As usual, I am a bit late in posting about my adventures in South East Asia. Currently, I am in Vietnam and on November 1st, I will be in Jakarta, Indonesia. However, prior to visiting Vietnam, I spent a week (late September, 2014) in Luang Prabang, Laos. Why did I go there? The primary reason was to chill out, as quite a few freinds – whom already had visited Luang Prabang – told me I would really enjoy the small town atmosphere, as well as the outdoor activities, which this area has in abundance. Quite a change from Phnom Penh, where I had been.
Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang, is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. I stayed in a bungalow at the Thongbay Guesthouse, where most of the bungalows have river or garden views. Mine had a gorgeous river view. Quite frankly, the Thongbay Guesthouse was an amazing place. However, it did not have air conditioning and initially, I had a bit of apprehension about that. No problem at all as it turned out. The nights were quite cool and with the windows open (screens kept out mosquitoes), coupled with the excellent ceiling and floor fans – I was quite comfortable and slept well. It was quite an experience listening to the sounds of the jungle at dusk and during the evening as I sat on my bungalow deck.
When I researched Luang Prabang, I found out that the town has both natural and historical sites. Among the natural (tourism) sites are the the Kuang Si waterfalls, which I visited with new friends, Dennis and Jennifer, from Hong Kong. I am going to have a separate post on that day. Other natural sites at or near Luang Prabang are the Tat Sae waterfalls and Pak Ou caves. Phou si, which is in the middle of the town, has gorgeous views of the river and town. It is a popular place to relax and watch the sun setting on the Mekong river.
One of my favorite places was the “night market,” it is at the end of the main street of Luang Prabang. Here you will find rows upon rows of stalls, selling attractive embroidery, fine woven rugs, scarfs, shirts, bracelets and other art craft and souvenirs. Along this same street is where I usually had dinner, as it is dotted with numerous restaurants. If you get a chance, also stop inside the town library. The library is staffed by many foreign volunteers. In fact, if you are of a mind to do so, a donation to maintain the library is very much appreciated. This resource provides books and education not only to the town citizens, but also to many villagers along the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.
The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong Temple are among the most well known historical sites. A “wat” is a Buddhist or Tao monastery temple in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. It is Sanskrit for “enclosure.” The town has many smaller wats such as Wat Hosian Voravihane. Each morning at sunrise, monks leave their wats and walk in a procession through town accepting alms from the locals and tourists.
The other noteworthy activity I did was taking a boat ride down the Mekong river. Unfortunately, I left my camera (smart phone) at my bungalow and do not have photos of this experience. I was able to visit a village, Ban Chan, which is renowned for pottery making.
Other then dinner and strolling along the stalls of the night market, you aren’t going to find a lot of “action” in Luang Prabang. Night clubs, bars, and Karaoke isn’t what Luang Prabang is about. I found my most pleasant evenings spent on my bungalow veranda, sedately listening to the melodic jungle sounds of wildlife and insects. Similarly, morning found me having a delicious breakfast on my veranda, watching the various watercraft slowly pass by on the Nam Khan river. Anyone who wants to get away from it all, could do a lot worse then spending a few days or more in Luang Prabang. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this charming area and town.