Summer 2018: Luang Prabang
With 5 nights, 6 days in Luang Prabang, we had a great opportunity to deeply explore the city. It reminded me of the SE Asian version of Cheers - you will see people you know almost every day (“Oh! There’s that guy who sat next to me on the plane!” “Look! The people we did the elephant trip with!” “Hey! There’s that family we met in Hanoi at the tailor.”). It was fun to people watch, make new friends, and learn about a new place and its people.
Bamboo Tree - Offering both a restaurant and cooking school, Bamboo Tree has great local food. They use fresh ingredients, and prices aren't too expensive! We stopped in for a late lunch one day, and dinner another. Didn't go to their cooking school, but it has great reviews!
Tamarind Tree Restaurant - Down at the side of the peninsula near the Mekong is Tamarind Tree. Cheap eats, great vegetarian options. The restaurant is simply a few easy ups and tables, but we ate there three times. It was great!
Tamarind - On the Nam Khan River side of the peninsula, Tamarind is probably the most famous of LPB's restaurants. In the high season, if you don't have a reservation, you aren't getting in! The food was delicious, and the service was great. We had dinner and dessert and weren't disappointed!
Bouang - Bouang is one of the many bars, restaurants, and shops lining Sisavangvong Rd in the main part of LPB. They are an Asian fusion eatery, and we really enjoyed their mango spring rolls, gnocchi curry, and most of all the Nem Khao (just ask for vegetarian) , which was a mixed rice dish, eaten wrapped in lettuce or pandan leaves. Delicious!
Pizza Phan Luang - Across the bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan river is this infamous pizza spot run by an expat who married a Laotian woman. No wifi, and only pizza on the menu--with beer or wine. Rick picked this for his birthday dinner, so we had a great time walking the bridge and having a pizza.
SomChom Sum Noodle - You won't find a Trip Advisor or Google review for this stop! Best fried rice in town. This noodle shop is a part of the Night Market, down the alleyway next to Indigo House. About halfway down, on your right, (past the all-you-can-eat buffets) you will see an older woman manning her stall, making great noodle soups and offering other cooked dishes. We went back two nights in a row!
Novelty Cafe - A cute cafe on the main street, prefect for a quick snack and a cup of coffee. Good wifi connection :) Be sure to say hello to George, their resident pup and greeting committee. He’s a sweetie!
Maolin Tavern - Best beer selection in LPB. Run by Belgians, this was the hang for all of the French people in town during the world cup. They showed the matches each night, and invariably a crowd would gather. Super impressive beer list, and outdoor seating if you want to people watch. Rick preferred to end the night here.
Chez Matt - Fun little wine and cocktail bar on the corner of the main street. Great gin selection, and tables on the street that allow for great people watching as well!
Icon Klub - Across the street from Chez Matt, Ion Klub is run by Lisa, a Swede with great taste in whisky and bourbon. She’s personable and kind, and her cocktails are great. The music is fun, there are games to play (we opted for Uno), and we really enjoyed the atmosphere.
Tangor - Popped into Tangor to catch part of the World Cup. Good cocktails, interesting looking desserts!
Sena - Great happy hour deals! Two glasses of wine for 70,000 kip (~$8.35) and 10% off if you go after yoga! Check and check!
Saffron - With a mission to help local family coffee farms near LPB, this was the best cup of coffee we found in the city. Traditional Laos style (strong, with sugar) or a variety of Western styles (pour-over, aeropress, cold brew, French press) are available. Strong wifi, and an air con room upstairs with information and stories about the people and farms they support.
Bagged Coffee Lady - Around the corner from the Royal Palace turned National Museum on Ounheun Road is the sweetest lady selling coffee in a bag. If you’re taking away, you’ll get a full bag of ice, and some very strong, extremely sweet coffee for about $2. We had fun meeting her and her baby girl, who was instantly my best friend. Pretty sure she shows up on Google Maps as "Taxi Pizza and Coffee."
Garden of Eden - Across the river is a quieter part of LPB, and one of the coolest shops we’ve found on our trip. Nic is the owner of and one of the designers at Garden of Eden, a fantastic jewelry shop I fell in love with. We found the shop on Rick’s birthday while heading to dinner, and I managed to get back there two more times. The prices are fabulous, and each and every piece is unique. I highly, highly recommend stopping by! Say hello to Nic for me! :)
Shop the main street - So many boutiques, so little time! It was fascinating to see shops with “Laos prices” and many, many shops with “Western prices.” I think the best part about buying things in SE Asia is that everything is a steal—not always the case in LPB! But, it is still fun to browse, even if you don’t end up buying!
Frangipani Spa - We went, we got massages….it was okay. There might be better options out there, or maybe a deep tissue massage would be better. We opted for Laotian, and felt worse afterward #realtalk
Master Cut - Sometimes, you just need a haircut. I think Rick was maybe a bit nervous to get his haircut abroad, but he ended up with one of the best haircuts he’s ever received! Master Cut was professional, fast, and inexpensive. I should have gotten my hair cut there, too!
Luang Prabang Yoga - Some hotels offer yoga in LPB, but the only real option for affordable classes is through Luang Prabang Yoga. Their daily morning classes take place at Utopia, but were cancelled during our week in town due to rain. I did manage to make it to one of their evening classes, a 90-minute vinyasa flow held on the third floor of Sena restaurant. The class was full, sweaty, and challenging. I hadn’t practiced since being on our trip, and it felt great to be back on the mat again. A 90-minute class for a foreigner is 60,000 kip, which is roughly $7.25. Not too shabby!
Mandalao Elephant Conservation - When we talked about what we wanted to do in Laos, hanging out with elephants topped the list. We've done it before, but it's so fun! I am glad we found Mandalao--they were the first non-riding camp in the area, and are doing great work to preserve and grow the elephant population in SE Asia. We had a blast hiking and exploring with our guide, two elephants, and Anna and Mark, UK expats living in Dubai.
Kouang Si Waterfall - It's easy to find a mini van to take you up to the waterfalls. Our homestay arranged our trip for us, but there are fellows on the street hustling for people to fill their vans all the time. We had about two hours at the falls, and had a great time swimming and hiking.
Night Market - Every evening, the main street in LPB shuts down for the night market. People are selling all sorts of handicrafts, clothes, and souvenir junk and there is a bustling food market scene. We loved the coconut pancakes, browsing the items, and walking under the blocks and blocks of easy up tents.
Morning Market - Similar to the night market, each morning there is a bustling food market, selling produce, eggs, meats, and other items. We had fun walking through and admiring all of the beautiful fruits and veggies.
Alms Giving - One of the biggest reasons people visit LPB is because of the daily ritual of alms giving. Each morning at around 5:30am, the monks from each local temple come out to the street to receive gifts of food from the local people. This is their only food for the day, and the tradition has been going for hundreds of years. It has become quite the tourist attraction, particularly after being featured on an episode of “No Reservations.” Here’s the thing—it’s beautiful and special, but it’s not a show at the zoo. Don’t be a jerk—keep your distance, be respectful. If you feel compelled to participate (by giving rice to the monks), do it in the right way, for the right reasons—not because you want a great video for the IG. Homestays will offer to make the rice for you and accompany you—kneel, take off your shoes, keep your head below the monks. If you just want to watch, keep a respectful distance. On our first morning, it was drizzling, and not many people were out. We sat away from the monks, and it felt magical, like we were the only people in the world. The second time we went to watch, we somehow ended up where all the tour groups were, and I couldn’t help but feel like a part of the problem—cameras everywhere, loud people, etc. I was mad and sad all at the same time. So, I guess my advice is this—do take the time to see it, but don’t be an asshole ;)
UXO Lao - Free to all, the UXO Lao Visitor Center is a museum dedicated to educating people about the work of removing unexploded bombs from the Laos countryside. Lao is the most-bombed nation per capita, and people are still injured by leftover explosives from the Vietnam War today. The organization educates kids about UXOs, and how to safely interact with anything they might find.
Walk the bamboo bridge (if you can) - For six months of the year, there is a bamboo bridge connecting one side of LPB to the other, across the Nam Khan River. We went across is on Rick's birthday, and the next day it had washed out due to heavy rains in the mountains. When the water level goes back down, they will build it again. It costs 5,000 kip round trip for tourists to cross, and the money raised goes to funding next year's bridge.
We flew to Luang Prabang on Vietnam Airlines.
Our homestay was called Golden Lotus Place, and is run by a sweet family with three boys. We had fun playing with the kiddos :) They are incredibly hospitable, making fresh juices and smoothies whenever you would like. Breakfast is included in the stay! We booked via Hotels.com.
The homestay took care of transfer to and from the airport for us.
Phew! That was a long one!
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