Way back in January, as our time in Laos came to an end, we found ourselves in the beautiful Vientiane for a little over a week as we waited for our visas to be approved to enter Vietnam. It was by no means the worst place to stay: this charming and quiet capital city was – much like the rest of Laos – a perfect place to relax.
We’ve been in the lovely city of Hanoi for about two weeks now, so I thought this might be a nice time to look back over our stay in Luang Prabang. When we arrived in the city we were planning to stay for a week. Following the directions we’d been given to some affordable accommodation we headed for a small alley next to the Nam Khan river.
Last week we were in Vang Vieng, Laos’ most famous party town. Its fame comes from the alcohol-downing sport of tubing. Basically, you hire an inner tire tube, go a few kilometres up river and float back into town, trying to drink as much as humanly possible in the river side bars and get your tube back before you lose your deposit at 6pm. Like every other traveller ever to stop here, we drank ourselves silly and had a great time tubing. Unlike every other traveller, our Vang Vieng based misadventure didn’t take place on the river.
For many ex-pats, the need to go on a visa run is a simple fact of life. Yes, it can be frustrating and the bus journeys can be a nightmare, but they can be a fun chance to explore a new town for a little while. In Luang Prabang there are loads of ex-pats choosing the best way to renew their visa – often booking a flight into Vietnam or Thailand, or taking the bus down to the the capital, Vientiane, and then hopping over the Friendship Bridge into Thailand, stocking up at the closest 7-11, and then doing the journey in reverse, back over the mountains to Luang Prabang. A less popular route is to take the bus west from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai, via Huay Xai, which is what we decided to do.
Luang Prabang is a beautiful city, filled with charm and history. It’s no surprise it’s becoming an increasingly popular stop for backpackers and holiday makers. Whilst the small city is flourishing as a result of the increased revenue the tourist industry provides, there is one less desirable side effect: the rising food prices in the area. As the number of people visiting is increasing, so is the cost of food, making it harder and harder to find a backpacker-friendly meal. After spending three months in the former Royal Capital, here are my top 8 cheap eats in Luang Prabang.
Eating local food is amazing, and one of the reasons I love to travel. The flavours, textures and combinations are new and exciting. Every bite is a party in your mouth, and your tongue us the guest of honour. That is until you fast forward a few months, you’ve been eating rice and noodles every day, and those exciting new flavours become boring and repetitive. Let’s be honest, after you’ve been on the road for a while you just want a little taste of home. Perhaps a burger would settle your tongues needs? Well, you’re in luck. After spending three months in the city, here is my list of the best burgers Lugang Prabang has to offer.
As the new year begins, my time in beautiful Luang Prabang is drawing to an end. I am going to miss this special place very much. From the monks that can be seen everywhere and the sound of their drums at four in the afternoon, to cycling around the French colonial buildings that do shabby chic so well, I can hardly think of a thing in this royal city that I won’t miss. Most people that visit here for a few days will remember the monks, their trip to Kuangsi Waterfall, climbing to the top of Mount Phoisi, Utopia and the night market. For me, though, I will remember some of the things most tourists are unaware of, or lack the time to visit. Here are my favourite parts of Luang Prabang, and the city’s best kept secrets.
The east side of the Nam Khan river is often overlooked by tourists, particularly when the bamboo bridge that connects the two sides has not been completed. For those tourists seeking to explore this side of the river there is one little treasure trove filled with hand crafted jewellery that is a perfect place to spend a morning learning a new craft: Garden of Eden.