Along the Mekong River on the way towards Luang Prabang, gives you ample opportunities and time to reflect on how Laos is different to any country you’ve travelled, especially when you’ve just experienced a home stay.

To read about our unique experience, read here

Back on board

So as Luke laid on the makeshift bed at the rear end of the slow-boat, it gave me time to evaluate on how lucky we truly are whilst taking in the beautiful hymns of the birds above and the way the water kissed the boat as we sailed along.

Laos is full of history and is often forgotten by common SE Asia backpackers. But, the mountainous terrain, friendly citizens, difficult past with conflict and French colonial architecture is enough to get anyone hooked and this trip was about to prove just that.

Pit stop

On the outskirts of Luang Prabang, just touching 30km away is a famous landmark home to the Mekong set back by thousand of years – one of the most holy respected settings of Lao. Tucked away in an abundance of limestone cliffs is a realm full of over 400 Buddha icons all different shapes and sizes, illuminated by candles as the smoke from the incense draped itself over the mountainous rock faces.

Named Pak Ou Caves, primarily translates to Mouth of the River, is a historic masterpiece. There are 2 parts to this cave a lower that you can see from the river itself and an upper in which you must ascend a fair amount of steep steps to get to – entry to both will only set you back 20,000 kip (£2). However, this trek is recognised as one of the must do’s of your time here in Luang Prabang.

Arrival

Another 2 hours later you finally start to see civilisation again by way of people going about their days. Staying in a place called Joy Friends Hostel just alongside the river, was walking distance from the ‘main’ parts which made it ultra convenient for the average explorer with only two nights planned.

Phu Si Mountain

This mountain, is more like a 100 metre hill with only a gentle climb to reach the peak with a 20k kip (£2) charge. The landscape once reached the top is incredible with a complementary 360 degree view of the old town. For a moment of standing there, you will forget that you are in a city of Laos..

Furthermore, this is a perfect place to witness sunrise/sunset as the golden sun crawls above or below the mountains in the horizon.

Food

There are quite a few restaurants and bars around the town of Luang Prabang, unusual to what we had seen so far in this country. Best of all, is a night market full of local traders who emerge at dusk with truck full of authentic goods including local remedies, drinks, clothing, etc. In a side street off of this is a little tucked in alley, a food street, full to the brim with crowded plastic chairs, BBQ’s and a massive variety of different foods for amazingly cheap prices! Moreover, here is where they do a delicious whole fish for £4!

Motorbike Rental

It is very expensive here to rent motorcycles, well compared to other places you may have travelled like Thailand. Not only this, but from many hours of research, it begins to appear that renting in Luang Prabang is difficult with the frequent and regular scams that take place.

However, as every other backpacker, you know that renting a motorcycle is more convenient and cheaper to do then many trips via tuk-tuk’s to several places which soon start to mount up. We rented from a place called KPTD which was recommended by the likes of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, for 160k kip (£16)!

Bear-fore Kuang Si

The fact that Kuang Si Waterfall is a UNESCO site, speaks entirely for itself. Situated, only a 5 minute walk from the car park through various market stalls. You pay 20k (£2) entrance fee and stumble upon a bear sanctuary when entering. These bears have previously been rescued from various awful camps that torture these bears for people like us, tourism – I know, horrible right? You can offer a donation in support or alternately, purchase something from their petite shop as an aid towards them.

Chasing Waterfalls

Following the path downwards you start to hear the gushing waters falling down meeting this spectacular lagoon. Upon sight, you can’t help but be stunned with how majestic this waterfall is. The multiple tiered pools cascading down, ignited with opal blue waters are a travellers dream. The picturesque azure waterfall had all the hallmarks of a destination untouched by human hands with the added adventure of jumping off cascading branches and the option of climbing rocks to be emerged with the waterfall itself.

Surprisingly, the authenticity is still exhibited despite the millions of tourists flocking to see this magnificent natural discovery each day.

Utopia bar

This is a bar that should be on every traveller’s itinerary. Located in the heart of the old town, a stone throw ride away from the centre, was a unique bar set with an idyllic, peaceful atmosphere.

A café with plenty of cushions dedicated to relaxing overlooking the rural landscape with a hilly horizon, on the edge of the Mekong River (in some places quite literally). Accompanied by great food and drink at a reasonable spot prices – a great place to unwind.

Where’s next?

We left early after our 2 magical days here to start our 4 hour journey to reach the party capital of Laos – Vang Vieng!

Tips

  • Be prepared to hand over your passport to rent a ped, there’s no way around it
  • Only rent a ped if you want to spend all day in various places otherwise, things around town are quite easy to get to by walking distance
  • Night market to eat if you want to save money
  • Remember there’s a 11pm curfew where the whole town shuts down so ensure you’re inside before then!

About The Author

Wanderlust Lab is a collaboration between Abbie and Luke for the sharing of travelling knowledge to help backpackers and travellers all across the globe. Live Wanderlust.

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