Luang Prabang- Laos
We started our time in Laos in the North in the beautiful Luang Prabang. We only planned to stay here for a few nights but that slowly turned into 2 wonderful weeks enjoying this beautiful city. Inhabited for thousands of years, Luang Prabang was once the royal capital of Laos until 1975 when it shifted to Vientiane. With gleaming temples, lush aquamarine waterfalls, days filled with 33-degree heat and evenings boasting the most beautiful sunsets as you make your way through the daily night market, It’s no wonder we blissfully got stuck here for the majority of our time in Laos.
Although most of our time here was spent relaxing and enjoying the sunsets, there are a few must do’s in Luang Prabang that you could do even if you only had a few days to spend here.
Tat Kuang Si
The glorious main attraction of the Luang Prabang Region. Visiting the Falls and seeing the Laos Bear Sanctuary was easily our favorite day out. Its located about 30km out of Luang Prabang town but super easy to get to by Minivan or Tuk-Tuk for a low price (just 30,000 Kip per person). Boasting 3 different swimming spots as well as breathtaking waterfalls, it’s an ideal place to explore and photograph or simply relax and cool off on a hot day. No wonder this is the number one place to visit in Luang Prabang!
These beautiful endangered bears are moon bears. The Chinese use their bile in medicine for a range of things relieveing internal heat, hangovers and sometimes even prescribed to cancer patients. The bear rescue sanctuary has rescued over 25 bears from these people or poachers and they are now free to hang around with other bears instead of being crammed in small cages.
They genuinely seem very happy as were we watching them swing around in their hammocks, taking baths and climbing the trees.
La Pistoche Pool Bar
We read about this place online and bumped into a few travelers who had been the day before and loved it! We decided to check it out and relax for the afternoon here and soak up the sun. Turns out this pool is super popular with the local kids as they come in droves to cool off from the heat. We found some loungers and tried to tan, then fought for control of the rubber rings to float the afternoon away. Tom practiced climbing in the rings with little luck, flailing around making a racket with laughter from the locals. It costs 30,000 Kip per person plus an additional 50,000 kip deposit to enter and you can stay as long as you like. The staff here are super attentive, walking by and offering drinks if they think you look thirsty. If you’re struggling in the heat and need an afternoon to cool off this is the perfect place. Happy hour is between 12-7pm for 2 for 1 cocktails too so why not?
Streets of Luang Prabang
Western food is very easy to find in Luang Prabang with cafes and restaurants up the main road of the town but down most alleyways, you will almost always find delicious local cuisine ‘Street food’ for a third of the price of the western food available.
Plus there are lots of vegetarian friendly options that are super healthy. Our top 3 things to eat were these delicious fresh spring rolls, A vegetarian buffet with all types of veggies, noodles, rice and tofu dishes and the AMAZING vegetable peanut noodle soup for only 10,000 kips ($1.60NZD).
Wandering the streets of Luang Prabang is very safe to do, day or night. Whether you are wandering down the beautiful alleyways dodging the sun and scooters or taking your time down the main street where the night market comes to life around sunset, a day wandering the little town will be a day well spent.
Many people like to hire bikes to get around the town but I am an avid browser so I enjoyed making my way from one handicraft store to the next. Very slowly much to Tom’s dismay.
The night market surprisingly wasn’t totally like most other South East Asian Night markets that we had gone to. Of course, you could purchase elephant pants and beer tank tops (two things I have happily avoided this trip). The common theme for the Luang Prabang Night Market was the array of fabrics and art. Laos silk and organic cotton creations lined the streets instead. There were souvenirs such as chopsticks and bottle openers made from the aluminum in the bombs dropped by America in the ‘Secret War’ in the 60’s and 70s’.
Sad Fact: America dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos, nearly equal to the 2.1 million tons of bombs they dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history relative to the size of its population.
The strangest thing I saw for sale were bottles of hard liquor with little dead snakes inside the bottle. The animal spirit is supposed to infuse the liquor and these spirts are supposed to be transferred to the person brave enough to drink it… Not quite up to duty-free standards so we gave it a miss.
We were very tempted to spend our whole month in Laos in this lovely city but decided to spend the other two weeks exploring south. If you are heading to Luang Prabang and have any questions please feel free to ask away!