After a long journey I finally arrived in Luang Prabang. I had the pleasure to meet a very nice group of people on my way over from Chiang Mai. We arrived on the other side of town in a small harbor with just a couple of slow boats. After climbing up a narrow path we arrived at a tuk tuk station (good thing to have a small backpack rather than a suitcase in this cases). A short 10’000 LAK (per person) ride was the only way to get into town.
We hadn’t booked any hostel in advance, so we had to look for one after our arrival. We were taken to the town center with a tuk tuk and wandered around some small streets looking for a free room. I would recommend you to book a room in advance since it took us very long to find a room since a lot of hostels were fully-booked (maybe it was because we went shortly after Chinese New Year). From what we’ve found out a bed in a shared room would be around 30’000-40’000 LAK and a double room around 100’000 LAK for a basic cheap accommodation. Luang Prabang is filled with cute guesthouses in all price ranges. The first night I stayed in a very simple guesthouse with an ice-cold shower (forgot the name, but it’s not really recommendable).
The second night I went to the Somjith Guesthouse. It was a cute place made completely out of wood and I treated myself to a whole room to myself (the bathroom was just across the corridor). It was the nicest room I’d seen in a while and I couldn’t wait to get in bed coming home that night. Unfortunately I had a nasty surprise waiting there – I had a huge (!) cockroach which walked up my leg (I was wearing a dress) and got hijacked though the whole room. I didn’t scream, but I have never packed my backpack so quickly as the morning after, when I stormed out of the guesthouse. I know that cockroaches are a normal thing in tropical climate, but having one as a pet under my bed and crawling up my leg is not really ok with me – guess I would need a while to get used to it.
That night was really more than enough for me and led me to thinking if backpacking by myself in Laos would have been the right decision to take.
After hours of walking under the sun I found a cute guesthouse owned by a delightful Japanese lady who freed a room for me. It was very clean, comfortable and central: Xay Cha Leuang Guesthouse (http://xaychaleuanggh.jimdo.com) – definitely recommendable, but make sure to book in advance since the guesthouse has only four rooms. I stayed in the smallest room called „Wild boar“ which had a private bathroom (it felt like a Ritz Carlton after weeks in dorms with more than 10 people per room and bathrooms on the corridor).
On the first day we rented out scooters and went to see the famous waterfalls nearby. It was a 30km journey out of the town center, but with our new scooters it was very fun to ride up and down hills, bridges and bumpy roads through little villages (we even saw water buffalos!). The waterfalls themselves were beautiful, although the water was extremely cold. We had lots of fun jumping down into the ice-cold water and climbing up waterfalls inside the park. Make sure you bring your bathing suit as well as a waterproof camera with you! We drove back before sunset and still had the scooters for a while (rented them for 24h) so I decided to go for a tour of the city with my Nikon & GoPro. I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets down by the river and could take some awesome pictures. It’s a good thing to do to get to know the town on the first day and get an orientation of where things are.
Make sure to walk by the night market which takes place every day in the center of the town. It’s one of the best markets I’ve ever seen up to now. It has products which range from exquisite souvenirs (T-shirts, backpacks, scarves) to handcrafted goods.
One of my personal highlights was the sunset from Wat Phu Si. The long climb up was definitely worth the breathtaking view from above. I arrived about an hour before sunset and had enough time to take pictures and enjoy the view before the whole place was filled with „sunset junkies“. If you climb up make sure to go up from the opposite side of the night market (it’s packed with buddhas, statues and several other interesting things along the path) and then go down from the night market side and stroll through the market facing the sunset.
Food, drinks & party
Luang Prabangs food is delicious and completely different than what I had expected. You can clearly see a french influence in the local cuisine. The night market offers a variety of snacks, from delicious french-style crêpes and baguettes (for 10’000-20’000 LAK, personal favorite: mango-nutella crêpe!) to local all-you-can-eat stands. You can find a small street which has a 10’000 LAK buffet dinner. It’s located on a side road just at the far end of the market, on the other end than the Wat Phu Si temple). If you feel like having a western breakfast check out JoMa Coffee, a chain in Laos which resembles Starbucks (they have good coffee with european prices). There are several ones in town, I enjoyed one by the river the most, since it was in the green and very relaxed and luxurious.
Make sure to stop by Lao Lao Gardens for one of their amazing barbecues (you get to grill your own meat/ chicken/ veggies directly on the table and even have noodles as a side dish!) and amazing drinks (really good prices). We went there two nights in a row since we had fallen in love with the place. You can sit outside in what felt like a jungle while eating and enjoying some Beerlao and then head down to the bar, have some Lao Lao shots and play pool and participate in some crazy line dancing.
The amazing thing about Luang Prabang is that there is curfew around midnight. Make sure to check with your accommodation wether you have a curfew or you can ring a bell whenever you get home. Besides a bowling alley everything closes at midnight and all you can find is drug dealers and speeding cars on the road (not very safe to be out by yourself!)
Luang Prabang was a bit more expensive than I had expected. On a budget you’ll need around 150’000 LAK/ day (if you get a cheap hostel you be able to spend less).
Accomodation: form 50’000-100’000 LAK/night
Food: from 10’000 LAK (buffet dinner at the night market) to 80’000 LAK (BBQ at Lao Lao Garden)
Various: 20’000 LAK entry to waterfall/ temple, 160’000 LAK 24h scooter rent (share one to save!)
Bus to Vang Vieng 120’000 LAK
During the evening and weekend you find many Lao people partying all around town, having dinner and dancing & singing. I was amazed by the kindness and happiness the people seem to carry with them on a daily basis. Luang Prabang is definitely a place to make a stop!