A mediocre 10hr mini van trip from Huay Xai to this little gem was all it took. I am now hardened to the lengthy bus trip, and in comparison, 10 hours falls just short of my average journey. The carriageways through this arid county are certainly not for the faint hearted. Generally, this does prove quite tricky conditions to sleep in, so next time you hear the term ‘sleeper bus’, try not to read too much into it. We all stepped off the mini van. It’s now 6am, and a little weary eyed from the journey. After a number of awkward exchanges at the guesthouse receptions (we had to wake them up…), it was becoming apparent that there wasn’t many beds left in Luang Prabang, and the prospect of a park bench to catch a few winks of sleep fast becoming appealing.
Considering my planning for my next destination, like so many others, consisted of a brisk flick through of my lonely planet guide whilst waiting for my bus; I shouldn’t really have been surprised when faced with this slight problem at some stage or another (for the record, this was the only time I found myself in this predicament). So after an hour slugging my pack around the tourist district; and without paying through the teeth, I stumbled across this place which turn’t out to be in quite the idyllic location. Exiting the charming little guesthouse, opposite was the golden city temple. Considering how densely populated these towns are with ‘wats’, it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise, but was pleasant to wake up to that afternoon none the less.
Walking up Sisavangvong Road, you can see the French influence all around you. The Luang Prabang colonial façade of tall windows, shuttered French doors and curved external staircase showcase this gem of a town so amiably. I fell in love it; not just because it was the only town in Laos I managed to find a decent expresso, but because how trendy and hip this place perceived itself. Along this one road, you could buy anything from contemporary art to pottery to delicate silks and cottons, along with the huge offering of french cafes, patisseries and amazing coffee shops.
With plenty of parallel roads all similarly themed, you can spend a whole day taking in all of the surrounding sights and architecture. You can’t help but notice the large temple sitting atop the large hill, overlooking the rest of the town. Get your climbing legs on, and take the steep climb to the religious epicenter. Boys as young as 6-10 walk around the place of worship, all mingling together in a sea of orange attire. It somehow seems as though their chosen path has robbed them of their childhood…go play in the river and be silly, I think to myself. They seemed happy never the less, with all the camera’s pointing and clicking at them.
Walking around the tourist hotspots, you can’t seem to avoid the volume of tuk tuk drivers offering you this somewhat famous waterfall trip. For a small parting of cash, these guys will roam the streets at peak time (midday), picking up people until their cab’s are full. Once at capacity, they will shoot you off to the entrance of a national park about half an hours drive away. Coming away from my reputation of exaggerating, this waterfall they talk of all around town was, by far, the most beautiful waterfall I have seen in my life…you might be a little dubious. Naturally. Of course the size does not compare to some of the more famous waterfalls around the world, but the colour of the water here was nothing short of breathtaking. Bluey white in colour: it looked so pale, partly due to the white stone the river sprawls itself across. With many different tiers to the waterfall, you can climb to the top in about 10 minutes for a great view point of the park. Well worth the small fee to enter. I spent the day lapping up the sun and exploring the forested area, splashing around in the blue pools when the beads of sweat across my forehead would get too much for me. Our return trip was at 4.30pm, just enough time for a quick stop at the market outside the park; no doubt popping up due to the high number of visitors this place pulls in. Me and my new friends started the short trip back to town.
With plenty going on in the evening, there’s more than your fair share of traditional restaurants and trendy bars. I had my first taste of decent Laos cuisine here, and introduced my pallet to the famous Laos dish- Laap. I wasn’t a huge fan, but not being a man to leave food to waste, I laap’ed the rest up (cough).
If you’re not getting drunk with new friends in one of the trendy bars, there’s a large market right beside the golden temple, along the main strip (conveniently outside my guesthouse). Here you can find more dead-weight souvenirs, aswell as the lorry load of Laos printed t-shirts, which all the other tourists are already sporting. You will find however, that once you’ve seen the first 5 stalls, you have pretty much seen them all. But of course we continue to the end as any genuine tourist would
I stayed here for a total of 2 nights- about right until you start treading over the same footsteps. I loved this place, in all its beauties and exhibits of french influence around you. In my opinion, this place was the most beautiful that I stumbled across in Laos- it had the quiet days, the louder nightlife and social get together’s…not forgetting my favourite waterfall.
Stopping off at the tourist office on my last night, I had just the one destination next in mind- Vang Vieng. For all those that have heard the old wives tales…it is just as hedonistic as some suggest. And then some more. Then bring into the equation the sex, the drugs and the more beautiful side to the party capital of the South eastern hemisphere …lets see what trouble I can get myself into
What follows, ofcourse, I do not condone in any manor of the word, but when in Rome….
- Lovely, languid Laos – but for how much longer before tourists take notice? (theglobeandmail.com)
- Luang Prabang – Laos – Truly delightful (discovertheorient.wordpress.com)
- First Stop – Laos (simmystravels.wordpress.com)
- Luang Prabang in my mind (ameramor.com)
- Buddhist Columns: Strong and Beautiful in Luang Prabang (gallivance.net)
- Luang Prabang – French colonial, and still very Française. (thptravels.wordpress.com)
- Temples, Buddas, monks and waterfalls. – Luang Prabang, Lao Peoples Dem Rep (travelpod.com)
- Day 14: Kasi to Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang, Laos (travelpod.com)