One word comes to mind for describing Luang Prabang – charming. The French influence is obvious here and it makes a wonderful place to explore, admiring the quaint streets and trying out the different cafes along the way.
What we did:
The Night market: The streets come alive at night in Luang Prabang with stalls selling soaps, coffee and handmade gifts. You will see some sellers with small items made from the shells of bombs dropped on Laos by the USA with all proceeds going to the impacted villages. There are also vendors with fresh shakes, crepes and baguettes.
View point (10,000 kip per person): There are two entrances one either side of the hill, neither are that difficult and take around 20 minutes maximum (we walked up one and down the other). The sunset was nice but it was very overcrowded and we had people setting up huge tripods and sending up drones.
Kuang Si Waterfalls: To get here, a Tuk Tuk can be taken from the top of the Night Market Street, the drivers will wait until there are enough people to go or you can hire one privately. If you take a group Tuk Tuk it will cost approx 50,000 kip per person plus 20,000 kip per person for entry to the falls and the bear sanctuary (see below).
The Higher levels:
Just before you get to the waterfall on the left you will see a staircase which takes you to the higher levels, it is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. Our group did not spot it but instead discovered you can still reach the higher levels across the bridge by scaling a very steep incline (we were relieved to find the alternate route down on the way back!) The first area you will get to offers a good view-point, a rope swing and some small jungle pools that look like scenes from Tarzan.
If you are up for a longer trek, you can reach a river with more rope swings and a log balanced across the water presenting the challenge of crossing it both ways to win a beer. The men spent a long time here trying but failing to master this log, finally admitting that they could only make it one way after being shown up by a local teenage girl who crossed it with easy dressed in skinny jeans. The owner of the small bar then impressed us all by crossing with a tray of beer balanced on his head.
The Lower levels:
Once we were able to drag the men away from the beer challenge we headed back down to the lower levels (keeping an eye out for the ‘secret pool’ which we were unable to find) this time taking the slightly easier route.
The waterfall is majestic and is held sacred by the Laos people meaning swimming is restricted in some places. However, a short walk brings you to inviting pools of the same beautiful water where you can enjoy a refreshing swim or lie in the sun on the rocks (there are signs to show where swimming is not allowed). The women in our group loved this level and wished we had spent the whole day here rather than climbing to the higher levels.
Near the exit there is a sanctuary which provides a safe home to ‘Moon Bears,’ protecting them from poachers and farms where their bile is taken for medicinal purposes while they are kept in terrible conditions.
Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum (30,000 Kip per person): This museum reminded us of visiting British National Trust properties. We enjoyed one room in particular where the walls were covered in Japanese Glass depicting folk-lore. The Car garage was also interesting but the vehicles were not very well cared for. This would be perfect for seeing out a rainy spell.
- Walking – following the river is a nice evening walk and you see the sunset over the water, there are plenty of places to stop and have a drink along the way.
- Utopia bar – A slight walk from the main road of bars and restaurants, during the day this makes a nice place to relax and sunbathe and in the evening candles are lit and music is played starting of chilled before becoming more of a party atmosphere.
- Lao Lao Beer Garden – a relaxing space to enjoy a beer, play free pool and eat some nice food.
- The House – this place had an amazing Laos BBQ and was really cheap. We had dinner and a shocking 3 drinks each 😉 and it only came to 120,000 kip.
- Tangor- A French café near the museum, a bit pricer than other places but the ambience is worth it.
Getting there and around:
- We arrived by Slow Boat – see our blog post on our journey here.
- The best way to explore Luang Prabang is by foot or bicycle, it is not really big enough to warrant a moped and there are Tuk-Tuks available to visit attractions further afield.
Where we stayed:
- Pakam Guest House – 120,000 kip per night (one of the cheapest options available). It was clean, had good aircon and had the best shower. It was next to the river and a few minutes walk from the night market, it took 10 minutes to walk to the street full of bars and restaurants.
- Lakhangthong Boutique Hotel – this was more expensive but included breakfast and it was worth it to have a bit of luxury including a huge bed and bath for a night. It was a bit more of a walk to the night market (10-15 minutes) and not far from the bars and restaurants.
- Villa Luang Sokxay – we stayed here one night on the way back from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang and enroute to the 4000 islands. It was clean, comfortable and on the same street as the restaurants and bars (we were not disturbed by any noise) and we wish we had found it sooner.
Where To Next?
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