Beautiful Luang Prabang
After our two days on the Mekong we looked forward to revisiting Luang Prabang (after 2011).
Colonial Charm and super soft Beds
Once again we were lucky with our accommodation – the Mekong Charm Guesthouse must have the softest beds in the whole of Asia. That was probably one of the reasons why we ended up spending five nights there. In addition the staff was super friendly and always up for a chat.
Besides great beds Luang Prabang is a beautiful city with a lovely UNESCO World Heritage listed old town. Besides a temple (called Wat in Lao) at every corner it has many well preserved French-colonial style buildings.
For sure one has to realise that colonialism was not a very charming thing for a lot of people and one has be careful to put a romantic flair to it.
Royal Palace and Phousi Hill
The first two days we spent mainly relaxing and planning for our upcoming Australia trip.
Besides that we visited the former Royal Palace which was turned into a museum. Laos was a monarchy till the communist take over in 1975.
Today the museum holds a variety of objects from the last few kings and even has a collection of the kings’ cars (mainly Cadillacs gifted by the USA). It’s located in a lovely colonial building with an beautiful adjacent Wat.
Afterwards with climbed Phousi Hill which has a small pagoda on top and offers a lovely view over the city. From the vantage point it’s apparent that Luang Prabang really is an outpost surrounded by a lot of jungle (really a lot). As a bonus there were even a few playful cats around.
Later on we enjoyed some Lao food at the local night market. The food is quite similar with even a bit of Chinese influence. However most people would argue that it lacks the variety and refinement of the Thai Cuisine. On the other hand the pancakes for dessert never failed us.
Monks and Waterfalls
We got up early at 5 AM on our second last day to watch the alms giving ceremony. In this daily ritual the monks walk along one of the main streets and receive alms (mainly rice donations).
Even as tourists outnumber local devotees the ceremony is very impressive and most tourists behaved surprisingly well (with the usual exceptions).
Afterwards we visited the local morning market which is – like most Asian markets – a visual feast.
In the afternoon we took a tour to the Kuang Xi waterfalls about 30 km outside the city. Besides the pretty waterfalls (although perhaps slightly less nice than the Tat Sae Waterfall which we visited a few years back) there was a also a bear preservation park.
English for Everyone
On our last day we spent two hours with Big Brother Mouse. This long standing charity promotes literacy. On one hand it has translated/published numerous books in Lao/English which it distributes to remote schools.
On the other hand it holds daily English conversational classes. The concept is simpel and effective. Whoever can speak English (e.g. tourists) spend two hours with locals (often students) to talk about everything under the sun.
And that was exactly what we did. It was a very rewarding experience to exchange some thoughts and insights into each others culture and world views. Besides that we were also very impressed how good the level of English of the kids was. Truly a great cause – check out here how you an contribute if you like.
I rounded of the day with a visit to Wat Xieng Thong (Hazel was already templed out). As always I was fascinated by the level of details and splendid colours used.
Good Bye Charming Luang Prabang – till we meet again
It was definitely no coincident that we spent five nights in Luang Prabang. Its charm and beauty has something very relaxing to it and a nightly stroll through its small alleys is almost magical (you see we really love the place). Till the next time. Next stop Plain of Jars.
Sleep, Eat and yes, repeat – Recommendations
Sleep: Mekong Charm Guesthouse is excellent value for money (20 USD a night in low season and that includes breakfast), has very comfortable beds, super friendly staff and a terrace overlooking the Mekong. We loved it.
Eat: Phonheuang Cafe had yummy Vietnamese-Style Noodles (we went twice).
Café Croissant d’Or didn’t serve Golden Croissants but very yummy Lao food.
Peninsula Xieng Thong View Restaurant served a very nice fish.
Food at the night market is good and cheap as well.
You won’t miss the pancakes and fresh fruit juices – believe me.
How to get there: either by slow boat as we did, via the international airport or by Bus (serving all major cities in Laos and even connects to Vietnam and China). All very easy.