A May 2006 trip
to Luang Prabang by Kez
Quote: UNESCO designated Luang Prabang is a jewel of a town, jam-packed with beautiful houses and buildings, a plethora of temples, a large population of resident monks, and is just a treat to visit.
Nearly every step that you take passes a temple or temple ruin, and you can wander freely into nearly any of these temples. The deep purple, hot pinks, and gold touches that are abundant are visually striking. There are constantly great opportunities to photograph temples, monks, more temples, and more monks, which happen to be one of my favorite subjects.
A number of day trips that can be taken including a boat cruise the Pak Ou cave and a road trip to the Kouangsi Waterfall, which for me was a highlight.
Besides the two trips to the falls and caves outside the town, the main sights in LP are the temple complexes. They are all magnificent, but are all in various states of disrepair.
The Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Monastery) is the largest and most sacred. It has deeply sloping traditional roof’s and contains the mosaic of the "Sacred tree of life," the royal carriage that carried the funeral ashes of the royal family and the famous reclining Buddha.
Make sure you climb the 328 steps to the top of Mt Phousi, it is well worth it for the glorious sunsets. Don’t make the mistake that most people do and leave as soon as the sun dips below the horizon, as it only gets better as the last rays reflect in the sky.
The main street is closed most nights of the week for a market, great if you are looking for some distinctive traditional Lao weaving. It stretches on for ages but most of it is similar in style, pick your piece and negotiate.
There are numerous accommodation options offering great value and many restaurants serving typical Laotian food that reminded me of a cross between Chinese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese cooking.
For trips further afield, the best option is to take to the river to visit the Pak Ou Caves. To visit the Kouangsi waterfall, the main route is by a dusty gravel road.
The township and surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is truly one of the most magical places that I have visited.
The staff is very welcoming, and the reception is just like being in your living room, complete with a great selection of books.
Our room was in the new wing of the cottage, on the second floor for $40 per night, and we were lucky enough to have a view of the Mekong river from our private balcony. The room was large with timber supports, timber bed, lamps and furniture, lime washed walls that were studded with a contrasting feature of dark stones, polished timber floors with rattan mats, and the ceiling was also timber with exposed beams. It was a pleasure to stay in. The only down side was that the bed was hard as a rock.
Along the front of the river are numerous restaurants including the one attached to Sala Prabang, this is where breakfast is served each day, and offered some fantastic views whilst dining.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 1, 2006
Mekong Riverside Road
Luang Prabang, Laos
+856 (71) 252460
Restaurant | "Various restaurants"
Wine by the glass was reasonable and not too bad quality, but also try the Lao wine as well. It is a cross between port and sake and won't make you gag. Le Tm Tm Garden offers French and Lao food. I tried the Lao Salad that consisted of of lettuce, watercress, tomatoes, peanuts, and Lao dressing. They also made beautiful baguettes filled with a variety of choices; my partner opted for ham and cheese, which he said was delicious. They also made sublime banana shakes.
"The Pizza Luang Prabang" was always busy and extremely popular. Typical of Luang Prabang eateries, it consisted of a large room, broken up with ferns, and open fronted. Filled not only with tourists, but also many locals... they offer great, reasonably-priced food and good service. We opted for a standard pizza, as we needed a break from rice and noodles, and it was delicious.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 1, 2006
Luang Prabang Dining
Throughout Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, Laos
Attraction | "Kouangsi Waterfalls"
The easiest way is to travel by road, although it is still quite rough, 45 minutes on a gravel road and it gives you an opportunity to pass through some villages, and see a little of the countryside, and daily life as well. Some of these snapshots we saw, included a number of working elephants and a funeral procession.
You can hail a jumbo, which is a truck with a canopy and seating on the back tray, negotiate your price, we paid $10 and off you go.
The waterfall is actually a series of waterfalls, and cascades with cool glens and numerous picnic spots. The water is the most amazing colour green, due to the limestone found inside. There are several beautiful swimming holes, but although I tried, I couldn’t go all the way in as it was freezing—in fact so cold I thought my heart was going to stop beating, although my partner went for a swim and said it was refreshing!
The trails are really well maintained, so you can climb up the the highest reaches of the falls and actually go to the peak of the mountain, too many trees for an unobstructed view though!
On the way to visit the waterfalls at the main entry, there are two large enclosures, one containing quite a number of Asian bears, and the other a magnificent Tigress named Phet. These poor animals had been rescued from poachers and are supported entirely by donations. Phet was only 5 months old at the time of her rescue.
If you see the tiger enclosure on the left and she is not visible, check on your way out, as I think we were super lucky as when we arrived we nearly walked into Phet. When we asked other travelers at the falls, they were not lucky enough to see her. See www.laos.co.uk for her full story. She is now fully grown and absolutely beautiful.
When we were leaving, the bears were all waiting for their dinner, they sounded just like babies crying and meowing. The man that looks after them is a delight, when we were standing there talking to him, the cutest baby bear scampered out to greet us. This was his youngest baby. The little bear had a pat and when he had enough attention scampered back to his bed in the house attached.
If you only have time for one trip make it this one.
Kuang Si Falls
32 Km South of Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang, Laos
Filled with over 4000 Buddha images, there are two caves (one upper and one lower) set into a limestone cliff some way up the river from Luang Prabang. If you enter the closest and lowest cave first on entry, you will see a small shrine with quite a number of statues. Take the stairs at the left and you enter the cave proper. It is absolutely crammed with Buddhas sitting and standing on every available rock space.
Continue along the path to the higher cave. This contains another shrine with a large number of smaller statues. The cave itself is much larger, and the ceiling stretches upwards. At each cave there is a small box for donations, and you can pay to hire a torch to explore the caves. You really only need the torch for the upper cave, as enough natural light filters into the lower cave. The best option to visit is to take a boat, which is easily arranged when you are ready to go. It is a half-day-trip, and approximately 25km from LP.
When we were there, the caretakers's kids came to meet us to pose for photos in exchange for a little hard currency. One was holding a young Owl, and the other was holding numerous baby Squirrels. It was only after some time that we realised that the poor little Owl was on a short tether made of elastic bands twisted together. The young girl would throw it into the air and the poor Owl would start to fly, only to be pulled back to earth and land with a thud. When we tried to explain that allowing the Owl to believe that it could fly and instead being pulled back and landing on the concrete path with a thud that would almost certainly hurt the poor creature we were given puzzled stares. I contemplated the idea of buying back the Owl, but my partner quietly asked me "what would you do with it if you did so?" I had to give up the idea. I certainly couldn't pack it into my bag and fly back to Australia with it. How different our ideas of cruelty can be when in another place and culture? The boat also stopped at a traditional village where people were busy making snake whiskey. I sampled a little and it almost blew my head off. The other village was Xangkhongposa, which is a weaving and paper making village where they make some seriously beautiful handmade papers. You had the opportunity to see the papers being made and were able to buy some, but were under no pressure to do so.
The boat trip also gives the opportunity to see fishing with traditional nets, water buffalo wallowing in the shallows, and lots of kids all cooling off in the waters and giving a big wave to you as you pass by. The trip there and back is almost as good as the destination itself!
Pak Ou Caves
Overlooking the Mekong River
Luang Prabang, Laos
According to their advertising, it is the only place in LP that guarantees to change the mat that you are laying on after the person before. Always a nice thought to hold on to when you are laying with your face buried in it.
You are taken to a private room to shower first and prepare for a full rubdown.
The massage we tried was a Relaxation Massage, it was so relaxing that I fell asleep. That is until the slapping part began and then I was truly awake. Just kidding, the slapping wasn't too bad—more invigorating than anything.
Cost was $5 for 1 hour.
Bliss for those aching muscles.
Broadbeach Waters, Australia