Around Town In Luang Prabang

14 Apr

Miniature Buddha structures at Pak Ou Caves

Miniature Buddha structures at the Pak Ou Caves

I still remember blank stares I got when I recently embarked on a journey to Southeast Asia that included Laos. I’d say, yeah, I’m off to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and the reactions were mostly oohs and ahs at the mention of the first two but then dead silence at the last and then, immediately, oh that’s cool — as if to say, wherever the heck that is. Well, I suppose to some extent somewhat understandable.

Laos certainly (and perhaps blessedly) does not have the same sort of massive tourist draw the aforementioned places command — at least not quite yet. They’re there but seemingly in manageable quantities which makes a city like Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a place that still seems fairly off the beaten path and thus ever more so enchanting. Not just for the lack of its being overrun but also the sheer Zen nature of the city and its inhabitants, a population of just about 50k.

This was the last leg of our trip, traveling from Cambodia, and thus boarded a flight from Siem Reap direct to Luang Prabang on Vietnam Airlines, one of the few carriers operating this route. After a bit of a harrowing journey, largely due to the state of our jet, an ancient Fokker 100, we touched down at Luang Prabang airport, LPQ. Getting through immigration was relatively quick and painless (a visa is necessary for entry though this can be secured upon arrival at the airport). Next, we made our way into town. The Belle Rive Hotel is where we would call home during our stay and our experience there was mostly pleasurable. See my full review.

Luang Prabang is a very charming place that offers visitors truly memorable sightseeing and

Mekong River Cruise

Mekong River Cruise

recreational experiences. Early birds would appreciate the crack of dawn monk procession at the almsgiving ceremony. I’d be remiss in not mentioning that of course this is a sacred religious event and as such spectators should be mindful of the fact and respect the tradition. It is becoming somewhat of a tourist draw so the more cognizant we all are to help preserve the integrity of the ceremony, the better.

Further afield, roughly 18 miles south of the city is where you’ll find the multi-tiered magnificent Kwang Si or Tat Kwang Xi waterfalls. In my opinion, one of the must see attractions that should be included on any itinerary. It’s quite a remarkable experience and one of the better falls I’ve seen in some time. Don’t forget your bathing suits and flip flops, there are several swimming ponds along the trail to the largest of the falls where you can take a dip — a good reprieve from the sweltering temperatures.

Kwang Si Waterfalls

Kwang Si Waterfalls

Another notable attraction I’d recommend including on your list: Pak Ou Caves, roughly 16 miles the other direction, to the north of town. Make the journey via boat upstream on the Mekong (a distance of roughly 2 hrs – the scenery is well worth it) to Pak Ou, where the caves are located. They house an impressive collection of mostly miniature Buddha sculptures which have been collected over time.
Back in town, don’t miss the impressive 16th century temple, Wat Xieng Thong and the surrounding compound. And, as dusk nears, grab a driver and negotiate a sunset cruise on the Mekong. The views are quite picturesque; I think the Mekong displays a lot of character in these parts.

I think one of the more exhilarating experiences (if you happen to be an animal lover) is the elephant trek at Elephant Village Ban Xieng Lom. Have your hotel arrange for the trip out to Ban Xieng Lom or make arrangements directly. It includes pick-up, drop-off and a Guide. Grab your bathing suit here, too; you have the option to take a dip in the pool at the resort once the tour’s over. Lunch also comes included in the package.
When you’ve returned to town, ascend to the top of Phousi Hill for excellent views of the city and breathtaking sunsets. Once you’ve had your fill, from there, descend down to the night market on Sisavangvong behind the National Museum (another point that might be of interest) for some retail therapy. Lots of crafts and goods by local artisans are sold here.

By now you’re likely working up an appetite, head to L’Elephant Restaurant (making a reservation in advance is highly recommended) for some scrumptious Laotian and international fare. I recommend trying the Laotian tasting menu for a comprehensive sampling of what Laotian cuisine’s all about. Other restaurants to try are Coconut Garden, Tamarind and top rated, The Balcony by Lanith which I review in detail.

Luang Prabang is not a place that overly simmers with nightlife as the city does have a curfew. I do understand, however, that there are places like The Bowling Alley on the edge of town that opens late into the wee hours of the morning for those that like to keep it moving. Otherwise most restaurants and bars are open till curfew commences.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It is a city that endlessly fascinates and begs to be explored. Grab your tix and go. You’ll love it.

Clip: Almsgiving Ceremony

2 Responses to “Around Town In Luang Prabang”

  1. backpackerlee April 22, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    Luang Prabang is the ultimate place in Laos.

    • yappingwithyomi April 22, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Agree, though I have not been to Vientiane, so perhaps it’s not terribly fair to say that. Most people who’ve been to both places would agree though. Thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Luang Prabang, however.
      Writing about Siem Reap at the moment. Should post shortly.

      Nice blog by the way. I’m now following you.

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