Last year I only made it to Vientiane, and Vang Vieng in Laos. I heard from loads of other travellers how great Luang Prabang was, I just didn’t have time. So I was keen to spend some time there on this trip, both to see the waterfalls, and because I had read there was some good running.
Most people go to Luang Prabang to see the Kuang Si Falls. They’re about an hour away by tuk tuk. A group of us from the hostel set out together to check them out. Prior to heading out we’d been told to make sure we trekked all the way to the top first, and not stop in any of the pools otherwise we would likely not make it to the top.
When we arrived we were charged 20,000kip admission (the standard price for a lot of things in LP). We began to walk to the falls and came across a bear sanctuary. They were small black bears, I’m not sure what the purpose was of having them there, but we did stop briefly for pictures before continuing on.
Past the bears we got into the real good stuff. We could hear running water and before long the lower falls came into view. They were beautiful, but we decided not to stop, we would work our way up to the top and then enjoy them as we came down.
Getting to the top of the last waterfall was a trek. It was a mix of slippery stairs, steep dirt inclines, and some hard work. But we made it all the way up. The view was nice, but not incredible from the top. Nobody dared get too close to the edge, and the thick green foliage made it difficult to see out into the distance. Nevertheless I’m glad we did make it up there.
Getting down from the top was far more difficult then getting up. Most of us weren’t in proper shoes and the ground was very slick and very steep. It was a long way down and seemed to take us forever.
When we did make it down to the bottom of the first falls, and the first pool, we were rewarded with a gorgeous pool all to ourselves. Usually it is very busy, but we just happened to arrive at the perfect time, and got to swim around for half an hour before anyone else joined us.
From there we went down to the two lower pools, enjoying the relief of the cold water from the blazing hot sun. The Kuang Si Falls really are incredible!
Phu Si Hill in the centre of town is a really popular spot to watch the sunset. It’s about 355 stairs that carve back and forth across the hill.
The climb is worth it, once you make it to the top you get a panoramic view of Luang Prabang, and a great vantage point to watch the sunset.
The area at the top is small and crowded, there were likely 100 people up there all jostling for position to take the perfect picture, but it’s worth it. (It’s 20,000kip to be allowed to the top)
Luang Prabang had a number of temples. This trip I’ve made visiting EVERY temple less of a priority and just see what I see. The most interesting thing I saw at a temple was at Wat Prah Buddhabat. If you look inside a small cave it looks like there’s a large footprint. They claim it’s Buddha’s footprint.
The old Royal Palace has been turned into a museum. It’s set up as though royals still lived there, and you can walk through and check it out. It’s not on the level of a European palace, but nice none-the-less. There were vast rooms with little in them, lots of wicker chairs (I assume to let the heat out), and grand furniture. It was a good way to spend an hour or so and get some culture. (They didn’t allow photos inside, so I’ve got none)
The procession of monks is a popular sight for tourists in Luang Prabang. Every morning a procession of monks makes their way through the streets, collecting donations and offering blessings. It happens very early, around sun rise. During two of my runs I was up early enough to see it (because I was running I didn’t get any photos). I don’t know a lot about the tradition of this. The monks appeared to be lined up oldest to youngest. I’m glad I got to see it.
Luang Prabang (and I think all of Laos) has an 11:30PM curfew. This means anyone looking for some nightlife needs to get this fill by 11:30PM. Thankfully for those night-owls Luang Prabang has a late night bowling alley. The way the night usually works out is people go to a bar called Utopia for about 9:30PM, stick around there until 11:30, and then have one of the many waiting tuk tuk drivers take you to the bowling alley. That is what we did. The bowling alley is a considerable way out of town and not walkable. I don’t remember how much a tuk-tuk was, but it wasn’t much. When you arrive you see it really is just a standard 10-pin bowling alley. They were playing loud music, and serve liquor, but besides that it’s a bowling alley. I thought it may be neon, or glow in the dark, but it looks like somewhere a family might go. It cost 10,000 or 20,000kip per person, per game (about $1.25 or $2.50), I don’t remember, and you just wear whatever shoes you have on. It was good fun, but not something I need to do every night.
Luang Prabang is a great spot for running, so long as you get out early in the morning (it can be really hot during the day). The day I arrived in Luang Prabang I did a simple out and back. All of my runs after that were a loop, a little over 5k, that followed the river most of the way. I ran at least 1 loop every morning, and I got in 2 long runs, each of 4 loops. James, a friend I met from the UK, joined me for a lap two mornings. Besides getting in some longer runs I was also able to do some short intervals. I was really happy with how my legs felt and how I was running.
HERE is a link to one of my Garmin files.
From my trip to Laos last year I knew I didn’t love a lot of traditional Lao food. There was nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t have very strong flavours (Laap is a minced pork and mint salad). But there is a strong French influence, and you get a lot of baguettes and sandwiches.
I had a lot of sandwiches in Luang Prabang. They must grow avocados locally because all the sandwich stalls offer them. The sandwich stalls are pretty much all in one area, near the night market, in a line. They all offer the same menu. Chicken and avocado was my go to. One night I did venture to try a sandwich from a stall on a side street where a number of locals eat. It was tasty, but I don’t really know what was on it. (I did fall ill the day after it though, so maybe it wasn’t my best decision)
One of the sandwich stalls made crepes as well. Banana/nutella/condensed milk was a favourite of mine. I did also have a couple of savoury chicken/avocado ones, it was a nice change from eating so much bread when I would get a sandwich.
Every night one of the main streets shuts down for a night market. Down one of the alleys there’s all sorts of vendors offering vegetarian buffets. It cost 15,000kip (about $2) and you were allowed to fill your bowl to the brim once. There was noodles, rice, spring rolls, some vegetables, and tofu. It was all in different sauces. I would get my moneys worth packing my bowl. Once you’ve filled your bowl they’ll heat it up for you. I always left very full (mostly off starch). If you wanted meat there was a number of BBQs along the alley where you could be chicken, pork, beef, fish, etc.
The unofficial food of SE Asia, shakes! I usually have some sort of banana shake. In Luang Prabang the shake stands also had yogurt and Oreos, so I would always get banana/yogurt/oreo. It was basically a milkshake, and always thoroughly enjoyed.