Luang Prabang is an adorable little French-influenced city in northern Laos. The ancient capital sits surrounded by lush green mountains and the mighty Mekong river. There is something for everyone from cute downtown shopping and amazing food to epic waterfalls, sailing on the Mekong and cave exploration!
1. Kuang Si Waterfall
The name Kuang Si comes from 'kuang' meaning deer and 'si' meaning dig, legend has it that an old man dug into the earth and found water which sprung the waterfall. A magic golden deer made its home under a giant rock protruding from the middle of the waterfall. Thus the name! The giant rock is no longer there as it fell during a mini earthquake a couple years ago, but the waterfall itself is still absolutely breathtaking.
And! If you like bears (who doesn't?!) there is a Moon Bear sanctuary in the beginning of the waterfall. This isn't a zoo situation, thankfully; the bears have been rescued for various reasons from abandonment to injuries. The bears are super playful and have a huge area full of swings and climbing gyms. They're called Moon Bears because they have what looks like a crescent Moon on their chest. (Unrelated note: Moon bears are my new favorite type of bear!)
2. Mekong Sunset Tour Boat Ride
The mighty Mekong river is the worlds 12th largest river and the 7th largest in Asia (thanks google!) It runs through every country I visited in Southeastern Asia including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Takin a sunset tour of the Mekong River is a must. Surrounded by mountains, when the sun sets it creates an 180 degree sunset of the most beautiful purples, pinks, yellows and oranges. Hands down sunsets in Laos are the most gorgeous I've ever seen.
3. Eat Mok Pa: grilled fish in banana leaf (Laotian speciality)
I live in Southern California where the fish tacos are the best in the land, however, the grilled fish in banana leaf is hands down the best fish I've ever eaten in my life. I ate all of mine & Johns.
4. Go to the Park Ou caves
To get to the Pak Ou caves you must buy a ticket in the town for a boat to cross the Mekong River. The caves themselves are not crazy spectacular, it's more the idea that people all over the world deposit hundreds of Buddha statues here for the town to steward.
The caves are limestone and they overlook the Mekong River; The lower cave is home to hundreds of Buddha statues and the upper cave requires a lot of stamina to reach due to the epic amount of stairs. Again, there's cooler caves it's more the idea of how sacred these people find their statues and the care they put into watching them.
5. Cross Bamboo Bridge
The Bamboo Bridge does not exist in the wet season because the river is too high, so visiting during dry season, like we did, means you get to cross it. There is a small fee to cross it for the family that allegedly rebuilds it every year after the wet season... we weren't so sure if this was actually true.
It's fun to cross mostly just because it is a long bridge made out of Bamboo and you feel like Indiana Jones!
6. Go to Utopia and make some new friends
If you're going to Luang Prabang you will hear about Utopia and you must go, it's a part of the backpacking culture there. You'll find obscure signs for it pointing down a long windy alley, and when the alley ends, you've made it!
Its a super fun, high energy bar that everyone goes to. And if you get there early enough (which we did not) you can have your beer (or whatever your drink of choose is) while watching the sun set behind the town.
You will make new friends here as tables are limited but seats are not, find an open one and meet your new neighbor. John and I met some pretty awesome people from all over the world that he continued to wander with after I had to leave for Thailand.
7. Go bowling with your new friends you made at Utopia
After Utopia closes (crazy early - like 11 or 12p - I can't remember) the night is still young, so in order to continue drinking and partying, go to the bowling alley - this is because of some legal loophole that causes the bars to close early but the bowling alleys to stay open late.
...and just a mini note, if you thought about buying weed at the bowing alley, don't! Cops wait outside with their K9 sniff-test unit!
8. Visit the Night Market
The Night Market in Luang Prabang is the best one I've been to in all the different countries John and I visited. They have everything and it stretches on forever - they close the entire downtown to make room for all the street vendors. You're guaranteed to find awesome presents for people back home - including snake whiskey, missile pendants (made from real missile!) to beautiful art & woven goods.
The food in Luang Prabang is absolutely delicious! Between native Laotian food and the outside influences from other countries (France, Thailand, China, Vietnam!) you are sure to find some magical new favorite dish.
Luang Prabang was one of my last stops before I had to go to Chiang Mai, Thailand for some much needed medical care. Out of the list provided, the one thing that you will NOT want to do in Laos is go to the hospital like I did. It was dirty, no one spoke English and the minor surgery performed had to be performed again once I got to Thailand because they were unsuccessful in finding a large foreign body nestled in the pad of my foot. Getting your foot cut open once sucks, but twice is just ridiculous: If you need medical care go to Thailand!
Literally all the views of the Mekong are as perfect as this picture. If Luang Prabang isn't on your bucket list it should be... (just avoid injury at all cost!!!)
* all pictures were taken by John Perez and borrowed by myself due to a not-so-necessary experience of getting my phone along with my credit card stolen on an overnight bus to Thailand. Who steals a phone and a credit card from a girl with her foot wrapped up in bandages you may ask? Assholes. Getting your stuff stolen is not a recommended experience, although it can happen.
My phone and credit card were stolen the ONLY time I had it out of place (literally the only time it was ever in the front of my backpack) during the two months we were adventuring through Southeast Asia. Mistakes and accidents are part of the adventure. My advice: bring backups 😝