Luang Prabang nestled on the sacred confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, this Unesco World Heritage city is both enchanting and diverse in what it has to offer. Fram the fascinating history of the Royal Family to its myriad stunning wats (temples), glittering in emerald and gold, this once sleepy capital is perhaps the most sophisticated, photogenic city in the whole of South East Asia. With its orange robed monks, famous hill tribe night market and fantastic French colonial inspired bistros and cafes (Dijon mustard and Gruyere in the middle of a third world country? Yes please!). Be it wandering through the old city streets peppered with French mansions or enjoying a day soaking in the sun at a trendy bar or cafe, you may find yourself staying longer than planned!
I encountered several Laos enthusiasts who have been coming back to Laos on their 3rd, 4th or 5th trip. They all unanimously said the city (and country) has drastically changed in the last few years. Apparently just two years ago Luang Prabang had not one internet cafe or ATM. Now Luang Prabang has sadly (or thankfully) risen above its original small town “in the middle of nowhere” charm to a more accessable place to visit. I am happy I was able to access an ATM and check my emails while here but I can understand how true adventure travelers would be disappointed. I also love the idea of envisioning this small town full of monks to be a truly unique out of this world experience. Times are a changing, as Laos opens up to the world its people (who were rarely used to seeing foreigners) will also have to change. Throughout Laos I encountered several cartoons which remind foreigners how to behave around the people of Laos. A somber reminder that many of these people are really quite simple and not used to the ways of the Westerner (i.e: showing skin, being affectionate in public, being loud, etc…)
I spent about three days in Laos truly taking in the rural air of the town whilst spending my days walking through beautiful antiqued streets and munching on colonial inspired dishes. I found it humorous that a 750 mL bottle of Laos vodka was cheaper than a 1 L bottle of imported Coca Cola.
-hanging out with my Kiwi friends who I met earlier on my trip in Borneo.
-visiting the Royal Palace and Wat Xieng Thong.
-noisy nights at the market gobbling up traditional Laos sandwich on French baguette.
-a days visit at Tat Kuang Si. A beautiful spot 32 km south of Luang Prabang which features a wide, multi-tiered waterfall tumbling over limestone formations into a series of cool, turquoise-green pools.