How were French colonial houses built
Luang Prabang: Between baguettes, palm trees and mountains
Our journey to Luang Prabang got off to an unusual start: Instead of flying here from Chiang Mai in Thailand for an easy 45 minutes, we sailed across the Mekong by boat for two whole days. The drive was long, but at the same time it was beautiful and we have already got a lot of impressions of Laos without even having set foot in this country.
With the slowboat on the Mekong through Laos
We drive two days over the Mekong from Thailand to Laos and organize the border crossing ourselves. How it works, what we experienced on the journey and what you should be aware of can be found here ...
Luang Prabang is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Southeast Asia and rightly so! We have three days to explore the city and its surroundings and of course to enjoy the delicious (French) food before continuing south to Vang Vieng. Luang Prabang, or the whole of Laos, used to be a French colony and you can tell: The architecture is reminiscent of France, we meet French tourists everywhere (who otherwise rarely stay in Asia) and baguettes can be bought on every corner. And what a baguette! For the first time since the start of our trip there is decent bread for us again, after all it was usually only toast ...
But we come to Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang is located in the middle of the mountains surrounded by two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers. In the middle of the city is the royal palace, because Luang Prabang was the royal city of Laos until the abolition of the monarchy. And what a city the king has chosen! There are no skyscrapers, only well-preserved French colonial houses, colorful temples stand on every corner, everything looks very original and the city is very green, full of palm trees! The clocks tick differently here, it's very quiet and the place exudes a relaxed atmosphere. We feel comfortable from the first moment ...
Explore the old town on foot
So we can't wait to really explore the city the next day and immediately after breakfast we start a walk through the old town. Our accommodation Chitlatda Central Bila House is centrally but quietly located, quite simple, but with nice owners and a good breakfast. The two boys from Austria, who we met on our Mekong trip, live in the same hostel and so we decide to do the city tour together.
The old town of Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is actually one of the only major attractions in itself. Still, there is of course the Royal Palace and a few other things not to be missed. From our accommodation, the first thing we do is to make our way to Mount Phousi, a small mountain in the middle of the old town, on top of which the small temple That Chomsi Stupa stands.
Admission costs LAK 20,000.00 (approx. EUR 2.04) and from above you have a great view of the city. It should be particularly beautiful up here at sunset, but the temple is only open until 7 p.m. and we decide to use the morning sun.
On the way back down we pass a woman who sells small birds. They are locked in a cage that is much too small and can be bought to set free. Pretty mean, but I bet Chinese tourists would buy something like this ...
At the back of the temple we find a wide staircase that leads directly towards the Royal Palace. It is from here that most of the tourists come to the viewpoint and that also explains why we had to walk through the backyards of some Laotian families on the way up, but they smiled at us friendly. This happens when, thanks to a good map app, you find small side streets and do not use the signposted tourist routes.
Once at the bottom we are right in front of the next highlight: The Royal Palace! In the meantime it has been converted into the National Museum (entry fee LAK 30,000.00 (approx. 3.06 euros)). The best thing about the museum is the garage with the royal vehicles (oldtimers), but unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures ...
We continue towards the Mekong and just drift through the small streets with their pretty colonial buildings. There is a small French café on every corner and in contrast to the rest of Asia, you can drink really good coffee here instead of instant coffee! Again and again we see artists sitting on the roadside, selling their self-painted pictures. Totally nice and not as crowded as on many Thai night markets.
Again and again we pass various temples, all of which cost around 20,000.00 LAK (approx. 2.04 euros) entry. Doesn't sound like much, it isn't. But when it comes to the twentieth temple, the investment is considered. So we only look at most of the temples from the outside, but the Wat Xieng Thong, the oldest temple in the city, is not to be missed. We hardly ever meet tourists here, but we do meet many monks who go about their work. Somehow, a temple always has something magical for me as soon as monks walk around there. It doesn't look like the temple was built just for tourists. We put down some flowers, take a few photos and enjoy the view of the Mekong ...
On our way back to the accommodation we pass a bamboo bridge that connects the peninsula of the old town with the other side of the river. Every year at the beginning of the dry season it is built and always dismantled shortly before the rainy season, otherwise the current of the river would destroy the bridge ... During the rainy season people have to cross the river by boat. For tourists, the bridge costs LAK 10,000.00 (approx. 1.02 euros). But it is definitely worth entering for a few nice photos. There is also a nice restaurant on the other side of the river where we have lunch!
In the evening we go to the night market. It takes place every day from 5 to 10 p.m. in front of the Royal Palace. In addition to the typical souvenirs, there is also plenty of delicious food here: large portions for just 20,000.00 LAK (approx. 2.04 euros) and fruit shakes for only 10,000.00 LAK (approx. 1.02 euros). And so we end up at the night market every evening and try our way through the various stalls.
The turquoise Kuang Si waterfall
The next day we want to visit the area around Luang Prabang and what better way to do that than with a scooter? We rent the scooters directly in the hotel for 100,000.00 LAK (approx. 10.21 euros) and so we start right after breakfast. Our destination: The Kuang Si waterfall, about 30 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. Normally, Marius and I don't think much of waterfalls, because most of the time it's actually just water and not particularly exciting. But the Kuang Si waterfall is different! The turquoise water plunges 30 meters into the depths and falls even deeper into the valley over several pools. And best of all: you can even swim in the pools. So the scooter parked, 1,000.00 LAK (approx. 0.10 euros) parking fee and 20,000.00 LAK (approx. 2.04 euros) entry paid and what can I say: It really does what it promises, but unfortunately it is The sun isn't out yet and we don't dare to go into the water ...
There are many tourists in the lower basins, but the further you hike up the mountain, the emptier it becomes. We discover a staircase behind the waterfall and follow it to the top and the path further and further until we reach the source after half an hour's walk. Children play in the water by a small, blue water basin and there are some tables set up. We are greeted immediately and are assured that it is the best restaurant in all of Laos. Of course we don't quite believe it, but we sat down anyway and enjoyed a fried rice and a cold beer.
The real attraction up here is not the restaurant, but a small cave that is proudly presented to us. Like everywhere else in Laos, we are once again allowed to pay LAK 20,000.00 (approx. 2.04 euros) entry, get a flashlight and a self-grown banana as a gift and are allowed to look at the cave. In principle the cave is nothing special, but the owners were so cute and proud that it was kind of nice anyway. And besides us there wasn't a tourist there!
On the way back the sun comes out and we still dare to bathe in one of the pools. Unfortunately, it has also become a lot fuller and so we can now be seen in the background of various Chinese selfies, which it doesn't seem to bother at all if you are on their picture and hardly anything of the actual waterfall can be seen. We will probably never understand ...
By the way, if you don't want to ride a scooter, you can book a tour in Luang Prabang for LAK 35,000.00 (approx. 3.57 euros), but you won't have enough time on site to hike to the source. Or you can take a tuk tuk for around 30,000.00 LAK (approx. 3.06 euros). The driver will wait for you on site and then drive you back home.
The monks of Luang Prabang
After the scooter tour through the surrounding area of Luang Prabang, the next day we go straight back to the mountains with the minivan to Vang Vieng, where we also want to drive scooters again. It's just so much fun and you can always stop where you want. You should definitely try this out too! And even if the scooters are significantly more expensive in Laos than in Thailand, LAK 80,000.00 to 100,000.00 (approx. 8.17 to 10.21 euros) are still not much for a whole day!
But before we get into the minivan, let's get into the tradition of the Tak Bat watch: Every morning between 5:00 and 6:30 a.m. the monks walk through the streets of the old town and collect alms from the residents. Unfortunately, the ritual is often disturbed by tourists and so we try to stay in the background and watch the image of the monks dressed in orange from a distance. Of course you should try to take inconspicuous photos and as a tourist you should not give the monks any food, as it does not mean the same for you as it does for the locals. Overall, it's interesting to see, but from our point of view there are actually too many tourists on the spot who are destroying the magic of the moment.
So we go to sleep a little more before going to Vang Vieng. We had hardly any expectations of Laos itself, and thus neither of Luang Prabang. But we really liked the city, so green and so relaxed, so cultural and so colorful, always something going on and yet so relaxed. We will be back after our days in Vang Vieng and we are really looking forward to it!
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