Luang Prabang (LP), much like the rest of Laos, is quite sleepy and quiet and that’s not a bad thing by any means. It’s a definite tourist stop along most travellers routes in Laos, as it should be.
The main attraction in town has got to be the night market. We were only in LP for three nights and visited the market each night. The quality of the products here are of a much higher standard than other markets we’ve been to and it also has a much wider selection of goods and restored our faith in night markets. There are several villages outside of LP, where loads of talented artisans live and bring their goods to sell there. One way to distinguish between locally handmade goods, and cheaply made products from factories is the identifiable sticker of authentication you see on several stalls. We picked up a lot of souvenirs here and felt good doing it.
Along an alley within the night market is the best and cheapest food we’ve found in Laos thus far. Rows of vendors with tables filled with three tiers of already prepared foods line the alleyway. The smells alone are enough to make your mouth water. For 15k Lao Kip ($1.88) you can fill a bowl up as much as possible. Believe me, you can fit more than your share into a bowl. Next you hand it off to a lady (only saw ladies doing this) and she throws it all into a pan to reheat. It was really tasty, we were both impressed. It’s also a nice change from other buffet cold style meals because they reheat the food. Brilliant and delicious.
We rented a moped one day, which for some reason was 3 times the prices we’ve paid everywhere else. It’s probably because LP seems to be home to many expats, as well as the number of Westerners with cash to spend that visit there. Anyway, we first rode around the streets and riversides (there are two rivers on either side of the main roads through LP) before making our way further afield.
We headed toward the Elephant Sanctuary located about 13km out of town. The road was incredibly bumpy and uncomfortable to ride on. We stopped at the sanctuary to have a look but decided since we had no desire to ride an elephant, paying the $10 admission fee wasn’t worth it. From there we headed toward Tad Sae Waterfall. On the way there, Stephen noticed the back wheel was sliding and the bike wasn’t riding quite right. We got off to inspect and quickly noticed the rear tire was flat. The terrain was too much for the mopeds skinny wheels.
We went back to the nearest village we had just rode through. We stopped to ask if someone could fix the puncture and were pointed up the street. The language barriers always make for a more interesting experience with a lot of pointing, gestures and even noises. I walked while Stephen drove on, randomly stopping pointing at the tire and pushing on a bit further. It was strange walking through a village by myself. The kids were on their afternoon break from school starring and giggling at me when we passed each other. Some kids are really funny. Some (mainly girls) might giggle and wave, or say hello to you. Others (mainly the boys) stare as though you are from another planet. In many respects I suppose we are.
I caught up with Stephen to find an extremely skinny elderly woman pumping air into the tire. We all watched and waited as the tire again deflated. Yup, it’s a puncture. The woman called to a man in the house who fixed the flat for us. We stood and watched, maybe we wanted to see if it was done any differently, but really it was for lack of anything else to do. Right at the end, the guy randomly lined the inner rim with electrical tape and then put the new tube in and closed ‘er up. It cost just over $3 to fix. Out if all the times we’ve rented bikes this was our first incident, so not a bad result.
Finally we made our way to the waterfall and when we arrived we noticed there were only dirt bikes, which probably didn’t have the delay of a puncture. You have to charter a boat to get to the falls. When I say charter a boat it makes it sound quite extravagant. Well it’s not. It’s a wooden boat with stools for seats that aren’t attached to the bottom. There are cracks on the side of the boat and when ours swayed back and forth I saw the water coming in and the Captain in the back scooping it out at the same time. Efficient I suppose, just glad we didn’t have a long ride. You can’t grumble though, after all it cost less that $3 for the trip.
The waterfalls were tiered and the water was so blue. There was a natural swimming pool from the falls and even a spot where you could use a rope swing to jump in. Too bad we don’t always do our research before setting off otherwise we would have brought our bathing suits. We had took a little picnic and stuck our feet in the water and then weren’t too gutted we didn’t have our suits because it was freezing cold.
The falls are worth the visit, but bring your suit because even though it’s cold the water was beautiful, fresh, clean and the few brave people swimming in it looked like they were having a good time. Apart from one guy who dived in and cut his head that is. Luckily he was OK and had more of a bruised ego than anything else. You can also ride elephants in the water where they dunk you under which was just nice to watch.
LP was a nice stop in Laos. I would recommend it for sure. There are a plethora of Wats and other historically significant monuments to see in LP. The shopping outside of the night market is really good as well. The shops, streets and eateries have an air of sophistication to them. Makes for a nice change when travelling in SE Asia.
Next in our adventure we are taking a two day slow boat down the Mekong River to reach our main event in Laos, The Gibbon Experience. We’ve heard some mixed reviews about the boat ride so be sure to check back and see how it went.
Some more photos