Before I can begin on Luang Prabang, I must talk about getting there. I came from Huay Xi, just over the Thai border, 12 hours away (most people come from Chaing Mai). There are three options: slow boat, fast boat, or bus.
The slow boat takes two days of travel with a stopover in Pak Beng, Laos. From what I’ve heard, the cramped boat is great the first day with beautiful views, but by the second day, it’s boring and drawn out. The fast boat takes only 6 hours, but is said to be pretty dangerous as the drivers speed down river. There have actually been crashes and deaths. And then there are the wonderful sleeper buses. I took mine from Huay Xi 12 hours (longer from Chiang Mai), leaving at 6 pm and getting in at 6 am. What I didn’t know was that I’d be sharing a tiny twin bunk bed with another person (I got lucky and knew the guy I was sharing with). We were cramped and felt like the bus was about to tip over on every turn. So whichever way you travel, it’s probably not going to be the most comfortable.
Luang Prabang is a lovely city in Laos, noted for it’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For me, it was talked up a bit too much, as there is not a ton to do.
Kuang Si Waterfalls
The waterfalls are stunning, with different pools to swim in and hiking trails to climb. There are even caves past the top if you have time. We rented motorbikes and drove maybe an hour south of town, winding past the beautiful countryside and local villages.
Pak Ou Caves
About an hour drive north of town, or two hours by boat, the Pak Ou caves feature thousands of Buddha images. It’s a neat place to visit, as the entrance is right on the shore, but for a long journey there, it’s a bit underwhelming. Riding a boat along the river is a highlight, though.
– There is an elephant camp and “whiskey village” along the way. “Whiskey village” is also underwhelming and just seems placed to cater to tourist traffic.
One thing not to miss in Luang Prabang is pre-dawn, when monks walk the streets collecting their daily alms from the public in exchange for blessings. It’s a beautiful act to watch but can be spoiled by camera-ready tourists with a disregard for the sacred.
While you’re in town, you must climb the center mountain over 300 steps to a temple atop. It’s got a great 360 degree view of town that makes the climb worth it.
How could I leave out the best bar the town has? It’s a bit out of the way, through a few side streets and alleys, but it’s a hidden gem that holds yoga and volleyball by day, and a chill, hippy hangout by night.
I must say, while I had a great time in Luang Prabang with new friends, it was hyped up too much for me. Perhaps Vang Vieng will be better!
What did you do in Luang Prabang?