After my Journey from Thailand on the slow boat; Luang Prabang; the former Capital, and was to be my first real taste of Laos, and although it took me a while to actually enjoy being in Laos, I found plenty to do in my three days there. I met some cool travellers and had unique experiences.
Here is what I got up to in three days in Luang Prabang
The Cultural experiences I had
If you are able to be an early riser, the best thing, by far is to get yourself to the main market place for the Alms giving Ceremony. At 6am, young monks, on their morning walk to the monastery, will walk through the town, collecting food, crackers and bananas from people on the side of the street. These items can be purchased from market traders. It was a really unique experience. A perfect way to watch real life and a city come to life.
Where I visited
Palaces, Temples and Museums
Luang Prabang has a number of Temples, and Pagoda’s. You can easily see them all, on foot, in one day. I love looking a different religious buildings, and I am always in awe as to how much detail goes into the design, as well as the unwavering dedication to those that practice their faith there. The National Museum in Lunang Prabang is also worth having a wee look at. Although you cannot take photos inside, it is a great history lesson.
A wee hike (only 190 steps!) will take you up to Chomsy Hill – this is just opposite the Museum. There is a small Temple at the top, and it has some of the best views over the city.
There are a number of Waterfalls in and around Luang Prabang, with the biggest and most beautiful (I think), being Kouang Si Waterfall. Tuk Tuk drivers will continuously plague you to go with them on a tour, and for various prices. As ever, in South East Asia; haggle your little heart out. I managed to go with another traveller I’d met on the slow boat, and a mixed group of other travellers we met on the street. We paid 20.000 Lao Kip (US$ 2.40 or 1.50 British Pounds), which is little or nothing, but this is because it was shared between 10 of us. The normal going rate is 200,000 Lao Kip (US $20 or 15 British Pounds), so teaming together with others means everyone wins. It is also possible to rent a scooter and drive there yourself.
There aren’t many ‘mainstream’ shops in Laos in general. Much of the local shopping is to be done in markets. There is a large night market, every night in Luang Prabang, selling similar items, as in other destinations in South East Asia – bracelets, t-shirts, wooden products etc. There are also some small food stalls, with local fare. I tried some form of Laos pancake, with coconut cream in it, but it wasn’t up my street.
The aftermath of the French rule in Laos
Like in many other countries in South East Asia, the French ruled Laos up until 1953, as a result of this, there are a number of French Colional Bbuildings, which are stunning, and my favourite: French bakeries and patisseries. You’ll get a number of people selling baguettes and pastries on the side of the road.
I also frequented a lovely bakery (which is a chain, so not the most authentic), called JoMa Bakery. It is a bit of an institution in Laos, (there are branches in Vientiane, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam!). It is a little more expensive than the average bakery, but I had Cereal for breakfast, for the first time in 3 months, and it was amazing! Their Brownies are also yummy.
Good Causes in Lunang Prabang
If you have the chance, visit Big Brother Mouse. An organisation, which aims to bring Literacy to children of Laos. Laos is ranked as one of the poorest nations of the World, along with Cambodia. Many people live on less than US $1.50 per day, and many cannot read. You can sponsor a book party, or buy books, which are written in Lao and English, and later give these out to Children that you see.
I didn’t get the chance to visit there, as it was something I only noticed (at the Tourist Information office), the night before I was leaving. However, another traveller I later met, had bought a load of books, and I watched as she gave them out, to very grateful Children. It was an incredible experience.
Have you ever been to Luang Prabang?
Is there anything else you would recommend doing?