Luang Prabang, Laos

I was a little worse for wear landing in Luang Prabang after a few days in Phuket for a friends wedding. So I maybe wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for the arrival but anyway most countries can get visa on arrival:

Visa price varies but it was 35 USD for Ireland, plus extra dollar if u don’t bring your own photo, plus extra dollar processing fee.

There was an official taxi desk at the main exit door and the price to my hotel (probably the same for any hotel) was 60,000 Kip (local Laos currency) however I only had dollars so he said it was 7 dollars but giving the change back in kip didn’t quiet add up to 13 dollars (note for the trip in general, places were happy to take USD but the exchange rate was never good). The taxi trip was made with other people in a nice new minivan and only took about 20 minutes including dropping a few off before me.

I stayed at Hotel Sangharat for about 25 USD a night including breakfast. The breakfast was good every day. Fruit and juice and tea/coffee plus choice of 7 dishes (fried eggs and toast, omelette, pancake etc.). I had no complaints. The hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the main centre but I enjoyed it mostly. The whole place felt very safe and nobody really bothered you apart from the odd person asking if you wanted a Tuk Tuk.

On the first day I just walked into town and explored the area without really doing anything. I didn’t matter where you went or what street you were on there was a Buddhist temple nearby. So I have one or two pictures of them…

That evening I found a place by the river for dinner, The Bellerive Terrace, which I seen recommended in a blog. It was nice set up but a bit wasted on a solo traveller, if you ask me.

I had a local Laos pork dish that coast about 60,000 Kip

On the second day I walked back into town to go to the national museum first but was told that I couldn’t go in with my knees out (or shoulders FYI) so I changed and checked the place out. It’s basically the old Palace for the king and was changed to a museum in 1976. Nothing amazing but worth a look around the inside of an old palace for 30,000 Kip. Unfortunately they didn’t allow pictures in there so not much to show…

After that I went and climbed a couple hundred steps to the top of Phusi (pronounced pussy!) Hill for 20,000 Kip which is a hill in the centre of the town, directly across from the museum, that offers the best views of the town and the mountains around. Unfortunately that day when I was there it was a bit hazy. I thought it was like that all the time but on my last day there the views around the town were very clear but I didn’t climb the hill again..

There are a couple sides to climb up so I walked down another way to find another Buddhist temple/cave and another imprint of buddhas foot’. There was an entry fee of 20,000 Kip for that too but the ticket guy was asleep when I arrived so I wasn’t sure to wake him or just let him sleep. I let him sleep!

After that went to the local library where I heard there was a scheme to buy books to donate to local kids who needed them. So essentially every school book in the library costs 2 USD. I bought a few and then you place them in this bag so when the bag has 100 books in it the library arranges for the books to delivered to a rural school that needs them. Any proceeds from buying the books go to other items for school kids too. Such a great idea.

On the main road in the town, between the museum and the hill there is a market at night, every night from about 6pm to 9pm. And even though it rained, heavily, that day for the first time in 6 months apparently, you can find just about everything there from lamp shades, paintings to handbags made out former cement bags to key rings made out of old bombs (that might be a story for a different day but the Americans were not good in Loas back in the day).

You can organise trips to waterfalls caves farms etc from just about anywhere. There are official tour shops as well as Tuk Tuk and minivan drivers who will happily organise something for you. My hotel had a sign up about tours so I organised to go to the Kuang Si Waterfalls the next day and get picked up from my hotel. I knew from my research before that it was near a bear sanctuary which I wanted to see too but wasn’t sure if they were together or not. As it turns out there are part of the same park and you walk through the bear sanctuary to get to the waterfalls. The waterfalls were nice and you can also climb up to the top, which I did, but in my opinion it’s not worth it. The steps were steep, the climb was sweaty and there was nothing worth seeing up there. The view from the bottom was all you need. The tour cost 40,000 Kip for the drive to and from, and the entry fee was 20,000 Kip. On the way back we stopped at the Laos Buffalo Dairy farm to get some ice cream – 15,000 Kip for a big scoop. I hadn’t heard of this farm before so was keen to learn more and decided to go back the next day for proper visit.

When I got back from the tour I had a small bit of work to do and there was a fancy hotel (Manda de Laos) right across from mine with an amazing view so I grabbed some lunch (another local dish of mixed chicken and lemongrass) there and sat up for couple hours.

I got talking to a Chinese guy and a Japanese girl on trip to the waterfall so we decided to meet for dinner later that evening. He had been in Luang Prabang for 3 weeks so he knew his way about and recommended a place across the river called Dyen Sabai. There was a bamboo bridge that you had to cross to get there. It cost 7,000 Kip to cross but again, all the money went to the locals who build and maintain the bridge for 6 months of the year before they take it down when the monsoon season comes. As it turns out, the restaurant was a sister restaurant to one I’d already been too. I was really surprised and impressed with the food in every place I ate. It nearly deserves a blog of its own!

55,000 Kip for chicken cashew stir fry. 18,000 Kip for large local beer

We decided at dinner that we would organise a Tuk Tuk (some of these Tuk Tuks are quiet big, like pick up trucks) to take us to the buffalo farm the next morning and also that we would visit a cultural centre on the way back. The trip cost us 30 USD total so 10 USD each but that included the driver bringing us anywhere we wanted for as long as we wanted that day, so pretty good value. The tour at Laos Buffalo Dairy was either 50,000 Kip for them to show you around, meet the pigs, rabbits, milk the buffalo, feed the buffalo etc. Or 100,000 Kip for the same plus some ice-cream and cheesecake at the end made using buffalo milk. The whole establishment was set up by an Australian couple to help out local farmers. The male dairy products and sell them to local businesses and use profits from that as well as tourists like me who pay for a tour to help educate local farmer on how to use buffalo for dairy (traditionally used as work animals and for meat only), or help farmers breed their own pigs and buffalo by borrowing from the farm. They also rent the buffalo they use in dairy from local farmers instead of buying, to provide an income to them. All in all it was a great morning out and about.

On the way back to town we went to a cultural centre, the living culture centre, where another similar venture is in place but this time it was for weaving silk. I didn’t buy anything but it was a really nice place and had a lovely cafe with nice view onto the river so we chilled out there for a while. The chef was actually one of the ladies who used to weave the silk but anytime they would cook together she was always the one who loved cooking so they got training for her to be a chef, and the food was great!

Another great local dish 53,000 Kip and a butterfly pea and ginger lemonade for 19,000 Kip

A friend of mine who used to live in this part of the world told me I needed to check out Utopia bar before I left. I told him I wasn’t going to bother drinking so I’d give it a miss but he reassured me it was a great place to just out and shouldn’t be missed. He wasn’t wrong. It had a really chill vibe, and again the food was great.

Mango smoothie bowl 30,000 Kip

Luang Prabang is the sort of place you could have a day or 2 to check out while you pass through on your tour of south east Asia or you could find yourself getting chilling out and catching a breath for a couple weeks. The airport transfer from the hotel was 50,000 Kip and that’s pretty standard from any hotel. Anyway, Luang Prabang – I recommend a visit.

FYI:

There are plenty of other things to do to in Liang Prabang that I didn’t do. So if you were planning on staying longer you could be occupied easily enough:

Land farm

Caves but crap

River cruise

Pottery

Traditional dance theatre at museum

Story telling centre

Cooking courses

Note:

THAI Bhat, Kip and USD are all widely accepted and credit cards in most places too but a 3% charge usually added for credit cards

On another food note checked the number 1 rated restaurant on trip advisor and it was called Yuni Yupoun (a sister restaurant to the one across bamboo bridge). I ate there a couple of times and the food was always great. They had two small menus local and international. All good value and all tasty.

Fish pastels (African dish) 28,000 Kip
Local fish sweet and sour stir fry 45,000 Kip

Another time, I also had a selection of bruschetta (12 pieces) for 30,000 and local sausage for 40,000. All good.

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