Arriving in Luang Prabang, after a two day boat trip (click here to read all about the slow boat to Laos) we were a overwhelmed by the surge of touts, and underwhelmed by the weather. Two days of sunshine and no hassle quickly turned into lots of pestering and a drizzly day.
Happily, the town quickly changed our minds.
Our First Night in Laos
Luang Prabang is the most wonderful little town. There are wooden signs on the front of shops and restaurants so finding your way around it so be easy. We went for a hotpot called Lao Lao Garden on the first evening. Here you cook your own meat seafood and veg before plunging them into the moat of broth running around the outside. The grill rises up in a cone that is fitted over a ferocious bucket of coal. It was a really fun way to enjoy dinner.
Seeing the Sights of Luang Prabang
We read, on a wooden board, that the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an amazing example of the blend between traditional Laotian architecture and French colonial style. It is obvious to see as you walk through the town and it really is a beautiful place compared to most of Laos.
Our favourite spot sat atop a hill looking over the town. As we took in the view we watched a small plane descending into the airport, the drone just reaching us through the drizzle-filled air. It was a lovely moment of calm. We discussed hopping into a tuktuk to go bowling (the only entertainment we had heard about) but decided to go for dinner in a restaurant with a real log fire instead. Oh yes, we know how to party.
The Temples of Luang Prabang
Around Luang Prabang are temples galore. We spent a surprisingly chilly day slowly meandering between them. I think the slow pace of the boat had rubbed off on us. We took a slow walk up Phousi Hill. We head upwards, step by slow step, stopping regularly to take in the view and catch our breath. The hill reaches up to 100m above town. and we climbed over 300 steps up to the top. On the way up we found lots of shrines and Buddhas, all bedecked in gold. On the summit was the That Chomsi temple, reached by taking a stone bridge edged by two long dragon statues.
Food and Night Market in Luang Prabang
Having overspent a little in Chang my and pie on activities and cocktails, I was on a push to save money. This meant that during the day, for lunch and breakfast, I ate plain rice topped with the chilli sauce that was on every restaurant table. This worked out at about £0.15p a meal, well done me!
On our last evening we took a stroll through the night market. Here we found an abundance of cheap, very cheap, very delicious things on a stick. I think we had chicken, I know we had a fish, and both were surprisingly well kept. We took seats at communal table and chatted conviviality with the other diners.
Then there was the pancake.
The popular route that backpackers take through SE Asia is often known as the “banana pancake trail”, but as I hate bananas, I mixed things up a little. In Laos, they make your crepes folded in a super crispy parcel and then cut it into squares. I tried a few variations of these but the one that I still think about was the Nutella and mango. Sweet, gooey, chocolatey….I tried and failed to find another pancake as good as this for the rest of our trip….I am still trying.
Bellies full and wallets fuller than expected, we decided to buy a souvenir lamp. We rarely buy anything on our travels but we were both taken by small wooden and paper lamps. They have been with us ever since (nine years and counting).
Our Beautification in Luang Prabang
Something I almost forgot about!
Our trip was bound for the beaches of Vietnam so we thought we would get a little beauty day. It was super cheap and after two days on the boat, we needed a good rub down. As well as a full body massage, I was going for a bikini wax and Karl was getting his back done.
We lay side by side, ready to be taken to a state of relaxation, but it wasn’t quite what we expected. The ladies pulled, pushed, bent, slapped and squeezed us. Bankers in London would pay thousands for this! I think it was mild torture. Mind you, if the massage was mild BDSM, then the waxing was extreme pleasure pain….without the pleasure.
The wax used at the salon was a cold, honey wax. This pulls painfully on your hair even as it applied, and then isn’t actually any good at removing hair! I managed one failed strip before I told them it wasn’t happening!! Mr Fluskey, however, already had it slathered across his back and so he endured 15 minutes of abuse as they tried to de-fluff him. He winced, whimpered whilst they all giggled at him. OK, I giggled too. He was left red, raw and with only a little less hair.
We left the salon limping and wondering what on earth had just happened to us.
Luang Prabang was undoubtably the highlight of our time in Laos. It is a very interesting and charmingly relaxed town. However, with the expansion of the airport (you can now fly into Luang Prabang from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia and Vientiane) it is sure to be receiving many more tourists than when we visited, ten years ago. I suppose that what we are saying is go…go now…go quickly before it turns into a city ravaged by over-commercialisation. Luang Prabang is a pretty special place and it would be good to catch it while it retains that magic.