After a full and beautiful two weeks of running our At Home in the World Retreats in Bali with the Kaponay Family, we decided to renew our visa by taking a quick 2-week trip to Luang Prabang, Laos.
Why Laos? Because:
- We had never been here before
- It looks absolutely beautiful from the pictures and reviews
- It’s a short and cheap flight from Bali (just $364 round trip)
- It’s a cheap place to eat great food and get some work done
How well did it meet our expectations?
Well, when we arrived, we could hardly see anything because of a thick blanket of smoke that covered not only the city, but the mountains, rivers, and everything for miles around. It reminded me of a winter-scape without the snow.
It turns out that throughout much of Southeast Asia this time of year (March and April), there is a lot of agricultural and other burning, and the smoke settles thick in places like Luang Prabang. The day before we arrived, we were told it was bright and sunny. But it was smokey and gray our entire time there (sometimes even raining ash!), though we did see minimal blue sky maybe 2-3 times.
(No, she is not a bandit, it was so smokey Emily had to wear a mask in an effort to protect her throat and lungs.)
Beyond that though, there was a lot to love about Luang Prabang! Friendly people. Delicious and cheap food, like a French/Thai mix. Beautiful architecture. A relaxing vibe. The Internet wasn’t great (A speed test said 16mbps, but it was actually more like 1mbps), and I might have enjoyed it there better a different time of year (without the smoke), but overall it was a great experience.
Here are 7 things to do in Luang Prabang.
1. Night Market
Our first night (and most nights), we went to the Luang Prabang’s night market, which was huge, but still chill and pleasant, although I hear that it can get really crowded during high season (Nov-Jan). We enjoyed one of the vegan buffets with amazing options for around just USD $1.80/person, and delicious fresh fruit smoothies for around $1.20/person.
The night market spans several blocks on the main street – far enough that you can’t see from one end to the other.
There were many little treats and French-style pastries, crepes, little coconut pancakes, and much more.
Beyond the night markets, the streets of Luang Prabang come alive at night, as the city comes out to eat and shop. The main street is lined with interesting shops and many delicious and unique restaurants with cuisines from around the world.
2. Mekong River
One day, we hopped on one of these colorful boats for a cruise down the Mekong River. The scenery was beautiful and peaceful, with limestone cliffs, and a chance to visit some smaller villages. There wasn’t much wildlife, though we did spot some water buffalo.
3. Pak Ou Caves
From the boat, we stopped at the Pak Ou Caves, filled with many Buddha statues of all shapes and sizes. If you choose to take a river cruise up the Mekong, it can be a several hour journey, and not much opportunity for food along the way, so we recommend bringing some snacks, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
4. Paper Making
Luang Prabang is famous for its paper crafting, and you can participate in a workshop to make lanterns books, or other paper crafts, from start to finish, including picking the flowers that are pressed inside. It’s a fun activity for young and old.
5. Kuang Si Waterfalls
To me, the Kuang Si Falls were the highlight of our time in Luang Prabang. The Kuang Si Falls are probably the most picturesque waterfalls I’ve ever seen! (With really cool natural swimming holes, too.) It’s like stepping into a work of art!
6. Butterfly Sanctuary
Near the Kuang Si Falls is a butterfly farm. With lovely grounds and many different varieties of butterflies in various stages of development, it’s a great place to take a nature walk and learn about the process of metamorphosis.
And of course, Luang Prabang is filled with beautiful temples, ornately carved, often with monks chanting inside. As you walk around town, these are hard to miss. Each morning around 5-6am, there is also a beautiful ritual the locals have of feeding the monks on their morning walk to their respective temples.
Alright, just one more. While in Laos, we also enjoyed a fun storytelling activity, where we heard tales, legends, and songs about the history and people of Luang Prabang. This gave us a bigger glimpse into the culture and mindset of the place and was a fun way to spend an evening.
We hope this post gives you some ideas of things you can do while in Luang Prabang. Remember to expect smoke if you come in March or April. We recommend bringing your own face mask, as we couldn’t find any quality masks there that will actually filter the smoke. But whenever you come, there will be delicious food, friendly people, and lovely scenery, and a beautiful culture to enjoy.