Luang Prabang: After a long ride with a slow boat we finally arrived at what seemed to be our destination. In the middle of nowhere the slow boat stopped about 10 km to early from the city center. This was strange because everywhere we read that the harbor was in the city center, which meant that we needed to get a tuk tuk to get to the center. A lot of tourists were confused but we arrived in the city center and waddled to our guesthouse together with a group of new friends we made on the boat. We decided to travel further together with another backpacker to carry on our hours of good conversations and laughs. Luang Prabang is an easy going city filled with beauty if you know where to look and at what time. The first hints of French settlers can be seen in the buildings with coloured wooden shutters that make you feel a bit puzzled as to where you are in the world. The waterfalls hidden up in the mountain combined with a sunset panoramic view make this city a warm welcome into Laos. A tip would be to visit this place at the end of October so you can witness the colorful decorated houses for the Light Festival.
Joma Bakery Cafe: Start off the day at this coffee place and treat yourself to a good strong cup of Joe. This place can be found throughout Laos and is therefore in my eyes a Starbucks look a like, as it also smells the same inside: fresh brewed coffee and sweet sugary cupcakes fill up the air.
Passa Paa: This beautiful shop filled with handmade articles is not only a decorative way to bring Laos back to home but also a great way to support the locals as the money goes directly to the makers. This company supports weavers from North and South Laos, which I think is always great, by offering a sales point. Buy bags, tea towels, dinner napkins, scarfs and more. The style strongly resembles something that can be bought at the pricey and expensive Anthropology so get your articles here and help out a local.
Must Eat 1
Experience the local night food market like never before and get a real taste of the Luang Prabang vibe. For 15,000 Kip you get a bowl what you can fill with a variety of vegetarian dishes. Although the flavor of the food is not the best, the experience is worth it. While eating the bowl on a small wooden picnic table dozens of people push, shove and sweat while trying to pass each other in the small alleyway separating your table from the buffet. Order a cold beer together with this meal and start talking to have a night to remember.
Must Eat 2
Noodle Place on Beginning Main Road Left: Though this place has no name the food was a must do! You can find it near the beginning of the main street right after the small food alley on the left. The food is cooked on a stove outside and the tables are both inside and out. The soup is served with a bowl of fresh raw vegetables which can be used to cool off your mouth with if it gets too spicy. Find on your table a basket filled with Soy sauce, Fish Sauce, Chili paste, and more to add yourself. If you visit this place around the time that we were here, you’ll see the cute little fluffy pupster waddling around the tables looking for a rub on his tummy.
Must Eat 3
L’Elephant Restaurant: Yes I dared… did it and love it: Steak Tartare in a foreign country with 39 degrees Celsius outside and did not get sick at all. This restaurant might be a bit more expensive than your usual costs, but well worth the while especially with it’s French cuisine that is combined perfectly with Asian hints and aromas. Plus you get to taste a steak tartare while traveling for months woop woop, hello reunion France.
Must See 1
October festival: Visit Luang Prabang in the end of October to fully see its beauty as a city during the Bun Awk Phansa (End of the Rains Retreat). All the temples and houses have colorful handmade paper stars that hang brightly in front of the French historic buildings.
At night the stars and paper lampions are lit by dozens of monks that continuously watch over the flames as some catch fire due to the wind. See a dark path between buildings that’s lighten up with candle lampions? Follow them and be amazed. Behind many of the buildings find large pastures of lit lampions and give the feeling of a flipped starry sky. Tip: make sure your camera has enough juice for these beauty shots.
Must See 2
Phu Si: Up on top of a hill located in the middle of the city you’ll find a Stupah called the Phu Si and a panoramic view that will make the cover of your holiday picture album (however I wasn’t on time for the sunset so the city lights were my view plus I tested out my photo skills with the moving car lights: still need some practice). The way up alone is a sight to see as the many stone steps up to the top are winding and balanced with old twisting trees. The best time to go to the top is sunset but make sure you’re on time as the way up is steep and tiresome. I know this as I ended up huffing and puffing behind the group while they ran uphill and I realized I might have asthma.
Wait a little longer while you’re there and witness all the candles being lit up by locals near the Stupah. Small kids will offer you to buy a few candles as well to then light up as well. A sight to see.
Must See 3
Night Market: On the main street while walking down from the Stupah at night or if you’re walking below, take a look at the market from the top. You’ll find a beautiful view of the tents top down. Make your camera happy and take shot from above and make your way down to look at the different items being sold here.
Must See 4
Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls & Bear Rescue Centre: The bizarre beautiful waterfalls will take up your whole afternoon so make time to see this 300 meter drop and get your bathing suite ready to step into some turquoise waters. In the park (20,000 K admission) you’ll first stumble upon a group of sunbathing bears that have been rescued/protected from poachers.
Afterwards make the slow climb upwards to the amazing huge waterfall and while doing so make sure to cool off in the water. A tip: get up early to beat the crowd, the ride is 45 minutes and you’ll easily stay here 2 hours.
Up near the waterfalls get lunch or take lunch with you to eat at the picnic tables found in the water. Seriously an almost utopian place to be.
Violent Images: Within the peaceful inner quarters of a few of the temples the silence was disturbed by odd and violent images decorating the outer walls. A fellow traveler described reading about the 16 layers of ‘hell’ found in Buddhism, but that was just an idea. Therefore, whoever knows why or where these images are coming from: I’d love to know.
That’s all folks, next stop: Vang Vieng Laos
For tips on other places I’ve visited check my older posts such as: Canggu, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok & More.
Keep you updated and posted, until then Korp Jai!