reste derrière nous ! N’empêche qu’un éléphant –même d’Asie- c’est haut (ceux d’Afrique sont encore plus grands) et ce n’est pas si simple de garder l’équilibre ! Bernard s’y sent tout de suite très à l’aise ; quant à moi, il me faut un peu plus de temps pour me décrisper et me persuader que je ne vais pas tomber ! Mais après des débuts un peu stressants, j’apprécie de voir le paysage “de haut”. Un seul autre couple de hollandais est avec nous, et en soirée nous allons tranquillement conduire les éléphants qui doivent passer la nuit dans la jungle. Les mains posées à plat sur la tête de l’éléphant, je me laisse bercer en m’étonnant du contact de cette peau rugueuse, et lorsque je sens que je perds l’équilibre, je m’accroche à ses  grandes oreilles !!!

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Après une nuit passée dans cet endroit de rêve, nous partons de bon matin rechercher les éléphants pour les amener à la rivière. Bernard retrouve Mae Uak, son éléphant et moi Mae Nam (ben oui, maintenant qu’on se connaît bien, on s’appelle par nos prénoms !…). Re-balade dans la forêt, avec lever du soleil,  puis bain dans la rivière : moment magique et partie de rigolade ! L’éléphant de Bernard, particulièrement taquin, plonge profondément dans l’eau avant de remonter en douceur, Bernard est mouillé jusqu’au cou tandis que le couple de hollandais et moi ne sommes mouillés que jusqu’à la taille ! Munis de brosses, nous leur faisons une toilette énergique qu’ils semblent bien apprécier !

Ces animaux sont étonnants  et nous aurons pris beaucoup de plaisir à les côtoyer pendant ces deux jours.

Au bout de 8 jours, il est tout de même temps de reprendre la route ! Objectif : Vientiane.

Après  8 heures de bus sur une belle route sinueuse, nous faisons halte à Vang Vieng, petite ville située en bordure de rivière. Drôle d’impression : le centre de la ville est envahi de “bars à télé” où une population de jeunes occidentaux regardent, allongés sur des banquettes,  des dessins animés ou la série américaine “friends” qui passe en boucle !!! Les jeunes viennent ici pour les possibilités d’activités : rafting, kayak…et les environs sont très beaux. Mais notre hôtel n’est pas terrible, l’ambiance de la ville ne nous convient guère, mon bras ne nous permet pas de faire du kayak, aussi  nous décidons de poursuivre sans tarder notre route vers Vientiane.

Annick

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