After a bout with food poisoning and staying in a series of not-so-nice guest houses, our stay in Luang Prabang felt like a wonderful, much needed vacation from our vacation. (Are we insanely lucky, or what? Who gets a vacation from vacation? We are so thankful to have this time together traveling.)
Luang Prabang is a charming UNESCO World Heritage town on the banks of the Mekong River and Nam Khan River. The buildings boast beautiful French influence from the French colonial period in Laos, and because of its UNESCO status, the town is kept quite clean. The main town area is situated where the Nam Khan Rivers meets the Mekong, so almost wherever you turn, you can have the most idyllic riverfront view. It’s a pretty popular town with European tourists and caters more towards the high-end tourist as opposed to the down and dirty backpacker. You’ll find more upscale restaurants and boutiques here compared to other areas of SE Asia, but there are definitely budget friendly options a well.
Life here for a traveler is slow. LP is not a place where people completely book their days with site seeing and tours. Like many others, we slowly made our way around town, stopping in cafes overlooking the rivers and lackadaisically taking our sweet time exploring.
As far as food goes, I’d have to say the street food in Laos is really hit or miss with nothing equalling the street food deliciousness in Thailand. However, we did enjoy a fantastic lunch at the famed Tamarind restaurant on the Nam Khan River, which has been our best — but most expensive (as far as Southeast Asia prices go)— meal in Laos so far.
We visited the major wats and one evening enjoyed wonderful traditional Lao storytelling hour at the intimate Garavek Theater, which we both really enjoyed. We heard many traditional Lao folk tales accompanied by the traditional Lao instrument, the khene. According to Lao legend, it was invented by a beautiful woman who wanted to imitate the sounds of a beautiful sounding bird. It sounded like a cross between a mini organ and a harmonica.
Of course, we had to stop by the local waterfalls, Khuang Si Falls, which were the best we’ve seen on our trip so far. On our way there, we were stopped on the road by a group of the most adorable Hmong children ever! We watched them play with their spinning tops, and they loved looking at photos of themselves on my camera.
We really enjoyed playing with the kids on the way to the waterfall — it was one of my favorite moments of the trip so far.
After playing with kids all morning, we made it to Kuang Si Falls. The water is a stunning, clear blue hue with multiple cascades in the most peaceful setting you can imagine. There are a lot of tourists here, but they are there for a reason — it’s absolutely breathtaking! These photos do not do it justice; not even a bit. Despite how much I don’t enjoy crowds, I would definitely recommend Khuang Si Falls as a must see if you’re ever in Luang Prabang.
On another evening in Luang Prabang, we decided to escape the tourist-y main town and ventured out to… I’m not sure where. We stopped in a dive-y local bar that looked popular and began a very interesting evening. We ended up befriending a flamboyant Lao doctor named Ting who kindly ordered our meal for us. He ordered a mystery meat (probably goat), what I found out later was duck blood salad (a bowl of cold duck blood with lots of herbs in it), and hot soup with congealed blood. Despite my Vietnamese heritage, I’ve never had blood before (neither of my parents enjoy it either), but I had to try at least two bites of everything to be polite, and now I can say I’ve had cold duck blood salad. I ended up dancing with Ting while the entire bar watched in delight, taking tons of photos. When we said goodbye, Ting’s friends were simultaneously giddy, excited, and scandalized as Ting hugged Mitch farewell, ha!
So far, I am absolutely loving Laos. Life moves much slower here with cities being smaller, fewer tourists milling about, and truly friendly local people.