TRAVEL / LAOS
December , 2012
LUANG PRABANG + DIARY
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The place where we left our hearts. When we think back on our Laos trip, we can't help but to feel a little melancholic because of the amazing time we had. The fresh air, the mind-blowing sights, the genuinely kind people, the charming villages, the peaceful dinners by the Mekong river, and the unreliable transportation, it was just a little oasis and we would be back in a heartbeat! Pure magic, this place offers what we have not seen elsewhere, and its hard to put in words. You must see for yourself. We came here not knowing what we would find, and when we arrived we were simply speechless.
Pak Ou Caves-
One of the tours we really liked was the one to Pak Ou Caves. You can book any tour in town that best suits your interests with a guide or take the adventure on your own and pay a tuk tuk driver to take you there. The boat ride is very beautiful, the sceneries are mesmerizing and there are also a few villages on the way where you make quick stops to explore. The communities that live here survive on the making of silk scarves and canoe-building, it was very interesting to see their skillful work.
Located in the middle of an enormous mountain, you will spot the caves. Take your time here, there is a lot to savor and see. Inside you will find the temple with numerous golden Buddhas and people praying and paying respects. Amazing altogether! It is very dark inside and you get goosebumps of how unbelievable this place is.
We stopped at a small village to visit the markets, here's what the fuss is all about: Lao whiskey and rice wine. With, well yeah scorpions or snakes inside, we know what you are thinking...did we try it? the answer is yes, we tried it! And if you ask us now we would say it wasn't the best idea (eeek!) but back then we were feeling bold. Better just to get it as a souvenir!
Luang Prabang has the most bohemian and laid-back vibe out there! And people all congregate in one place for the best "chill out"spot and its called Utopia. The name serves it right, because it is a place where you can lay down on cushions on the wooden floor and sip on cold drinks with a good read while overlooking the Mekong River. You can literally spend the entire day here without being bothered! Take a nap, get some food, read, listen to music, time goes by so slow and everyone else is enjoying the sweet "dolce far niente" The air is pure and the mountains surrounding this venue provide with a magical scenery. This is one of our ultimate favorite spots! Come here by night also and catch some live music with dim colorful lights and a chill ambiance. Sit on the floor! play the bongos! Everyone here is your friend and you will quickly get a sense of how everyone sees each other as one big happy family. Thats the best thing about Luang Prabang, there are no strangers here, only friends who have not yet met.
The Night Market here is one of the best we have seen in all the places we have visited in Southeast Asia. Long strip of vendors where you can buy silk scarves, clothes, handicrafts, Lao traditional rice wine or whiskey, souvenirs, and the cheapest food out there! that is also very tasty. There is a food buffet for...are you ready for this? approx $1dollar, the exchange rate will have you singing a happy tune. And you can try all sorts of exotic dishes if you are a foodie. Our favorite is Miang Kam! it is a Lao and Thai snack consisting of different ingredients such as coconut, peanut, chillies, a sweet sauce (sometimes dried shrimp) all wrapped inside a leaf. It blew our minds away. We couldn't stop looking for it after we tried it, its all we ever wanted, everyday.
Another attraction is to make your way up the stairs to Mount Phousi! Temple on top of the city center with the most incredible view. There is a fee to climb up to the very top, but once you are there you will encounter with various golden Buddha statues overlooking the city. We love anything that has a little adventure involved so this one is definitely a temple we recommend! After, you can head down to the restaurants that are by the Mekong river and rest with the company of a cold beer or a natural fruit smoothie if you are a smoothie-lover like us! This area is very lively, with restaurants located one after the other for your pick! Almost all of them have terraces that make the experience so much more enjoyable.
Now that we are very well aware and educated about Elephant camps, may we suggest that if you want to see these gentile creatures and bond with them, then its best to visit an orphanage or a sanctuary instead of a trekking camp. In sanctuaries people take care of these beauties and protect them. We wish we had known beforehand to have encouraged and supported the organizations that help the elephants and nurture them. If you are interested, in orphanages you can volunteer to care for them , you may even bathe with them. It is important to choose a place that provides a safe environment and not go along to trekking camps that usually mistreat them.
Kang Si Falls-
Here it goes, the one place that stole our hearts: Kang Si Falls. You must arrange a tuk tuk or a tour to take you here. It is a place taken out of your imagination, or James Cameron's movie Avatar. Couldn't believe our eyes when we got to this wonderland. The most fun we have had in ages! The color of the water is surreal and dipping your toes to touch the soft sand is just a dream. You can climb up to the tree that is above the water and there is a rope to take a jump! Everyone here is just full on having the best time. Why do we make water parks again? When nature gives us these gifts to enjoy life to the fullest! Lovely place to be in touch with mother nature and see what astonishing things it has created. We love this place and we really hope that it doesn't ever get too touristy, because it really is dreamland.
The unexpected adventure-
After spending a weekend in Luang Prabang and soaking up on all its culture and beauty, it was time for us to head back to the capital city of Vientiane. Given timeliness is not very dependable when it comes to buses or trains in Southeast Asia we ended up taking a bus late at night. We had an adventure half way there: A truck had blocked the entire road and no vehicles could go through, so we were all stuck there, with a huge line of cars behind us. The driver told all the passengers (all locals except for us two, two other Aussie travellers and a Dutch girl) that we could be stranded there for about 2 days, for as long as it took to get the huge truck out of the way.
We were all kind of panicking, in the middle of nowhere on the highest mountain top, us having a train to catch to Thailand the next day and other travellers planes to take back home.
What do you do in situations like these? you bond and look for solutions! We decided to stick together and make our way to Vientiane WALKING! until maybe we could catch a bus on the other side, or a tuk tuk or even a motorbike. We had no idea how far out we were until we had been walking for more than 25min already in the intense heat (with bags) Uh-oh maybe camping out would have been a better idea? In the end a tuk tuk that passed by (miracle) agreed to take us all to the nearest village, thankfully!
Thanks to this incident we got to see places of Laos that I can guarantee no other tourist has gotten to see, and we also got to meet and share this experience with new and interesting people. The surreal views, the real Lao lifestyle and the true beauty of exploring the unknown. The tuk tuk who saved us was carrying goods and vegetables to supply to the small stores in various villages. So yeah, we saw A LOT of villages and we met people that we could only communicate with through smiles. Even though it was quite scary at first we made it back to the city of Vang Vieng safely and were able to take another bus back to Vientiane. This one is a story we will never forget! When you travel around Southeast Asia you have to be ready for these kind of incidents and setbacks, you gotta go with the flow and take the best of every situation.
to book a great hotel in Luang Prabang click here: HOTEL
to book a flight to Laos click here: FLIGHTS