Luang Prabang charms visitors with laid-back lifestyle

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

"Before coming to Luang Prabang my perspective on how it would be was different to the reality. But when I arrived my first impression was that it was very relaxed and the people were very welcoming and friendly.”
This was the view of a first time visitor from Ireland, Tom Hogan, who was travelling with his partner and spent four nights in Luang Prabang last month.
On their first day the couple took it easy and soaked up the atmosphere by walking through the old quarter, where they found a nice vibe and a mix of Asian and European culture with many traditional Lao restaurants and little French coffee shops and bakeries.
To finish the day they walked up Mount Phousi for a spectacular view of Luang Prabang and watched the sunset.
On the second day they took a boat trip on the Mekong River when their driver shared some homemade whisky and a few glass of Beerlao with them.
The driver dropped them off on the other side of the river and advised them to check out Pak Ou cave, where a young monk showed them around and gave them their own little private tour.

Tom Hogan and his partner Mari Vicen Alhabra visit Kuangxi waterfall in Luang Prabang province.

“The cave was so nice,” Tom said. “Inside it was very cold and there were a lot of old Buddha images around as well as some beautiful stalactites.”
Getting back on the boat and continuing along the Mekong they really got a feel for life in Laos with people fishing and farming in little villages on both sides of the river.
Next day, they went back down to the Mekong and also to Khan River on the other side of the peninsula where there was a bamboo bridge leading to a typical Lao village.
Here they were greeted by a woman who invited them for coffee and showed them the handmade items she was selling.
“It was really nice and top quality. The staff showed us a lot of things and explained how they made them which we really enjoyed,” Tom said.
They also enjoyed the evening because there was a film festival taking place. There was a big stage and lots of entertainment and after that they strolled through the night markets.
They found a lane that had a good market with lots of local food and a buffet, where there was so much good food.
“We didn’t know what to eat. We sat down to try some of the local cuisine and got talking to a group of people from Vientiane. We ended up sharing all the food with each other and having a few beers and learning a bit more about Laos. They gave us some interesting ideas about where we should go the next day and also about some other amazing places in Laos,” Tom said.
The couple ended their trip in Luang Prabang by visiting the largest waterfall in northern Laos - Kuangxi.
They started quite late in the morning, taking a minibus from their hotel which cost 40,000 kip and then paid an entrance fee of 20,000 kip when they reached the falls.
“We had heard a lot about how great the falls were and, yes, they were very lovely. We started from the bottom and walked up a series of cascading pools which were a beautiful turquoise colour before reaching the main waterfall, which is amazing. You could spend all day there swimming in the beautiful drop of pools.”
“On the way back I was curious to see how much they charged. When we asked the tuk-tuk driver how much, he said it would be 40,000 kip or less if we waited for more people to turn up and share the ride. It was very easy to get a ride with many people offering,” Tom said.
He couldn’t find anything much to complain about in Luang Prabang, saying the town was clean and the tuk-tuk drivers just offered to take you places and didn’t hassle you like they do in some other places in Asia.
One suggestion was to have public buses so that visitors didn’t have to go everywhere by tuk-tuk or a privately-owned minibus.
Public buses would be better for people on a budget, he said, and make it easier to get around instead of worrying about whether a tuk-tuk was overcharging you. And he also thought the roads going into Luang Prabang needed a lot of repair work because they were very dangerous in their present condition.
The couple said that all of their experiences in Luang Prabang had been very enjoyable.
They found the people there to be very friendly and easy-going which made for a nice atmosphere. Every night they were entertained by the film festival and the night markets also spiced up their evenings. They would definitely return at some point, they said.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest UpdateJanuary 15, 2018)

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