I Wish I’d Spent More Time in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of those cities that I instantly liked. It’s a small city with lots of character. French colonial architecture and traditional Lao temples peacefully, and picturesquely, coexist. Bakeries have delectable croissants, both regular and au chocolat, and markets have cheap Lao dishes. On the peninsula roads are orderly and sidewalks exist, but further south rocky roads wander through green forest. It’s the kind of city that doesn’t need time for attractions but for just living; where I could see spending days hanging out by the river, having coffee and croissants while people watching in town, or reading a book at the amazingly chill bar Utopia.

Again, I had two days in Luang Prabang, but with a day out of town and a day in town I felt like it was a good window into what this place has to offer. The mountainous landscape around Luang Prabang is known for its waterfalls, so the day we arrived we went straight to the best one: Kuang Si Falls. The light turquoise water didn’t look real, and the multi-level cascades were just too perfect. It was one of those jaw dropped at the beauty of it all moments. We hiked up to the top and looked out over the water and the land. Laos is pretty. Then we tried to go in and that didn’t last long. It was so cold! We found a patch of sun to stand in to try to get warm and dry.

That evening we discovered Utopia, an oasis bar with a view that made it onto Simo’s top bars list. A great place to enjoy some Beerlaos. We wandered the Night Market, which has to be one of the more impressive ones I’ve been to; they close down the main street for multiple blocks and venders are set up along and in the middle of the street, creating two lanes. Neither of us bought anything but it was fun to walk through. We stopped at an alleyway for dinner: 15,000 kip for a bowl that you could fill as much as you want with anything from the many dishes on a table. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs but I was pleasantly surprised how good it was (and that we didn’t get sick). We ended the night with a sidewalk glass of wine, watching the activity on the street.

The next day I had to say goodbye to Simo. We had a final brunch at a restaurant overlooking the river and reflected on how great Laos had been. It worked out so well meeting up and traveling with Simo, and it was sad to say goodbye. It always is. But he lives in San Francisco, and we have some people in common, so I know I’ll see him again. And I’m sure when we do reunite all we will be able to do is talk about the awesome time we had together in Laos.

I spent the rest of the day wandering through the city. I went in every temple that didn’t cost money, hiked up and down the big hill in the center of town, and made it all the way out to the end of the peninsula to see the rivers meet. I also ran into the Israeli guys from the border again, we took a selfie, and Susan, the Dutch girl I met in New Zealand and saw again in Australia. The world is so small sometimes.

I left not feeling like I’d missed a lot in Luang Prabang. There are some waterfalls and things around town that I could have gone to but I wasn’t bothered to have skipped them. But I did leave feeling like I could spend more time just being there. This was also my last stop in Laos – that night I boarded the dreaded minibus for Chiang Mai – so I was a little sad about moving on. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with Laos before I went and I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by it. I had no idea it was such an active, beautiful place. Just like its neighbors, Laos is on the must-return-to-one-day list.

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