One 45-minute flight later and we had left Chiangmai for Luang Prabang, Laos. As soon as we began the descent in the plane the difference was stark and it felt like we had entered a natural paradise, even the airport is surrounded by rich green hills. We made our way to our guesthouse, where I kicked up a very polite fuss about having booked a room with a view and being given a room with a view of the basement walls, no natural light, and a distinct smell of drains… we were upgraded 2 days later, which confirms the Monica Gellar-inspired notion that nagging works!
After checking in we immediately power-walked up the famous Mount Phousi in the centre of town, known for incredible sunset views over the Mekong River, but unfortunately missed the sunset by around 10 minutes. It was still a stunning view, and helped us to get our bearings of the town.
Day one was spent exploring the town; we bartered our way across the Mekong to investigate its not-so-explored left bank, which led us to a 8km walk past some gloriously dilapidated (in a beautiful way) temples, and some typical Laotian villages. It was an interesting walk, and we definitely felt like we were off the beaten tourist path, but I was distressed to see so much rubbish on the sides of the path. It seemed like no square metre was free of some sort of litter embedded in the leaves; drink cartons, sweet and crisp wrappers, plastic bottles.
Standard house cow
I definitely find the beauty of temples is in direct relation to the amount of moss growing on the pagodas
Shedding a tear for the Laos countryside 😢
Luang Prabang is definitely the chilled out version of South East Asia. There’s no crazy traffic, cycling around feels totally safe, and vendors literally nap while manning their night market craft stalls, so being pushed into purchasing isn’t really an issue. We visited the night market most nights for dinner (until one of us suffered minor food poisoning- no more raw veggies for us!) which was bustling and full of really delicious local food to try.
Day trips that didn’t involve elephant riding (big no no on the old animal ethics issue) were few and far between in Luang Prabang, so we took it upon ourselves to explore the outskirts by bicycle. We did this twice; one 26km round trip and one 52km (the glutes suffered I can tell you) and were rewarded with some really beautiful waterfalls and lush green countryside.
Kuang Si waterfall- the blue of the water could rival that of New Zealand!
The sort-of happy faces of two people half way through a very hilly 52km cycle
My leg muscles couldn’t face a 3rd day cycling, so on our last day in Laos we hired a scooter for the final exploration. We quickly found that we had in fact seen everything there was to see so the exploration was slightly on the dull side visually, but still fun. The route we chose took us through dirt road after dirt road, which resulted in being covered head to toe in dust, and gaining some serious bump bruises. We stopped off at the very chilled Utopia café which overlooks the river, where lunch is consumed cross-legged on a long cushion, and on which you are free to nap while waiting to be served- the perfect place to soothe the aching muscles.
Should probably have cleaned my face before entering a public place
Lunch with a view
Overall we really enjoyed Laos, but definitely struggled slightly more to fill the days with sightseeing and discoveries. The food was delicious, involving a lot of barbecue style dishes as typically food is cooked over hot coals, and the countryside was beautiful, despite the litter around the rural villages.
Next up is Vietnam, which I’m anticipating to be a lot busier and noisier than quiet Luang Prabang. We shall see!