Laos – Luang Prabang

Compared to Thailand, Luang Prabang is so quiet, with far fewer people, it felt what Thailand would probably be like if there was no Western influence and tourism market. It was very hot and humid, and the mountainous countryside was lush and very green. We were very impressed with the incredibly loud thunderstorms we had while we were there, which was something we are not used to in Cape Town.

We stayed at Villa Mahasok Hotel, which was near the middle of the town, and we were able to walk around most of the town quite easily.

There is not much to do in the town itself except visit the different restaurants during the day, go to the top of Mount Phousi, see the night market, or do a tour.

We visited a number of small local restaurants which mostly all had really good food, for really cheap. We also visited a couple of places that were run by foreigners, such as the popular Utopia bar / restaurant. This place overlooks the Mekong river, and has a large chill balcony where all the foreigners lie on mattresses chilling, reading, drinking, eating and watching the boats going up and down the Mekong. While there we tried some of the local snacks, such as the fried river weed, which we did not find very nice.

One of the town attractions is Mount Phousi, which has a 360 degree view of the town, and a temple at the top. The walk to the top takes about 45 minutes, and is the place to be every night at sunset. There are loads of tourists who make the hike to the top in the grueling heat, to watch the sun go down. Once the sun sets, and everyone descends, most people exit at steps at the nightly night market, which has lots of food stalls and other local hand crafts for sale.

Our favourite place in Luang Prabang and one of the main tourist attractions in the area, was Kuang Si waterfall. We took a tour there, and liked it so much we went a second time a few days later. This was mainly because it was really beautiful, but also because it was insanely hot and humid weather, and you could swim in the very refreshingly cold pools at the waterfall.

At the beginning of the waterfall was a bear sanctuary that you pass on your way to the falls, so we managed to see some of the local bears that would be found in that area in the sanctuary.

One of the days we were there, we took a river cruise, and traveled by slow boat on the Mekong river to visit Pak Ou caves. The caves are in the limestone cliffs along the Mekong river, and contain loads of Buddha statues.

Another one of the attractions in the town is the bamboo bridge, which is only accessible during the dry months, as when it rains, the bridge is washed a way. Every year the monks rebuild the bamboo foot bridge over the river.

After a week in Luang Prabang, we were excited to move on to our next destination in Laos, which was the town of Vang Vieng.