Love at first sight. Right after getting off the slow boat we were already sitting on a tuk-tuk, and within a couple of minutes we were standing in the center of the town.
Right on time, as I could explore the offers of the food stands on the night food market. Imagine a narrow alley, where at every step there’s a bufe, sometimes a small table and chairs. You smell all kind of amazing flavours in the air: grilled fish, sausages, chicken and duck, spicy noodles, curry, hot soups, spring rolls and dumplings, fresh cakes and fruits. Who can resist this? Guided by my intuition I booked my accommodation just a block away from the market. It was clear, that I’ll eat well here.
But Luang Prabang is way more than an average southeast asian town. The French colonial heritage has its mark not only on its architecture but on the cuisine as well. The downtown is full with nice little cafés, with good coffee, fresh croissant and cakes, and chocolate truffle. This was the first place during my travel, where I found fresh, crispy bread. I did not crave it at all, but when I saw a real baguette… hm, I could not walk away.
It’s no surprise, that the baguette sandwich is really popular here. It is huge, and really fulfilling. It doesn’t even resemble the sandwiches offered in Hungarian buffets at railway stations, with a sad salad leaf and a slice of tomato in it. This is filled so much, that it is impossible to totally fold it, and it is a challenge to have a bite including the baguette and the filling as well.
We tried the lao barbeque with the girls. They but the barbeque in the middle of the table, the fire covered with a dome shaped pot, where you grill the meat, and the side of the round pot is where you pour some water, and while grilling the meat, you also prepare a soup out of vegetables, tofu, noodles and eggs. Simple but great.
It seems I am attracted to places where there are more temples than people. Well, all you have to do here is to walk on the main street, and I guarantee that this walk will last for a while. The temples are beautiful, well maintained places, alive and used by monks, locals and religious tourists. These places are filled with peace and calmness.
I have a personal favourite, where I just randomly walked in from the street – such as I did with many others. Time stopped for me, and only when I came out I realized, that I spent 1,5 hours inside.
The most popular is the tiny That Chomsi chedi on the top of the hill, filled with hundreds of tourists before 6 pm, but somehow the main interest of these people is not the chedi, but the sunset over the Mekong river. Which most probably you will miss in the jungle of the raised mobile phones and cameras trying to capture the moment. I intentionally skipped this attraction.
The other significant religious place is the Wat Xieng Thong temple complex, filled with a lot of people, and where for sure you will find some romantic pre-wedding photoshoot. It is truly beautiful, but it is more challenging to find peace here.
It feels like walking in a small French town, but with a little spiciness. The buildings are cute, there are colorful venetian blinds on the windows. Nobody is in a hurry, life is slow. It has a really good energy. I especially like that I could enjoy this beauty among the palm trees in the warmth of daytime, but the evening is cool. For sure there are a lot of tourists, but somehow it is not really disturbing – except in the above mentioned to temples.
I just loved the Mekong being a few steps away. I could walk to its shore in a matter of a couple of minutes and just to chill watching the chocolate brown water. I think the best sunset viewpoint is also by the river, after crossing a rickety little bamboo bridge, so just forget the hilltop. Not too far away from the town there are several small waterfalls, easy to reach. No wonder why, the most popular is the Kuang Si Waterfall. I also payed a visit here and I am happy I did. Beautiful turquoise pools, little cascades and the far end of the park a huge waterfall, as a bonus. There are many swimming areas, but this time I followed maps.me and not the signs to a pool in the middle of the large waterfall, where only a handful of people enjoyed the afternoon sun and the water. We saw the people as little dots on the bridge below, so most probably we are on every picture they took.
A group of people came together on the slow boat, who more or less sticked together during my stay in Luang Prabang. Ráhel from Switzerland, Mei from the US, the Irish Joe who I met earlier on the bus from Chiang Rai and the Norwegian Paul. For the last night in Luang Prabang both Rahel and Mei moved to my hostel, and as our plans were similar, we decided to travel together for a while. Joe was heading to the North to do some trekking, and we just simply lost Paul, who as a last unicorn is not available on any social media platform, so I just hope that he is fine. I saw him last, when we rescued his rented pink bicycle from a closed parking lot.
The locals are simply great. Relaxed, nice, open and still full of trust. I felt they see me, and not consider me just one of the rich tourists. I never had to pay anything in advance, not for accomodation, food nor for services. Here the temples are open from all sides, and if there is any entrance fee, the sell the ticket only at the main entrance and simply trust, that you will walk there to buy the ticket, no matter which direction you are coming from. I heard the below from a dear friend of mine, that describes lao people so well: “The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch the rice grow, the Lao listen to the rice grow.”
- Tuk-tuk from the slow boat pier to the center: 20.000 LAK
- Bed in dorm: 40-70.000 LAK
- Coffee latte: 19-25.000 LAK
- Fruit shake: 10.000 LAK
- Baguette sandwich: 10.000 LAK
- Minibus transfer to Kuang Si Waterfall: 35.000 LAK
- Kuang Si Waterfall entrance fee: 20.000 LAK
- Wat Xieng Thong entrance fee: 20.000 LAK