Loving Luang Prabang, Laos!

Arriving into Laos, along the Mekong river.
Arriving into Laos, along the Mekong river.

Well, hopefully you’ve already read about my arduous journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang, so I won’t revisit that saga….but  i did eventually arrive safely into Luang Prabang, and I can safely say it has been one of the highlights of the journey so far.

This was a destination that I had no expectations about. All I knew from talking to friends and colleagues was that it was supposed to be awesome.

We looked for a hotel that would satisfy the budget and fulfil  the prerequisite that the hotel have a pool. It was hotttt and we were planning to stay for 5 days, so we wanted somewhere to cool off, kick back and relax if we wantd to.

We did some research and found the stunning My Dream Boutique hotel. A 3yr old property, nestled on the banks of the Nam Khan river, which runs through town and just a short stroll or bike ride into the heart of the city.

My Dream Boutique Hotel
My Dream Boutique Hotel

I loved this property. The staff were charming, and everyday we’d see them with their English and hospitality teacher, learning the art of our tricky language and silver service. Their friendly smiles greeted us daily, and we had many conversations with them as they were eager to practice their language skills. Nothing was too much trouble, and we always returned to a perfectly made up room.

The food at the resort was also delicious and not overpriced. Traditional dishes to try, as well as other SE Asian favourites like rice paper rolls and curries. Always fresh and so so fragrant. We ate here on a couple of occasions and weren’t disappointed.

The city itself is absolutely charming! The French colonial architecture, combines perfectly with the rolling green hills and rice paddies surrounding it. There are waterfalls, caves, temples and markets to explore and I have to say, the night markets had some of the finest clothing, home wares and food items that I’ve seen anywhere in Asia. Not the tacky fakes you see getting flogged off in Thailand, but gorgeous handmade linen and silk tableware, bedspreads, throw rugs and clothing. If my bag wasn’t already overweight and I was heading home after this stop, I would have stocked up!

Beautiful Luang Prabang at dusk!
Beautiful Luang Prabang at dusk!
Luang Prabang night markets.
Luang Prabang night markets.
The French colonial influence in downtown Luang Prabang.
The French colonial influence in downtown Luang Prabang.

It’s a great place to rent a push bike and cruise around for a morning or afternoon. The river is lined with guest houses and restaurants to sit back and take it all in, otherwise you can grab a tuk tuk and head out of town for some hiking, biking or just a visit to the surrounding waterfalls and caves.

The best way to explore the streets of Luang Prabang.
The best way to explore the streets of Luang Prabang.

We headed to Kuang Si waterfalls, which in the dry season promise to be turquoise pools, with rope swings and jump rocks. Sadly, we were there in the wet season, so our trek out there only rewarded us with gushing muddy water, and 100’s of tourists! Not quiet the tranquil setting we had in mind and while there were people in the water, undeterred by its murkiness, it wasn’t for us.

Luang Prabang is also known for its cooking classes, so we ventured to the most recommended class in town, which was ‘Tamarind’.

A morning visit to the local market was certainly an eye opener, with the meat section particularly turning my stomach, however the fragrant herbs and glimpse at local life made it all worthwhile. After exploring and learning about many of the ingredients we’d be using in our cooking, we headed out of town to their cooking school.

Visiting the local markets to learn all about local ingredients.
Visiting the local markets to learn all about local ingredients.
Tamarind cooking classes, Luang Prabang.
Tamarind cooking classes, Luang Prabang.
The amazing lunch we prepared!
The amazing lunch we prepared!

Our chef was absolutely hilarious, making jokes about Australia and his girlfriend, he taught us some amazing recipes, including Lemongrass stuffed chicken and traditional Larp. I definitely returned to town impressed by the class, and keen to try and recreate some of what we made once I get back home. (I’ll post some of the yummy recipes soon!)

The other must see in Luang Prabang is the Alms giving ceremony. If you have a read the previous post (as per the link below) it tells you more about the tradition, and don’t get me wrong…. while i hated the fact that tourists we’re blatantly disrespectful of the ceremony, I did love the tradition of it all. It’s definitely worth the 5am wake up call as the silent beauty of hundreds of monks, walking the streets at dawn isn’t something you see everyday. Just be mindful of the protocol and don’t be one of ‘those’ tourists!

The morning Alms ceremony in Luang Prabang.
The morning Alms ceremony in Luang Prabang.

As my 5 nights in Luang Prabang came to an end, i was ready to move on but i knew then that it would remain one of my favourite SE Asian destinations. The 5 nights gave us just enough time to see the sights, experience the culture and take it all in and it was nice not to rush through in only a couple of days, so if you have the time, set aside a good 4 or 5 days for this place.

All in all Luang Prabang was as amazing as i’d heard it would be. It truly does have a fabulous combination of tradition, culture and natural beauty and the friendliness of the people & the wonderful hotel helped to complete the picture.

Next stop … Cambodia!

Kate

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