On the banks of the Mekong River sits the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. Here you’ll find sweet little guest houses, homely hostels and welcoming locals. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to former royal palaces and many beautiful temples.
There are always stands selling fresh fruit smoothies during the day and delicious street food at night. The street food is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The smell alone is enough to make your mouth water. Huge steaming bowls of noodles, rice and vegetables are laid out like a buffet. There are rows and rows of speared fish and chicken, cooked over makeshift BBQ’s, and even whole pigs heads! You can pay by the plate which allows you to try a bit of each of the local delicacies.
The night market in the centre of town is wonderful. There are stalls selling colourful paintings, traditional garments, jewellery and toys. It still remains my favourite night market, out of all the places I have visited in South East Asia. I bought some exquisite elephant-print trousers to take home with me – the most comfortable trousers I have ever worn!
You won’t find late-night bars and restaurants in Luang Prabang. Instead, the tourist tradition is to head to the local bowling alley – a short tuk tuk ride away. This is the only place that is still serving alcohol at night and so it has become the social hub for backpackers.
There’s plenty to do and see during the day. For a proper tour of the town, rent bikes and cycle your way around. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the monks walking around the grounds of Wat Xieng Thong, or ‘Golden City Temple’. It’s a breath-taking place, especially when the sun is shining down upon it.
Two places you definitely have to visit in Luang Prabang are:
- Kuang Si Falls:
This spectacular three tier waterfall may be a 45 minute tuk tuk drive away, but it certainly won’t disappoint. The most popular tourist spot in Luang Prabang, it’s not only the main cascade that people love but also the turquoise pools that it feeds. These pools have formed down the hillside and are the perfect place to go for a swim. Make sure you obey the signs though as some of the pools are sacred. It’s such a beautiful and tranquil place you won’t want to leave. There is also a bear sanctuary at the falls, run by the charity Free the Bears. Here you can see bears that have been rescued from cruel hunters.
- Phu Si Hill:
In the centre of town there are steps that lead up to the top of Phu Si Hill. This is the place to go for the best sunset in Laos. The views are stunning, of the surrounding mountains and meandering rivers. From here you can see the point at which the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. There are temples en route to the top, with Wat Chom Si at the highest peak.
If I had had more time, I would have loved to see the Buddha statues in Vientiane and explore the beautiful islands of Si Phan Don (commonly know as ‘4000 islands of the Mekong’). I would recommend looking these up too if you’re heading to Laos!
x Morts x