Our Rickshaw traveller, Marie journeyed to Laos to experience the epic sights, tasty cuisine and heart-warming culture that is so unique there. One of her favourite destinations was Luang Prabang- and it’s not hard to see why! Read all about Marie’s experience soaking up the sights in and around Luang Prabang…
Getting to Luang Prabang, Laos
We travelled to Luang Prabang from the Thailand border at Chiang Khong on our Shompoo Cruise down the Mekong – a truly spectacular way to approach this place. Two days of relaxing and watching beautiful scenery as well as getting a glimpse of some of Laotian culture and being served some lovely Laotian food on board. Be warned, not all cruises are the same standard as the one Rickshaw travel booked for us – be sure you don’t end up sat for 2 days on a boat cramped on small wooden seats, we were relaxing on big recliners!
Ours, as most cruises do, stopped overnight at Pakbeng. A tiny town on the river with character and friendly people. Try out a bakery here to sample some fresh bread / muffins – we loved Monsavan where we stopped for morning coffee and a freshly baked bagel that just melted in your mouth!
Welcome to Luang Prabang
We had heard how pretty Luang Prabang was before we arrived and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Our hotel was perfectly positioned to get everywhere in the city, which can be easily walked and we’d definitely recommend getting around and exploring. The temples are worth a visit as is the palace but if you’ve seen enough there’s still so much to do. Be sure to walk to the top of Mount Phousi to watch the sunset – it’s busy but the views are spectacular (don’t forget to walk to the opposite side of the temple, if you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll get to see the moon rise at the same time!
Time to haggle at the markets!
One of the places you can’t miss in Luang Prabang are the night markets which take over the bottom end of the main street. These were our favourite markets during our trip. Be ready for some serious haggling – people here are so friendly it makes it much more fun. A lot of things are genuinely handmade by locals, it’s laid back and no-one will hassle you.
If you’re here for more than a couple of nights, be sure to visit more than once as stalls do change and there are some gems if you have the patience to find them. Some of the best street food we had all trip was at these markets – walk right to the bottom end away from the crepe and shake sellers and there is a small alley full of food stalls. We tried Laos sausage (spicy or not), freshly barbequed salted fish (with freshly made sauce), fried dumplings and Kanom krok which are small coconut rice pancakes (cooked in cast iron pans at the entrance to the food market) all washed down with the compulsory BeerLao. Be adventurous here, we loved everything we tried and wished we’d found it earlier.
Other things to do in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is a place to explore, we found so many amazing places off the beaten track. We ventured across the Nam Khan River on the temporary rickety bamboo bridge and had a nice afternoon lazing in Dyen Sabai bar/restaurant where they do lovely cocktails and food served to you in huts overlooking the river.
If you’re an early riser wander down to the Utopia bar and have a go at yoga as the sun rises – if not, we went at sunset. We were looked after really well, it’s suitable for all levels (we’d never tried it before) but lovely way to experience this place. If yoga isn’t your thing it’s a nice bar just to go to watch the sunset from anyway.
If you’re up early and have tried yoga, it’s worth popping to the street to watch the procession of monks in the Alms Giving Ceremony. It’s a sight in itself but be sure to follow the guidelines on proper behaviour that are well publicised in the city!
There are plenty of places for a relaxing massage here too (all very reasonably priced). Of the smaller places, have a look on the road where the monks come out in the morning to collect Alms, we found a small place and had the best reflexology massage we had all trip. We also had a Laotian massage at L’Hibiscus which is a nice place with proper massage tables if you prefer (and a nice café ‘Bannetton bakery’ next door to visit whilst you’re there serving fresh coffee and lovely pastries).
A real gem we found is across the Mekong from Luang Prabang. We hopped onto the ferry just off the main street and found a really characterful village (no tourists in sight when we visited!). There is a map there of many nature walks you can do. We walked on one through the village to a temple on a hill where you get great views across to Luang Prabang and beyond.
Out and about from Luang Prabang
We ventured 3 hours out to the beautiful and peaceful village of Nong Khiaw. If you have the time (and the stomach for a very bumpy ride) we’d recommend anyone to visit here for a few days relaxing. In the middle of huge karsts we stayed at the in a bungalow at Nong Kiau Riverside resort on the banks of the river Ou – amazing views and characterful accommodation, think posh Robin Hood!
Nong Khiaw has everything, historic caves to explore where locals hid during the ‘non-war’, beautiful nature and if you’re up for a hill hike, we ventured up to the local viewpoint – it takes about 2 hours depending on how quick or slow you want to go but you are treated to amazing views above and beyond as the clouds slowly lift in the mornings. There are also some great small bars, a great massage spa and cafes a plenty. Do remember to bring a cardigan / jumper, it’s a little colder here.
We also got to do a visit the Tad Sae waterfalls which were around 30 minutes outside of Luang Prabang – I’ve never seen water so blue, really amazing and well worth a visit and a swim (it’s cold be warned!)
In a nutshell…
Come here with an open heart and open mind, get out and explore and be adventurous, this was one of the safest places we felt on our trip and met some simply lovely Laotian people here who genuinely wanted to you enjoy their country and city. It is beautiful inside and out and one day we’d love to return.
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