All you need to know about Luang Prabang…
Planning a trip to Luang Prabang, Laos? Here are some quick travel tips to help you plan better.
1.UNESCO site: Luang Prabang is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1995. Every monument here reflects a story of its glorious past and is worth a visit. That being said, it has a lot of Wats/Vats or temples. If you want to watch the monks in procession, reach the gates of Vatmay Souvannapoumaram by 05:15 A.M. Switch the camera flash off and pay respect.2.Currency exchange: Exchange the currency at the city and not the airport. The city has so many currency exchange shops scattered all across the market area. The best part is that you can negotiate and get a pretty good deal.
3.Check your guesthouse facilities: Don’t underestimate the facilities of your guesthouse, small hotel or inn. Sometimes, they offer the best car or tuk tuk packages, cheaper airport drop options and great currency exchange rates too. Ask them to know more.
4.The best locality: The area around the night markets is the best bet. Choose an accommodation close to the Mekong River. The ones near the Nam Khan River are more showy and spa-based. They tend to be a little away from the city centre, but closer to the back-entry of Mount Phousi.
5.Getting around: Walk as much as you can, rent a bicycle or take a tuk tuk. If there are just 1-2 of you, take the smaller tuk tuk as opposed to a bigger one. There is a drastic difference in rates.
6.Night market: The night market is set and ready to run by 6 P.M. If you go early, you can see them display simple clothes, bags, souvenirs, jewellery etc. At the end of the stretch, opposite Mount Phousi entrance, you will find the food stalls. Follow the intersection and explore the alleys for more food.
7.Wet market: The wet market opens early in the morning. The best time to head there would be around 06:30 A.M. when the shops would’ve just been set. You will get to see some vendors in action, the meat stalls being set up and a lot of creepy crawlies along the stretch.
8.Bargain: Just like any other Southeast Asian city, you can bargain here too. Don’t push too much after 2-3 negotiations as the vendors and shopkeepers generally find it rude and refuse to interact further. Ask gently once or twice and then move on to the next shop if that doesn’t work out.
9.Nature tours: The city is quite rich in natural resources. Make use of every opportunity you get to check out its waterfalls, take boat rides in its rivers, engage in elephant bathing and go hiking in one of its forests.
10.Mekong River vs Nam Khan River: The difference lies in the cost of living along the rivers.
Mekong River = night markets, local food, street vendors, travel agents, affordable Western diners, cheaper foot massage
Nam Khan River = high-end buffet, better restaurants, relatively expensive foot massage, fewer travel agents, better hotels and stays with spa
11.River confluence: No matter how insignificant it may sound or look, you must watch the confluence of Rivers Mekong and Nam Khan. The best place to watch it is from the Viewpoint Café.
12.Check the weather: Depending on the season of the year, the activities and natural settings could vary. Some of the waterfalls are dry or murky during the hot or rainy seasons respectively. If you want to hike in a bed of moss, go during the dry season, but if you want to witness sparkling blue waters, go during the peak season.
13.Sunscreen and caps: Some months are hotter than the others, but you must carry a cap and sunscreen at all times. It gets really hot and most of the activities are outdoorsy in nature. Wear light clothes. You can buy simple shorts, dresses and tees off the streets post 5.30 P.M. Don’t leave your hotel without applying an insect repellent.
14.Watch what you eat: If you are not used to street food, you might want to avoid the open buffet being served at the alleys of the night market. Eat at good restaurants instead or better yet, dine by the Mekong River. It gives you the best of both – good food and great views.
15.Drinking water: Based on our experience, we’d say stick to mineral water. Buy your own sealed bottle every day and do not rely on tap water or filter water at all. These bottles are available at every fruit and vegetable stall and general stores, off course.
16.Condensed milk rules: You order a milkshake; you have it made in condensed milk. The same case goes with milk tea and other beverages. If you are expecting a fresh dose of healthy milk beverage in the morning, let me tell you – it’s going to be very hard to find.
17.Hang out with the locals: The people of Laos, or Lao are very friendly by nature. They are always ready to chat up as are their kids. If you have any issues navigating your route or not knowing where to go, don’t hesitate to stop and ask.
18.Booking a package: If you haven’t pre-booked any tour packages or finalized on the activities to be done, fret not. There is no dearth of travel agencies who roll out customized and pre-set plans for you. Pick one depending on your interest at least half day in advance.
19.Tourist information centre: It is the best place to fall back on, but bummer – it’s shut on weekends (it’s just the centre and NOT the city that is closed on weekends) and that is when you need it the most. Keep that in mind and get everything sorted by Friday itself.
20.Follow the sun: The sweet little town wakes and sleeps as per the sun. Let’s put it that way and make it easy for you to plan your activities around the sun. Leave early and head back early. The night markets too shut by 9.30 P.M. except on weekends. The party scene is all about casually chilling by the pubs and famous hotspots.
This city might take some time to grow on you. Have patience. You wouldn’t want to get back from there by the end of the trip.
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