Hello all!The bus journey from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang was spectacular! (although if you suffer from motion sickness you might disagree) The bus went on very high mountain passes with stunning scenery. At some points we were above all this mist and it looked like an ocean below us. We also got to see a lot of local life. One thing that really stood out were the cute little kids walking and cycling back from school. The distances they had to travel were huge and all up mountain passes too! Bless them. Unfortunately the bus was not the most comfortable so every time we went on a bend, which was all the time, I got bumped from one side to another. To make matters worse, Karen was sick for most of the journey.
So not the best start to Luang Prabang but things quickly improved. First of all, Karen & Jo found a great place that had beautiful bungalows in a lush garden at a brilliant price. Well done girls! If only we could remember the name to recommend it to you. Doh! (It's next to the Art shop though)
Luang Prabang is beautiful. There is no other word to describe the place. It is full of lovely boutique hotels, restaurants, cafes and art galleries in restored French colonial villas. The streets are full of trees and flowers and every second person you pass is an orange clothed monk on his way to one of the many temples that dot the landscape. It is exactly as they describe it in travel magazines. There are two rivers that run through the town, one of them being the mighty Mekong and surrounding the town are stunning mountains. Have I sold it to you yet? Put it this way, we stayed a week and we could of easily stayed a week more. In our view it is a must see destination.
One thing I did not know about Luang Prabang was the stunning waterfall just outside the town. All 4 of us had a wonderful day there. Normally people go to some caves first and come to the waterfall after. We had heard from other travellers that the caves are average so we headed straight to the waterfall which proved to be a good move as we practically had the place to our selves in the morning.
The place was stunning. Lots of cascading waterfalls falling into deep pools of aqua blue. The best thing about it was that you could swim in some of the pools. We quickly found one we liked and jumped in. Ahhh, it was refreshing. I had never swam under a waterfall before. The feeling is amazing. Having all this fresh water fall on top of you is a lovely feeling. So was jumping from a waterfall! Yep, Sean & I turned into little kids and decided to jump from the waterfall into the cool pool below. Brilliant. They also had a rescue bear centre at the waterfall site with 3 very cute bears there. So if you are in this area, this place is a must! Now back to more sedate affairs I will pass you on to Karen....
One of my favourite places in Luang Prabang is a cafe called Utopia, a definite must see if you make it to this gorgeous town. It was the first place we headed to after THE bus journey from hell (the scenery was completely lost on me as I shook with fear while the van drove blind through the mist with me trying very hard not to hurl onto my neighbour). But back to Utopia. Imagine a huge open air cafe surrounded by a tropical garden. On the edge overlooking a river is a huge bamboo platform dotted with sunbeds and thai mattresses to lounge on and just be, whilst enjoying a spectacular view in front of you. They definitely got the name right in this place! We spent many an afternoon there sipping on gorgeous fruit shakes, reading, writing and of course napping. Ah the hard life we lead!
Another huge favourite was the food market we went to at night. Now this is the kind of food market one wishes to find whenever one decides to dine on street eats. It is set in a very narrow alley and has stall after another serving gorgeous bar-b-q'd meat and a feast of vegetarian dishes. For the vegetarian fare you pay the equivalent of £1.25 and get given a plate which you pile with lovely veggies and noodles. On the way to the bar-b-q stalls you pass other vendors selling typical laotian snacks like spring rolls, dried meat and lettuce parcels with minced fish, which we all tried of course. All yummy and safe, at least our tummies were still happy and healthy after 3 visits there. Result! Just out of the alley there's another street lined with fruit shake vendors. Even though I'm not a huge fan of fruit shakes I quickly became addicted to these cups of wonder. One word of warning though, they are made with condensed milk and glucose and can be very hard on the hips as are many things in Laos!
After our lavish and very cheap meals at the night market we'd walk through the pretty souvenir market which is full of silk scarves, paper lanterns and sleeping market stall owners. Yes, this is one market you do not get hassled in. Typical of Laos really. Paul wanted to buy a bag at one point and we had to search for the stall owner who was busy chatting to another trader and didn't even notice us. It was great being able to actually look at the stuff on display without being offered a hundred other things as well.
Luang Prabang is famous for its gorgeous temples and on our last day there went to watch sun set from the famous Phu Si temple. We left it quite late so we had to run up the 300 or so steps that lead to the top of this place. By the time we got there I seriously thought I was about to have a heart attack. My heart was thumping at a hundred miles an hour and my lungs just couldn't get enough air. Besides, the place was jam packed with tourists all ready with their cameras like a gang of paparazzi. Not quite the serene atmosphere I had imagined. Paul and I walked over to the other side and whilst we did not have the sun in our pics, we got the most beautiful views of Luang Prabang.
We'd booked ourselves a massage at the end of the day which was the perfect ending to our week here. If you only have time to visit one place in Laos, make it this one. With an airport close by to town it's also an easy side trip from anywhere else in South East Asia.
To wrap it all up we left in the most romantic way possible. On a long tail boat up the river to our next destination, Nhong Kiaw. More when we get there....
Lots of love
Karen and Paul