After Vang Vieng, we took a five or six hour bus ride to Luang Prabang. LP is a very laid-back and cute town, set by the river with a heavy French influence (though not as pronounced as in Vientiane). Samir was sick for a couple days so we relaxed a lot, walked around and visited a few of the sights. LP like most cities we’ve been to has a small night market selling all kinds of crafts, clothes and other wares – it was more of a breeze thru for us though as we’ve been to so many markets and can’t really buy anything! Although, Samir did pick up a Same Same, But Different (a phrase used a bunch in Thailand) shirt!
Mt. Phusi – we actually just stumbled upon this as we were walking down the main road. There’s a nice view of the city from the top with a wat on the apex. We then walked down the other side and stumbled across some beautiful Buddha statues and a kind of garden of Buddhas. The highlight though was the view from the top which is supposed to be gorgeous at sunset, but since we randomly came upon it during the middle of the day, we didn’t stick around for it!
Pak Ou Caves – This is supposed to be one of the highlights of LP – but aside from the gorgeous river cruise to get to it, it was only ok. The caves are significant because there are over 4000 statues of Buddha inside the lower cave that have been left there over the years by nearby villagers and a larger more open cave as the upper cave that also houses Buddha statues. It’s a nice religious site and interesting to see the different types of statues. The boat ride down the Mekong River was definitely the highlight as it is set between the gorgeous Laos countryside. Along the way, we stopped at a tourist trap, the Whiskey Village, to see how local Laos whiskey was made. We got free samples of the sweet rice wine and whiskey made from rice as well. The coolest part was seeing all the different creatures they put into the whiskey bottles – snakes, lizards, scorpions, etc.! Side note, on our river cruise, our boat driver stopped to help another boat that was stranded. And then after helping him, couldn’t restart our boat! Lol. Fifteen minutes later, we were back on our way. And he had a really cute son who was probably 4 or 5 who was ‘helping’ his dad drive the boat.
Kuang Si Falls – This was by far my favorite site in LP. We almost didn’t make it there – the tuk tuk driver had turned off the engine to coast down a long hill, and then couldn’t restart it at the bottom of the hill, so we had to give it a running push to get it going again. But once we got there, we were greeted by a bear sanctuary with rescued Asiatic Black Bears hanging out in their play area. I found the bear of my heart… lazing around in a hammock! The falls themselves were absolutely gorgeous – they fell into little aquamarine pools, a few of which you could go swimming in. The water was COLD but we had fun playing under the waterfall!
There are a couple things that I definitely regret missing and would recommend if you’re ever there!
1) Watching the monks get their alms – each morning between 6:15 and 7:00 am, the monks walk down the street and collect their alms (food) from the people. We kept meaning to go to this but kept putting it off until the last day and then overslept! Eesh!
2) Big Brother Mouse – this is a non-profit organization that I would have liked to visit. They allowed visitors to come in for a few hours each day to help locals practice their English. But the main purpose of the organization is to publish and distribute books for Laos kids in a mixture of Laos and English. I didn’t get to check it out, but have heard it’s a great organization – definitely on the list of ideas for my future non-profit! Their website is: http://www.bigbrothermouse.org
Last but not least, we LOVED the guesthouse we stayed at – for $20 it was a gorgeous, air-conditioned room – huge with a double bed and a twin; exposed brick walls, cute paintings and a fridge – definitely one of my favorites so far! Sayo Xieng Mouane guesthouse (via Agoda) – http://www.sayoguesthouse.com