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Laos: Luang Prabang

Lazy and gorgeous LP; jungle trekking, canoeing, awesome food, amazing views, beautiful culture

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Arriving in Laos

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There is nothing to dislike about Laos, and a million reasons to fall in love with it.
Dense jungle like greenery, immersed in a huge complex of water systems governed by the mighty Meekong; a rich, easy friendly culture which retains and acknowledges the nicer aspects of it's French passed (architecture, great coffee, etc).
Combined with the wonderful adventure sports on offer - Laos is perfect for the intrepid backpacker in search of thrills (of every kind!) to the easy living retirees in search of quiet, calm, beauty, quality accommodation and food.

Laos hasn't been tainted by the farang… yet.
In a way I dread what will become of Laos in years to come when tourism inevitably takes off.
Money and tourism has a funny way of changing priorities and diluting culture in Asia.

When you come to Laos, please tread lightly and relish one of the most peaceful, happy and beautiful places on this Earth.

Luang Prabang

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I took a buddy's advice and stayed at Sopha Guesthouse. It's right on the Meekong banks, suer quiet, and the price is right.
Roughly AUD$15 for a super huge dark wood room, with brand new air con, cable TV, strong wifi, fridge, new bathroom, etc ,etc.
The young couple managing it were really helpful and gave me a discount after returning from a trek.

The Town and Surrounds

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Luang Prabang is gorgeous, super clean, but somehow lacks local feel, like it was purpose built for tourists. This isn't a bad thing, but every shop in the main street was either a restaurant, travel shop, spa, gift store or guesthouse.
Mechanics, plumbing supplies, must all be far out of central LP.
LP is surrounded by the swerving Meekong. There are river views from wherever you look!

Night Market

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The ubiquitous south east asian night market. This one is special, because:
a) it's just gorgeous
b) none of the vendors push their wares. Every seller just smiles as you walk past and invites you to look.
c) THE FOOD!! There is a great food area, selling yummy Lao dinners - from spiced BBQ fish, dumplings, chicken, sticky rice (+banana or chicken or veg) wrapped in banana leaves… all the good stuff. I ate heaps!

Trekking

I booked my treks through White Elephant. Everyone online and the Lonely Planet raves about them, and this is justified.
The dude on duty showed me the treks and kayaking routes using Google maps and knew his stuff. I booked an overnight trek/Khmu home stay/kayak package.

The first day was tough. It was myself with 3 fellas from Italy and our 2 Hmong guides.
I don't recommend trekking in Laos in rainy season. The track was basically slippery, deep mud and we had to slip/climb/slide for the full 14kms.
The views made it worthwhile though.

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Our home stay was at a large Khmu (indigenous Laotian) village - home to roughly 70 families.
They were really hospitable!

I sat down with a large contingent of raucous kids and gave an impromptu English lesson…
I always start with getting them to reply to "how are you?"
Teaching states is a good way to help students express themselves (i.e.hungry, thirsty, sleepy, happy, sad, etc) because you can also show them the actions to indicate which helps associate the word. It adds humour and interaction and helps memory.

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The next day, we hiked down the other side of the pass - a bit easier sliding down than up. Then hit the magnificent Tad Lo waterfalls!

After a brief swim we kayaked downstream, down the Meekkong ... all the way back to Luang Prabang! whoop!

An exhausting day, but worth it.

Utopia

If you want to meet other travellers and have a bit of a night out Utopia is really the only place to go.
White Elephant gives you a voucher for free dinner there. I was ready for tucker then sleep after the trek, and made my way down.
The place is run by an ex-pat (I think Canadian), and employs young locals. The place is huge, serves good food and nice drinks; and there are tables and cushions everywhere for folks to congregate. It was really socially conducive.
By law, all bars must shut at 11:30 in LP…. and there is only 1 place left to go after that...

Night Bowling

When Utopia closed everyone stumbled out to the greeting tuk-tuk drivers…
"you want party more, bowling?"
Sure….
I joined new pals from Ireland and the UK and we ventured to the bowling alley which is about 15 minutes out of town.
Locals seem to take bowling seriously. There was an even mix of backpackers and locals sharing lanes, drinking Lao whiskey (too strong for this lightweight) to the sounds of loud local music.
Was such great fun!!!!
Got home at 3am, and set my alarm for 7am to catch my bus to chaos aka Vang Vieng...

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:53 Archived in Laos Tagged luang_prabang night_markets trekking_laos hmong_tribes

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