As we were flying into Luang Prabang I couldn’t get enough of the view out the plane window and I think I loved it before we even touched down.
We shared a taxi with a guy from Germany and arrived at our guesthouse moments later. The guesthouse looked great but no one was there to check us in, only a sign that said “I’m at the river watching the boat races, ring the bell at the end of the lane and I’ll come running”. Gordon took the bell and went down to the end of the lane by the river and rang it (he must have looked a bit odd doing this), no one came running so he came back to the guesthouse looking slightly out of sorts. We decided to put our bags behind the reception desk and go have a look around. When we returned the lady was there waiting for us (I guess our bags were a good clue). Next dilemma, we booked four nights but they only had us down for three, a mistake they made and apologized for but unfortunately they were full. They refunded us for the one night and we booked in at a place that was recommended on Travelfish.
Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so there’s a lot to see. We were pretty hungry when we arrived and there was a great little restaurant across the street from our guesthouse overlooking the Mekong, so that looked like a great place to get our bearings. We had some food, ordered a beer, and watched some of the river boat races – those guys can row!
We popped in to the night market but only walked through half of it because we also wanted to see some of the temples, we had heard that the Monks would be lighting them up for the beginning of the festival. I have to say that this was one of the best night markets that I have seen in quite some time.
They sold this scorpion/snake whiskey in the market but I couldn’t imagine that breaking or leaking in my backpack…yuck.
I loved how they packaged their tea and coffee.
There was a large food scene in the night market that was pretty interesting to walk through.
The Monks were decorating all the temples with lanterns and lotus lights to signal the end of Buddhist Lent and the beginning of Lai Heua Fai (Festival of Lights), it was so beautiful to see!
At the last temple we visited, a few Monks came over to visit us and practice their english. This temple had the most beautiful mural at the back of it.
The next morning we were up early and made some visits to the temples to see what they looked like in the day time. There are temples everywhere in Luang Prabang and some of them are incredibly beautiful.
Later on we took the 360 steps up to Mt. Phousi and lucky for us we had the opportunity to see the robe ceremony for the Monks. There were some nice views from the top.
After lunch we visited the UXO Center (unexploded ordnance). Laos is the worlds most bombed country per capita and the USA dropped 70 million bombs on Laos in their ‘secret war’. We found this heartbreaking, and to learn that 50 years later the people of Laos are still getting hurt or killed by these bombs. It’s hard work what the UXO employees have to do and down right scary. They have to comb every inch of land and clear the uxo’s before declaring the area safe. I’ll give more details on this in the next post when we visited Phonsavanh and the Plain of Jars.
Late afternoon we took a boat trip on the Mekong River, it was great to see the locals doing their thing. We shared the trip with a lovely family from New Zealand.
For dinner we sampled some traditional Laos food and I had stuffed lemongrass that was a taste sensation, it was one of the best local dishes I tried. The lemongrass was stuffed with herb infused chicken and then there was a spicy sauce for dipping – oh so good!
When we woke the next day we decided to just take it easy because the big celebration of the festival of lights and fire boats would be starting at around 6pm. We browsed the shops in town and let me just say that there are shops here that had me wishing I could buy everything! Luang Prabang has many little alleyways to explore and the town is really quaint.
We stopped and tried these little round things – I have no idea what they are called but you shell them like a sunflower seed and there’s a bean in the middle that you eat. We saw so many locals eating these. They were okay but we think ours weren’t quite dry enough?
While on our walking tour, we visited a park at the confluence of the Khan and Mekong rivers. It was nice to enjoy some shade, it was so hot.
We were shocked to see foreigners camping in Luang Prabang. The Land Rover one was really cool!
As we walked around town we spotted locals working on their fire boats for the festival and ladies making kratongs.
We sat down for dinner at a little restaurant on the main street and watched the fire boat procession. We couldn’t believe the boats that the locals made and how they were all lit up with so many candles. They were so beautiful, each community does one and then they march beside their boats with their kratongs cheering and singing.
After the procession we met some people at our guesthouse and we all took a boat trip on the mighty Mekong to watch the rest of the festival. We saw thousands of kratongs floating on the river and saw the locals passing their fire boats down a series of steps from the temple to the river. They float their boats and kratongs in the water to bring good luck in the future and to pay respect to the spirit of the water. It amazed us that these boats that were all lit up with candles never caught on fire as they were passed from villager to villager down the steps – a few times it looked like they were going to topple over.
The fire boats being passed down the steps to the water.
The lovely family from New Zealand getting ready to float their kratongs.
Robyn and her staff from the guesthouse release a lantern.
A beautiful fire boat floating down the Mekong.
Many locals were releasing lanterns.
The shoreline along the Mekong was decorated with boats.
Even though we got to bed a liitle late the night before, we were up at 5:30 am to watch the locals give alms to the Monks. It seems that there are more Monks then locals which our guesthouse says is becoming quite difficult.
After watching the Monks, we walked through the fresh market. Boy we saw some really bizarre things here. We saw baskets of bats for sale – deep fried and fresh. We saw snakes, eels, frogs, and some kind of weasle that had already been killed. Then we saw live grubs in a huge basket along with what looked like cocoons in part of a tree trunk (not sure what they do with the cocoons). Of course there was all the regular market items too like fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, pork, and beef. It was definitely an interesting walk through.
It was still early morning so we hired a tuk tuk and went to Kuang Si waterfall. We are so glad we didn’t miss this place, it was gorgeous. This is a must do while in Luang Prabang.
We hiked to the top of the waterfall. I loved going back down on the steps, they were right in the waterfall.
In the park they also have a moon bear rescue center. The bears have been rescued from poachers and from locals that kept them captive for various reasons.
In the evening we visited the rest of the night market and then called it a night. We had to be up early for our bus to Phonsavanh. We loved Luang Prabang and to be there for the festival of lights made it even more special. There is something magical about Luang Prabang that already has me thinking we’ll be back someday.
Where we stayed: Apple Guesthouse
Where we stayed: Mekong Holiday Villa
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel