Luang Prabang is: Exotic, Relaxing, Colonial. Rolling into town fresh off of the slow boat, it was a beautiful sight – French Colonial style houses line the streets, the open air market thrives, and people walk around serenely looking out to the waters of the Mekong River. Unfortunately I only had 5 days in Laos, but I tried to make the most of it.
After checking in at the X2 Capsule Hotel guesthouse on the first day there, me and a few people from the boat immediately walked over to the open air market for some delicious Laotian food. Food vendors in the central market cook giant tables full of food – and charge about USD$1 for as much food as you can eat – it’s tasty and fresh, and the first night in Luang Prabang was fantastic. Naturally after a good meal, a few of us went over to the hippest bar in town – appropriately named Utopia. This idillic bar/garden/restaurant/beach volleyball arena has everything you could want for a relaxing evening, including a great view out to the river. Sets of kids laze around on mats, sipping drinks, looking out over the river.
The next morning, waking up early, another big group of us hailed an eager TukTuk driver and got a ride out to the majestic Kuang Si Falls – easily one of the most beautiful waterfall swimming areas I’ve experienced.
After the caves, we took our TukTuk across town to the river, and then a small boat across the river for a bit cave exploring. The Pak Ou Caves are beautifully set into a cliffside on the side of the river, and it ended up being a perfect place to watch the sunset.
And naturally, a great dinner with friend Maud at the best restaurant in Luang Prabant – Tamarind. Manager Rudy is always fun to be around, too. Recommend their Granitas!
For my final day in Luang Prabang, I spent a bit of time exploring town. Luang Prabang is truly a beautiful town, and the French influence is felt everywhere. The houses are beautiful, streets are well laid out, and everything seems calm and cool with the rivers running around the edges of town. Also with the main part of town being surrounded by water, the houses and people become compressed a bit, creating a sense of excitement everwhere. I spent a good amount of time exploring local cafes, temples, playing Bocce with locals, and eating crepe’s from street vendors.
It’s worth noting that I took a few supremely relaxing morning runs in Luang Prabang. Every morning I would get up as early as I could, take a leisurely walk across the seasonal bamboo bridge, and then run northwards along the river banks. Running here was the most relaxing and serene running in all of Asia – definitely recommended.
Finally, despite Luang Prabang’s serene vibe, it’s worth noting that Laos is the most bombed country in the world, and the effects of bombing during the war are still felt. The Luang Prabang Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) museum is a grisly reminder of the countries war-torn past.
Next after exploring Luang Prabang and hiking in the hills was Hanoi, Vietnam.