Of waterfalls, night market and more…
“Why Luang Prabang”, I asked my friend; “we can go somewhere else”, but then I realized that this is a place that was never on my bucket list. It would be fun exploring a destination I have been ignorant about. The first impression, I must admit, wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, I began exploring the city on foot. As the first day passed, I developed a strange liking for it. That’s the thing about this quiet little city. It grows on you, and by the end of the trip, even 5 days felt less.
This quiet little peninsular city of North Central Laos offers views of both the Mekong River and Nam Khan River. Additionally, it provides a good blend of structures of European colonial times and traditional Lao style. While there are a lot of day tours and trips to nearby cities that can be organized, let’s talk about the things to do within the city and at the most 40-60 minutes away.
1. Visit the waterfalls
There are 2 main waterfalls here:
Kuang Si: These waterfalls are incredibly gorgeous. They form the best blends of emerald and turquoise and their beauty remains unparalleled. Hire a shared cab for 40,000 kip per person. It takes about 50-60 minutes to get there and the cabbie waits for 3 hours and gets you back to the centre point. Pay additional 20,000 kip to enter the premises.
Tad Sae: The ones at Tad Sae are good too. However, I headed there in June (dry season) and chose to hike all the way uphill and try my hands at zip lining instead. A similar arrangement for transport can be done here, that includes entry, a 5-7 minute boat ride and zip lining or elephant bathing for USD 50-75 per person.
2. Hike and explore
Do not miss your golden chance of hiking around this mountainous green city. The best hikes are the ones at the waterfalls. While Kuang Si offers a moderate hike, Tad Sae offers a moderate to tough one, depending on the levels you cover and the path you take. In either case, the scenery is different and very rewarding. If taking the steps is your thing, tread up Mount Phousi, 300 steps up and 300 down. Remember that the back gate offers a different view than the front gate entry.
3. Try the local Food
This goes without saying. You must try the local food available at different stops through the city. One of the most common places to get street food is at the night market that is set up every day. For breakfast items, head to the wet market early in the morning. Try river weed, o-lam, kanom krok (coconut rice pancakes), roti, pork sausages, barbecue, fish fry, worms and more. The most famous trend is of a barbeque or grill and buffet. The buffet is laid out and charged by the plate. You will find these at the wet market and night market junction. Another buffet consisting of meat and vegetables that you can cook at the hot pot provided to you, can be seen at Mekong River.
4. Explore the Night Market
The city streets gain their charm with red tents, floor fans and road spreads being set as the sun sets. Yes, the vendors are prepping for the night market. It operates from 05:30 -09:30 P.M. every day, selling all sorts of colourful handicrafts, clothes, jewellery, souvenirs, snake whiskey, lamp shades, colourful umbrellas and more. You must try the food out here as well. Right from salted fish and pork barbecue to cut fruits and roti, you get it all. By the end of the street are some cafes, bakery and pizza joints as well.
5. Visit the wet market
Wake up early and head to the wet market to buy fresh vegetables and fruits, or simply to observe the hustle and bustle of the vendors, to check out the insects, worms, eels and other fancy eats (if I could call it that ;)) that they sell. Reach by about 06:15 A.M. to catch the best action when they are nearly done with setting their baskets and stalls. Buy a grill or two or take a bite of that fried snack as you walk past a row of veggies, eggs, meat, fish and a lot more being sold.
6. Go Zip Lining
If you are looking for something fast and thrilling in the slow-paced city, then zip lining is a must. It is available at Tad Sae Falls. Safety instructions are provided prior to the drill. Get in touch with several tour agents to offer you a package that includes a cab ride, boat shuttle, entry to the forest and zip lining in the range of USD 50-75. Many travel agents quote a lot more, but bargaining is the way to get it down to a reasonable price.
7. Visit the temples
When you are at Luang Prabang, you know you ought to take a sneak peak of the well preserved UNESCO Heritage Site, and the temples are something you just cannot miss. Best seen in broad daylight, these gilded structures emit an aura of their own. Flowers, incense sticks and food to buy are all available right outside the temples. Reach the temple of Vatmay Souvannapoumaram at 05:30 A.M. to watch the monks’ procession. If you want to offer food, sit in the queue, but if your intention is to click pictures, then turn the camera flash off and do not interrupt them.
8. Chill with the Locals
Lao people are really kind and warm-hearted. They work hard for a living. Try to take some time out and interact with them, observe their ways of living or cooking at traditional, village home-stays or merely connect with them at different points during the day.
9. Enjoy a Slow Boat Ride
Enjoy a lazy, slow boat ride by the Mekong River. The best time to take one would be around 6 P.M. to watch the sun set. It lasts for approximately 40 minutes and costs about 30,000-70,000 kip depending on the type of boat you choose. If you are willing to spare more money, take up a late evening boat ride that entails Lao dance performance and dinner on the move.
10. Indulge in a massage
Foot massage and body massage, like any other tourist destination, are quite popular here as well. However, don’t expect them to be as good as Thai massages. Even though the board at the entrance clearly states the price, do not hesitate to bargain. They charge by the hour. The ones bang opposite Mekong River and Nam Khan River are more expensive as opposed to the ones on the by-lanes further up. Similarly, the closer you head to the night market, the more expensive they get. FYI – foot and body massages are of the same price and the range varies from 30,000-70,000 kip/hour.
Hope this post helps you. Have you been to Luang Prabang? What did you do there?
Check out our travel & food posts on Instagram.
Read – Eat – Travel
This post first appeared on Lyf&Spice