When I first saw Luang Prabang, I was so sick with high fever, a terrible headache and awful body pains that moving and even talking took a lot of energy. We have to make an emergency trip to Luang Prabang and postponed our visit to a village in Northern Laos because I wanted to be close to a hospital in case I had something really bad. The hospital in Luang Prabang was the closest one. We did go to the doctor who told me that it was probably just a flu.
Long story short, I stayed in Luang Prabang for 4 days but didn’t see much of it other than the walls of our guest house, recovering from my illness. I eventually got better and went back up north where we had a great stay in the villages of Muang Noi, Huay Bo and Nong Khiaw (check my posts: https://iamhurly.com/2015/04/10/laos-adventures-muang-ngoi/ , https://iamhurly.com/2015/04/10/laos-adventures-huay-bo-village/ and https://iamhurly.com/2015/04/25/laos-adventures-nong-khiaw/)
Our stay in Luang Prabang was special. We met and hung out with awesome people there. We also met Jessica, an Australian pilgrim who we first met during our Camino de Santiago in Spain! Amazing! A few months later, unexpectedly, we found ourselves hanging out and exploring the beautiful UNESCO Heritage City of Luang Prabang, many kilometers and miles away from Spain!
Actually, it was Giraud who met Jessica while he was checking out the alms giving ceremony to the monks one morning. The alms giving ceremony is one of the most sacred Lao tradition that happens every morning in the streets of Luang Prabang. Visitors are actually invited to see the morning ritual as locals give alms to the monks.
We also met a few other cool people in Luang Prabang. First we met a friendly couchsurfer Marco who’s from Italy but now lives in Luang Prabang. Then we met Ali and Siegfried, who we eventually travelled with in Vang Vien and Vientiane. We also met Joe from the USA in Luang Prabang, who we saw again in Vientianne.
We stayed in Luang Prabang during the Lao New Year (read my previous post: https://iamhurly.com/2015/04/16/sokdee-pii-mai-laos-happy-lao/). During most of our stay in Luang Prabang, we were running away from people splashing water on us – part of the Lao New Year tradition. We did have a great time though, even when we were wet. There is no escaping the water so you just have to embrace the fact that you will be wet. Just enjoy it.
The New Year celebrations in Luang Prabang is one of the most famous in Laos so whenever you have the chance, spend the New Year’s there. The celebrations can last up to a week! And there will be water splashing for a few days so waterproof everything.
Other than the New Year’s celebration, there are many things to see and experience in Luang Prabang. There are museums, markets, restaurants and bars that can keep you busy and entertained during your stay in the city.
There is a night market along the main avenue that is open all year. It is worth checking out. It is very similar to the markets that you will see travelling across South East Asia, featuring local products and souvenirs. There is a culture of bargaining and negotiating and expect that the price can go down as much as 50% if you are good in bargaining.
Luang Prabang has a few public markets to check out. The morning market is located in one of the alleys along the main avenue. It is an exciting place to visit in the early morning. Unlike the night market which is catered to tourists, the morning market is not so much catered to tourist about souvenirs and crafts. Here, you can check out the locals selling local fruits, vegetables and even live animals for local consumption. We saw live frogs, fish, chicken and birds!
At dinnertime, there are buffets for 15, 000 kip at the market. They give you a bowl and you can fill the bowl with everything you want from the buffet! There is another buffet for 10, 000 kip at the night market but the food there weren’t that good. We did alternate between the 10k kip one and the 15k kip one though, depending on how hungry we were.
Because of the New Year’s celebration, there weren’t so much activities that we did out of town. We mostly stayed in town, partied, checked out the markets and tried to avoid getting wet (which was impossible). We did checked out the Kuang Si Falls which is located 1 hour away from the city by tuktuk (15, 000 kip one way or 30, 000 kip round trip and the driver will also wait for you for 3-4 hours while you enjoy yourselves at the falls).
The Kuang Si Falls is a must see in Luang Prabang. We didn’t expect it to be that beautiful! We have been to a few waterfalls before so we thought this would just be another waterfall to visit but we were amazed to see THESE waterfalls. The water is so clear and there are so many waterfalls in the area!
We hired a tuktuk for about 6 hours – 2 hours ride there and back and he waited for us for 4 hours while we enjoyed the falls. I would recommend going one way though because 4 hours is actually not a lot to see the falls and there are so many things you can visit in the area. There is also a cave about 3 kms walking from the falls which we didn’t visit but could be an extra activity one could do other than swimming at the falls.
I hope you enjoy your stay in Luang Prabang as much as we did. It’s a great city to visit in Laos. Many travellers that we met consider it as one of the most beautiful cities they have visited in Southeast Asia! And I don’t doubt it! It is a beautiful, charming city that most people will truly enjoy visiting.
Where we stayed: Pathoumphone Guest House near the Nam Khan River, 70, 000 kip (during Songkran which is one of the most expensive time of the year. Prices during the Songkran are double or triple the regular rate)
Where we ate: 15, 000 kip buffets! There are restaurants everywhere. Luang Prabang is known for it’s restaurants and cafe’s. Most budget restaurants we found are in the market area and along the Mekong river.
Activities: Songkran or Lao New Year, eating local food, buffet, checking out the markets, biking, hiking around nearby villages, hanging out at the bar area – make sure you check out Redbul Bar and say hello to one of the owners, Marco.