doing some backtrack blog posting.
we’re still in india, but here’s some more from our time in luang prabang, laos.
As mentioned here, Luang Prabang is a fantastic French Influenced town in Northern Laos best described as “charming.” A UNESCO city, it’s protected from development and its architecture is being preserved in its historic nature. With monks and temples everywhere + spring rolls available at every turn, it’s definitely Asia, but the French presence is equally as strong with European-style cafes and bakeries, street names beginning with “Rue” and chic boutique hotels lining the town’s main drags.
For us, Luang Prabang was a week of “vacation.” Sure sure. I know what you’re thinking – that we’re on a permanent vacation – which is quasi-accurate, but not everything is luxury relaxation (see: Spicy Villa). We’ve decided to let each town/city/country’s distinct style dictate the type of stay we’ll have. In Vang Vieng we embraced our backpacker status while in Bangkok we went more upscale urban. Well, immediately upon arriving in Luang Prabang, I wanted to be on a proper vacation. It was clearly a chic destination and I wanted wine vs. cheap beer, I wanted nicer digs and I wanted to chuck the adventure guides and just relax. So that’s pretty much what we did.
Because of Chinese New Year (insane Chinese car gangs roll through each street and dominate the towns) we couldn’t get continuous hotels stays, which forced to us be hotel hoppers throughout the week. That was totally fine by us since, a) we don’t have much stuff to pack and b) we love checking out new hotels and c) it forced us to explore different parts of town.
During our week in Luang Prabang, we did some of the major highlights, but also realized that the best part of Luang Prabang is the ability to be content not doing a whole lot. And with the town’s strict 11:30pm curfew, it’s forced relaxation and early rising.
Built for Bicycles
It’s a small town. All you really need is a bicycle and you’ll find yourself doing laps in the city. Each hotel we stayed at offered complimentary bikes which we toodled around on.
Note for Luang Prabang travelers: if you decide to rent a motorbike, avoid “Kamsay Rentals” with all your life. They’re big scammers. We heard about the notorious scam and then sadly knew someone it actually happened to. After renting a bike, they’ll secretly follow you to your next stop and while you’re inside your bike will get “stolen” leaving the renter no choice but to pay the hefty $3,000USD replacement fee in order to get their passport back. Stay Away from Kamsay.
There are two main rivers that run through Luang Prabang. Water instantly adds tranquility to any situation and you’ll find yourself “riverside” almost always. One lovely night, Ting bought us two “big beers” and we wandered down to the beach to watch sunset. What we got was a bonus Cirque De Soile show from some hippies.
Coffee and baguettes a plenty, but our favorite meal was a traditional Laos meal at the wildly popular restaurant called Tamarind thanks in part to the New York Times. We had a variety of dishes including Buffalo Laap and the most famous dish – lemongrass stuffed chicken. Yes, the chicken is stuffed into the lemongrass, not the other way around. It was a long, delicious meal on the riverfront and our favorite of Laos.
Giving of the Alms Ceremony
One of the “main attractions” in Luang Prabang gets some mixed reviews. In the Buddhist culture, each morning the local monks will walk the street at sunrise and collect alms from the locals in the form of rice, crackers and other edibles. It’s good karma for the peeps and good eats for the monks. The problem is, this is an actual religious and cultural activity turned tourist attraction and seriously GOBS of people turn up and get in the monk’s faces with camera flashes. It’s super obnoxious. Privy to this, we decided that we wanted to observe in the most respectful way possible. We walked away from the main intersection, found a cafe and pulled up some patio seats, ordered a latte and avoided flash photography. It was a really neat thing to watch — and pretty cool to be up and moving before sunrise (doesn’t happen often).
this tiny wounded kitten came up along one of the local alms givers and received her fair share of rice handouts.
i poured out some of my coffee’s milk for the little thing.
sunrise on the walking bridge. this bridge is super cool and only accessible by foot to cross the river. our guesthouse was just on the other side, so we found ourselves back and forth multiple times a day. ting loved it.
Wats, the National Museum & Mount Phousi
We sprinkled in some of the must-do, check-list stops for visitors to Luang Prabang.
The Other Side of the Mekong
Per the recommendation of a local, we loaded our motorbike onto the ferry and cruised across the Mekong River to explore the other side – rocky dirty roads line with village life. We had a hand-drawn map to a lookout point, but must have missed our turn because we never found it. But, we did get mooned by a couple local kids so that made up for it ten-fold.
kuang si falls, luang prabang
read all about it here.
hotel hopping in luang prabang
budget guest house = Phone Praseuth Guest House
we absolutely loved this guesthouse. the local was perfect, the owner – Kamphone- and his nephew were wonderful, the rooms were simple but clean & nice and the complimentary breakfast was delicious!
ting playing late night soccer with the owner’s adorable son.
A resort splurge on the river = Le Bel Air Boutique Resort & Spa
amazing value boutique hotel right on the river. fantastic service, comfortable rooms with private balconies and views of the river. oh, and the breakfast buffet was primo.
view of the restaurant & lounge area from the bridge
that bridge :) taking full advantage of the resort-style accommodations.
the most comfortable bed and linens to-date. aaaannnddd, a certain someone was extra happy about the net.
our mid-range treehouse = Villa Maydou Boutique Hotel
we booked this spot online and were pleasantly upgraded to an open-aired private treehouse upon arrival. we were stoked! it was modern but maintained an authentic laos feel with the textiles, woods and layout of the space.
luang prabang, that’s a wrap.
i loved the chic resort-style town. it grew on danny after a week.
i think he was still craving more time in mountain town pai vs. the more mature crowd drawn to luang prabang.
it’s a must-do for those who are laos bound.