Travel

luang prabang

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I would love to hear everyone try to pronounce Luang Prabang a couple of times.  It’s pretty funny to hear if said incorrectly 😉

Anyways…happy Sunday!  It has been awhile since my last post because I have been traveling the world, and I could not be MORE excited to share with you some of my experiences and tips and tricks.  I’m so happy that I can start to relive my beautiful adventures of Southeast Asia and will do my best to try and give you a glimpse into the beauty and peacefulness of this part of the world.

To start, I wanted to share with you my new appreciation of Luang Prabang, Laos.  Although this was not the first city I visited on my trip, it was by far the most eye opening.

When researching countries/cities to visit and talking with a couple of friends, I was surprised to hear this was at the top of their lists.  Over and over, I was told that the peacefulness of this town was like non other I would ever experience and that I would get a true culture shock if I decided to go.  This of course got me curious and ended up being the third city, second country that I decided to visit.

I will start by saying my friends were not wrong.  Luang Prabang was like no other city or country that I had ever been to.  Flying in on a propeller plane (which was a first for me) I could see its GORGEOUS countryside with mountains and hills covered in greenery, and the only break in the green for miles is the brown of the Mekong River.  Such a beautiful site to see.

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Then, once you land, you notice that you flew in on the only plane that is sitting on the tarmac.  Looking around there are no lines and the airport is the size of a doctors office, which made getting my visa that much easier, only taking a couple of minutes and then we were on our way.

Coming from Thailand (Bangkok & Chiang Mai) I noticed the way of life was much more slowly paced, peaceful and untouched. No big businesses or resorts were aloud to enter the beautiful country, so you were truly seeing the town for what it was.  With less people, cars and bikes it had calmness to it that I had never experienced.  And after arriving at our hotel (Vansana) and noticing that we were 4 of 7 guests in the entire establishment, to say that I had had a culture shock within the first couple of hours was an understatement.

Once unpacked, we headed to the “main street” where the town had their night market set up.  Negotiating had become second nature by this point after experiencing parts of Thailand, but here I started to appreciate the way of life and understood that a dollar to them was not the same to me.  Buying beautiful silk scarves for $5 (full price without negotiating) was a win-win for both of us so I was happy to help and also bring a little piece of Asia back home with me.

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After walking up and down the tented market in the light rain, we headed to grab some food.  We stopped at the cutest restaurant, Mango Garden, that was part way down a side street off the main road.  Lined with lanterns and geckos crawling the walls, we ate and drank for under $10.  Spring rolls, dumplings (best dumplings of the trip), larb mu (minced pork dish) and laos beer, I walked away a full and happy customer.

The next day we went to the Kuang Si Waterfall, Butterfly Garden and Bear Sanctuary.  Grabbing a tuk tuk from the main street we headed out of town and into the beautiful countryside.  Passing by rice fields, water buffalo, small schools and towns, my mind and eyes were kept busy soaking up everything.  I don’t remember exactly how long it took, but if I had to guess it was probably a 40-minute drive give or take.  Although this sounds long, I welcomed the relaxing ride and beautiful landscape to the point that I would suggest a half-day of just that!

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A couple of tips for the Kuang Si Waterfall, Bear Sanctuary and Butterfly Garden:

  1. Be sure to wear tennis shoes of some sort.  You can do quite a bit of hiking and are left to be your own tour guide up and down the mountain, which I found to be pretty amazing.
  2. Leave a donation for the bears.  They are saved from poaching and are kept safe solely based on donations.
  3. Prepare to get wet.  We welcomed the cool spray of water in the humid heat, but I would recommend purchasing some form of waterproof case for your phone.
  4. Depending on the time of year you travel to the waterfall, will determine the color, cloudiness and height of the water.  During rainy season, the water picks up pressure and with it more rocks and mud.  You are not able to swim in the small pools at the base of the waterfall, so if you prefer to experience more of a calm, blue waterfall with the option to swim I would suggest going in the dry season.
  5. They have a natural fish spa within the butterfly garden.  If you’ve never had fish nibble off the bottom of your feet I highly recommend giving it a try even if only for a couple of seconds like me 😉

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After a full day of animals and hiking, the following day we decided to have a more leisurely day visiting some temples, getting a foot massage and taking a ride up the Mekong River.

My favorite temple we visited in Luang Prabang was once again a hike.  In the middle of town you can walk up 200+ stairs to Phou Si, which overlooks the town and looks down on the Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple).  It was breathtaking and winded around the top of the hill with different worshipping areas located in their own nook and cranny.

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From there, we decided to give our feet a little R&R and headed to L’Hibiscus Spa.  If appearance would have been the deciding factor, we most certainly would not have gone, but I’m happy we decided to overlook the exterior structure and give it a try.  Laos is not known for their massages like Bali and Thailand, but this was my favorite foot massage of the trip and cost under $10!

After relaxing our feet, we headed down to the Mekong River and hopped into a wood boat to see the town from the views of the water.  This was the icing on the cake for such a peaceful and relaxing day.  The beauty of the river and landscape was amazing.  You almost felt like you were in a movie like Jurassic Park where there was just greenery and water surrounding you everywhere you look.

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The girls I traveled with will laugh when they read this out of memory, but I could not get enough of the monks.  Everywhere we went, monks would be walking down the hillside, up and down the streets, worshipping at the temples, etc.  So it was no shock, that when I saw three monks making their way by boat across the Mekong that I of course started taking pictures and was in aw of them.  They live such a peaceful way of life and get by with little to no ownership of “things”.  No words describe my fascination with their way of life.

I loved them so much, that the following morning I made everyone wake up at 5 am for the Alms Giving.  To see the town come to life at sunrise, hear the beating of drums signaling the monks were coming and the community preparing their fruit and sticky rice as offerings for the monks was an amazing experience to be a part of.  The traditions that are kept alive in Luang Prabang are like non-that I have ever seen or experienced before.

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Overall, Laos is not a place you want to visit for comfort, but a place where you want to experience a way of life that has been left untouched.  To stay true to its history and heritage, Laos’s government has preserved it.  I would highly recommend Luang Prabang if you are open to an adventure and want to experience a town that is unlike any other place you have been to in the world.

Check back soon to find out more about my amazing trip and the experiences I was able to have.  I have a list of other activities that we were not able to fit in, and would be more than happy to share them with you if you would like.  Feel free to reach out with any questions.  See you soon!

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