Note: This guest post was written by Alex of Along Came Alex.
If Thailand is the popular girl at school who gets all the attention, Laos is the naturally beautiful, but shy and artsy girl who gets noticed by the class cutie in the end of the cheesy 80s romcom. Thailand, although I love it, is getting drenched in tourism. Laos hasn’t quite been ruined just yet.
Bordering all five countries of China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, Laos has such a rich cultural influence, but also a tragic history. During regional wars in the 60s and 70s, more than two million tons of ordnance was dropped on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions which made Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
On a positive note, in the recent years, Laos has reached a time of political peace and the city of Luang Prabang now has SO much to offer.
The currency of Laos is Laotian Kip, which is converted to roughly 88,000 KIP per $10 USD. The best time to visit is between November and March when the weather is comfortably dry. I visited in early October and it was quite hot during the day, but overall, very comfortable.
There are 35 temples within the small town, so it’s best to walk through the streets to find your favorite. I recommend one at the very end of the main road called Wat Xieng Thong.
Upon arrival to Laos, we checked into one of the best accommodation properties I have ever stayed at in my entire life. For approximately $100 USD/night, you can stay in a beautiful resort that is built upon on a UNESCO preserved lotus flower lagoon. The staff was BEYOND helpful, providing customized maps and guides of the area. I HIGHLY recommend a stay at Maison Dalabua. You will not regret it.
During your visit, book a Sa Sa Sunset Cruise and take a cruise along the Mekong River as the sun goes down. The tour itself costs 85,000 Laotian KIP which is under $10 USD for a two hour boat ride. The tour comes with a complimentary mojito that is served upon boat take off as well.
Afterwards, be sure to head to the large night market in the town center. One could walk around it for an entire hour and still not hit every stand; you can’t miss it.
If you’re an early riser, you’ll probably experience the Morning Alms Giving Ceremony, where the monks walk the streets to get their food for the day, which is plain white rice. I learned the monks and monk nominees do this EVERY SINGLE DAY and some of the younger ones stay in the temples in exchange for education. This experience humbled me so greatly. I obtained a bachelors degree by 23 years old. Do I have student loan debt? Yes. Do I have a job that is able to pay on my loans significantly? Yes. Did I HAVE TO BEG FOR WHITE RICE SILENTLY ON THE STREETS EVERYDAY FOR YEARS?!?! No…
The Phousi Morning Market is the perfect activity for after the ceremony.
With the night market being mostly goods and textiles, you’ll be pleased to hear that the morning market is mostly food– almost unreal food, that is. It’s a must to walk through because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen grilled squirrel or snake being sold for consumption…Honestly, I was so overwhelmed, I can’t even recall more than that, but you should go & try the Khao Nom Kok! These are mildly flavored mini coconut pancakes.
Although a one hour trek from the town, going to Kuang Si Waterfalls cannot be skipped. Note the plural falls. There are fall sections of the falls and one LARGE drop off at the very end. I kept thinking we were looking at it and everyone kept reminding us to keep going! The water was gorgeous and although crowded, the trip was invaluable.
Take a sunrise hike at Mount Phousi. It’s not actually a mountain at all…it was a few steps that took less than $2 and 5 minutes, but, worth it, nonetheless.
Head to Utopia for morning yoga along the River.
Utopia is such an interesting location: “Zen in the day” & “Funky at night” is the establishment’s catch phrase. I think it perfectly describes the atmosphere. Yoga class was less than $10 USD (as I’d come to learn most things in Laos were) and was great for beginners or experienced yogis. I feel as though I am somewhere in the middle and I enjoyed the class and the atmosphere.
Overall, you will totally enjoy your visit to Luang Prabang! Hope you found this helpful. For more details, or an entire three day Laotian itinerary through Vientiane and Luang Prabang, head to http://alongcamealex.com/stop-what-youre-doing-and-go-to-laos/