What we heard before our arrival to Luang Prabang was that it is very touristy and merely of passing interest; to be used as a gateway to someplace more interesting.
I beg to disagree. I found the city charming with its French-Lao architecture, the magnificent sunsets over the Mekong river, outdoor riverside restaurants, and the morning/evening markets.
These markets located in the center of the ‘economy district’, are where you’ll find locals and tourists alike, side by side, ogling over a huge variety of street food and local hand made crafts. See Carrie’s Luang Prabang blog post for more food details.
Our guesthouse, Vanvisa, was also located in the economy district and was within easy walking distance to the markets and riverside areas. Book in advance as they are usually full or so the sign out front reads. (One side note about all the hotels that we stayed at in Laos, including this one, is that they are noisy. Roosters chanting at all hours, dishwashing in the middle of the night, cats howling, dogs barking, etc… Also the mattresses here are rock hard. We used inflatable pillows under are hips in an attempt to achieve a bit of comfort.) We used bookings.com to make our reservations. Prices for a private room/private bath range from between $20-$25 per night.
OK, I’m done bitching. Now for the good stuff. It took all of one day to figure out the lay of the land so that we could settle into a nice little routine. First, coffee and a croissant at JoMa Coffee and Bakery . JoMa is Asia’s version of Starbucks and they do a nice job of sourcing locally as well as returning some profits to the community. After breakfast it was time for a walk/photo shoot, taking in the backstreets, tourist areas, or local attractions.
One don’t miss attraction is Phousi Hill. The entire hill is dotted with Buddhist statues and temples. At the top, it’s not unusual to see someone releasing a small bird from a bamboo cage.
Must be good luck or something,don’t really know, but it made for some interesting photo ops. We found it best to go up the ‘backside’ and down the touristy side. Pick up the local tourist map for exact directions. Be prepared to climb a bunch of steps. This still recovering from hernia surgery boy was pretty sore at the end of the day.
After our pre-lunch excursions, it’s time for some food and a BeerLao. We found a really cool little spot Mekong riverside near the end of the peninsula. The name of the restaurant is in Lao, so see the photo for the name. Try the pork or chicken fried rice. Two lunches with 2 big beers will set you back about $6.25 (50,000KIP).
It’s now mid-day and hot, so it’s time to head back to Vanvisa to catch up on emails, photo culling, blog writing, and of course a nap. This adventure travel stuff is tough, huh? No wonder I’m having a problem maintaining my cranky reputation.
Chores and nap out of the way, it’s time to catch that early evening light and
maybe, just maybe, one of those incredible Mekong sunsets. Then a stroll through the evening market is in order. The market is a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells. A variety of grilled meats, dumplings, noodles, soups are in abundance. Laos may be the best smelling country that I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. Decisions, decisions. Do we buy some street food and head back to Vanvisa and eat in their cool little outdoor common area or do we head back riverside to eat at our favorite spot, Sarika.
So, that is how we spent each of our 6 days in this incredible little city. Each day the same, yet entirely different. My advise, walk, walk, walk. Pick up a tourist map and explore the little walkways through residential areas as well as the river areas.
Luang Prebang will not disappoint! Hike Drink Live Laugh
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