|Luang Prabang in Laos is like what we thought Chiang Mai would be like — picturesque, peaceful, and green without a lot of traffic, just touristy enough yet still very charming. Riverside cafes and restaurants offer gorgeous views and a relaxing atmosphere. Locals still wear their colorful traditional long skirts, gathering in alleys to socialize while chopping vegetables and preparing meat. Kids dive in the Mekong River and play along the streets.|
Asia, with an European flair. A great place to just wander about and have very well-made meals — we absolutely love our 10 days here! You might not need so many days to see the sights, but it's a great town to just chillax. We stayed at Sopha House ($17 USD for a riverside aircon room downstairs) then Phongboun Guesthouse (90,000 kip for a fan room with balcony). Lots of accommodation available.
You might notice garbage and other tourists, but they are usually scattered and not as noticeable. Internet is slow and there might be a stream of tuk tuk drivers inviting you to the waterfall or for a boat ride, but it's still a very pleasant little town. It may not be as cheap as Chiang Mai, but it's a tranquil place to just let time pass.
Someone told us Luang Prabang is what Chiang Mai used to be like 30 years ago, which is a little sad. Hopefully, this garden-like city filled with lovely 2-storey houses will always smell of flowers like it does today... May it forever be lush with countless variety of trees, plants, flowers, and butterflies dancing around!
|Things to see :|
|Kuang Si Falls, by far the most gorgeous waterfall we've ever seen. You must go! If there weren't people there, it would probably be what heaven looks like — seemingly endless light turquoise pools and falls with exotic flowers and plants! You can get a private tuk tuk there for 200,000 kip (or share one with others), but we decided to go with a tour agency that drove us there by a minivan for 50,000 each (11:30 am - 3:30 pm or 1:30 - 5:30 pm so 2 hours at the park — just enough time).|
|It may look like a lot of steps, but it only takes a couple of minutes to go up Phousi Hill where you can get a magnificent view of the city and the rivers. It costs 20,000 kip. Exit another way and you will see Buddha statues in various poses along the way.|
|Early morning alms-giving takes place just after 6. As the sky brightens, processions of monks receive food from kneeling locals with bamboo baskets of sticky rice, rice crackers, and more. Try not be a douchebag just to get a good photo. We saw many obnoxious journalist-wannabes and even selfie-takers (WHY?!!). Not cool.|
|Other than wandering around the beautiful little hidden alleys, explore the many temples dotted around town. Aside from Wat Xieng Thong, most of the temples are very quiet with no tourists, almost deserted when we visited. Temples here are lined by coconut palms and with colorful petals all over the ground. You might find sticky rice in the mouths of various guardian animal statues.|
|There are a couple of bamboo bridges across the Nam Khan River during the dry season. It costs 5000 kip to cross each one. They don't feel as dangerous to cross as they might look. The bamboo bridge near where Mekong and Nam Khan meet leads to a local village with dirt paths and huts, sometimes on stilts. There's a quiet temple where you can sit and zone out staring at the two rivers while monks chant in the background.|
|Try to cross the Old Bridge across Nam Khan River was really very scary (for me). Pedestrians walk on the sides consisting of wooden boards that sometimes creak and move! Very nice view though.|
|In the morning, the Morning Market has locals in skirts sitting on the ground selling vegetables, fish, and meat. At night, blue and red tents are set up for the Night Market down Sisavangvong Road, selling crafts, t-shirts, and street food.|
Cycle to Tad Thong Waterfalls (admission 20,000 kip) in an hour! You can rent a bike for 15,000-20,000 kip or a mountain bike for 50,000 kip. It was less than hour to walk through the paved trail of steps. While the waterfall itself is less than impressive during the dry season, the adjacent swimming lake with 5 free private huts is a great place to have a quiet, relaxing afternoon — barely anyone around! You can get food and drinks from the nearby restaurant hut.
We were told Tad Sae Falls are just as small during the dry season; however, you can see elephants bathing there. It costs 150,000 kip by private tuk tuk or $35 USD for a mountain-biking/kayaking tour there.
|It's also popular to take a boat along Mekong River to Pak Ou Caves, caves filled with Buddha statues. We decided not to do it as we passed by it on the slow boat here, but we saw tours charging 80,000 kip per person (8 am to 1 pm) or 250,000 kip for a private tuk tuk.|
Luang Prabang National Museum (8 - 11:30 am; 1:30 - 4 pm) sits at the foot of Phousi Hill, on Night Market Street.
At night, you can watch Royal Ballet Theatre starting at 6 pm for 100,000/120,000/150,000 kip on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday.
There are also other places around town offering hour-long traditional dance shows at 25,000 kip; for example, Lao Ethnic Cafe & Dining ( Sonphao ) diagonally across from Wat Xieng Muan offers shows starting at 7:30 pm — just drop by a few days ahead and make a reservation.
Villa Santi Resort's Princess Restaurant also puts on cultural dance shows for diners from 7-9 pm.