Laos is a much overlooked destination that has fast become Nathan’s favourite Asian country. With laidback people, stunning scenery and fascinating culture, Nathan tells us why he loves it so…
Luang Prabang explored
Beach bum Holly heads away from the coast and explores Luang Prabang, the capital of Laos. She gives us the low down on this fascinating capital city…
Laos hadn’t ever particularly been on my radar – perhaps because I am a beach lover and the country is land-locked. However, this quickly changed once we arrived in the stunning city of Luang Prabang, and I now class it as a must see place for any Asia lover! We reached Luang Prabang via a 2 hour flight from Bangkok. By this point we had been travelling for 15 hours and were itching to arrive and get settled in to this ‘sleeping beauty’ with a cold beer. Luang Prabang has a totally relaxed and laid- back atmosphere which instantly grabs you. The town is UNESCO protected meaning all buildings have to look a certain way and comply with strict building laws. As a result, the rustic and authentic French colonial charm has been preserved and the town has retained its unique character and feel.
We stayed on the peninsular where the mighty Mekong Delta meets the Khan River, which gave us stunning views of the river from our balcony and was only a short walk into the heart of the town. On our first night, after a nap to shake off our jet lag, I was keen to get out and explore the town – and try some local Laos cuisine! An unwritten law is that food in Asia is amazing, and the food in Luang Prabang is no different. Sitting alongside the Mekong with a seafood soup freshly made in front of you and a Beer Laos is an absolute must (if you are not keen on seafood don’t worry there is plenty on offer). Head to one of our favourite restaurants – Tamarind, 3 Nagas, or L’Elephant and indulge in a beautiful, delicate fusion of French and Laos cuisine.
One of the main reasons Luang Prabang has such a special feel to it is the presence of so many monks. With over thirty beautiful golden temples, it has become the religious centre of the country and I loved seeing the various Wats (temples) and the friendly monks. If you set your alarm early it is well worth getting up and seeing the monks’ early morning alms giving at 5am. It’s an amazing, atmospheric and memorable experience!
Exploring the town by foot is the best way to see Luang Prabang, or you can hire a push bike for very little money. There are fantastic shops, both for boutiques and small souvenirs – and don’t miss the famous night market, which opens from around 6 until 9pm and offers you the opportunity to grab some local handicrafts. Don’t be afraid to bargain, the locals fully expect it and seem to enjoy the thrill of reaching a deal!
A fantastic nearby trip not to be missed is a visit to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, which are about 45 minutes away by motorised tuk tuk. Your driver waits while you go off and explore the waterfalls and enjoy a cool dip and a picnic.
Not usually one for history and temples, I still really enjoyed the Royal Palace Museum –the interior is really impressive, and it linked in perfectly with a trip up to Mount Phousi to witness a spectacular sunset. As with all Asian countries, I also highly recommend treating yourself to a massage – there are loads of spas in the town center, both high end and small inexpensive boutiques offering the famous Asian massages and other treatments. An hour long Laos oil massage definitely prepared me for the long flight home!
We spent a total of 4 days in Luang Prabang which was enough time to see all the major highlights and soak up the atmosphere of this beautiful city. I could have happily stayed longer. The spirit and friendliness of the locals is addictive and I could definitely get used to the slow and relaxed pace of life!
Check out our A Taste of Laos itinerary.
Remember, all our itineraries are tailor-made, so give the team a call to arrange a bespoke trip of your own on 020 3141 2850.