We land at Luang Prabang after a very surprising flight experience with Lao Airlines. The flight was only 45 mins but the service was brilliant, we got a drink and a snack on route and it was better than a normal british airways flight and the flight was almost empty too.
We had arranged a guide for part of our stay in Laos and San was ready and waiting to collect us and take us to our 1st hotel over looking the night market.
Little did we know that “San” seems to be the name of all our tour guides in Laos?
Our room is lovely albeit a bit noisy but we are only in the hotel for 2 nights and over look the night market, before heading to a quieter area just down the road.
We unpack and go off to explore.
The market is full of a mix of stuff, some you see everywhere in Asia and others are things made by the locals and tribes people. Many restaurants seem to have a lot of french influence, there are alot of French patisseries and French wines, even gluten free options, if you are prepared to spend the money.
Steve and Deb thought better of this and went off to find the little alleyways of street food. Crammed into a little tiny alley were loads of meat and fish all waiting to be bought, then reheated by barbecue and consumed at small benches next to huge stalls of salad bowls of assorted vegetables we didn’t recognise.
After a chat about do we risk it, Steve and Deb go for it. 2 big bottles of Laos beer, Deb goes for a whole chicken and we mean whole, head, feet and all. Yes she even tried chicken brain, whilst Steve went for a sensible chicken breast. Yes we survived but next day after seeing it in daylight we would most probably not have taken the risk…..
After a very noisy night of ladies who cook coconut pancakes near our hotel, singing badly whilst packing up in the early hours of the morning and the street cleaners coming along to get everything cleaned up before 06:00 am. We wake up and see where we are. Deb just loves arriving places when it’s dark so you get a nice surprise in the morning, good or bad. Today is a good morning, the area is lovely and 1st impressions of Luang Prabang are good.
After breakfast it’s a wander around the streets. We are close to the old town and people are busy doing what they do. The monks are nothing like Thailand, they appear to be very local and much more natural in the way they live. If you want to photograph monks going about their day to day business this is the place to come.
BUT if there is one thing to say about this, it has to be PLEASE DON’T get up early to see the Monks Alms via a tour. Deb got up to go and have a peep at the daily ceremony when the monks get given food by the locals and get a blessing and was truly horrified by the lack of respect by tourists.
All standing close up, in the way, grabing Monks to take selfies with them, flashing in the faces of everyone, big video cameras.. Awful, people be respectful, this is not a tourist show, it’s real life!! If you want to see this, walk away and view from other parts of the village. Alms goes on from many temples all around Luang Prabang, you can stand on the other side of the road and just quietly watch it take place and take photos without a flash.. Rant over! You only need to ask nicely and monks are happy to smile for a photo.
Lunch is in a local resturant everyone raves about called Tamarind, personally Deb really wasn’t fussed apart from the Luang Prabang Sausage, traditional Laos food was not so tasty. Steve being a man, soon munched his way through everything.
We soon find ourselves at the spot that becomes “our local” with a lovely view over a river that flows into the Mekong. Coffee is cheap and the Laos coffee is extremely good and the service nice and friendly. Laos is full of surprises, Luang Prabang is a super place. Not sure what we expected but it has no one hassling you to buy anything, people are lovely, it’s clean and tidy, chilled and even has a very french feel. Definitely recommend.
We transfer to our new colonial style hotel in the old town, that sits just opposite a beautiful temple and go off to visit some temples with our guide who is from a local tribe called the hmong hill people. Temples here are just so much nicer, not so gold and just small donation boxes asking for donations to help with electricity for lighting. We visit Wat Xieng Thong which is one of the most important of Lao monasteries.
At 16:00 the gong sounds for ten minutes to call the monks to prayer. This is a great photo opportunity as you can see the monks popping out from everywhere to go pray, our favourite spot was down by the river where, if your lucky you can see the monks crossing the river.
Next day we travel into the jungle to The Kuang Si Falls, a bear sanctuary and a butterfly farm.
Picnics don’t get much better than this! Best view for a lunch time stop, the waterfall is so so blue, nature can make some great things.
We take a hike to the top, Deb and Steve now look like they have been swimming fully clothed, it’s so so hot and humid. It’s dry season now but as soon as the rain starts most is pretty impassable and the leeches come out. Once you get to the top the view is amazing and the water source is a natural spring that just flows and tips over the edge like an infinity pool. If you fancy it you can walk into the water and look over the edge by standing on a bamboo platform and looking down… It’s a long long way down…
On route back to the car park you walk through the bear sanctuary, the bears look so happy and healthy. Most have been rescued from the Chinese as they want them for their bile to make medicine and then it’s off to the butterfly farm.
Deb has a natural fish foot spa in a free flowing river whilst the butterflies flutter around her head all for the handsome price of nothing.
On our final day in Luang Prabang we take the boat up to another respected holy site, Pak Ou Caves, dating back thousands of years it’s a cave in the rocks packed with over 4,000 Buddha icons and a shrine to the river spirit.
Whilst the cave is small and very busy the boat trip up the Mekong is beautiful and a relaxing ride. We stop at the local whisky making village and check out bottles of pickled snakes, bear paws, scorpions and insects all used by shamans to help cure ailments of everything from headaches to infertility.
We decline some dodgy snake wine and instead sample some local black rice wine, then Deb is a sucker for a scarf hand weaved by a young girl in the village, well it was only a few dollars. We notice that wildlife along the bank is pretty sparse and after further investigation this turns out to be because the locals have pretty much eaten anything that moves, rats, birds, insects so the food pyramid has disappeared.
Final stop is a climb up to the view point over the town before packing up to go visit, what we are told is one of the smallest capitals in the world, Vientiane.
Debs and Steve