It was a strange feeling, heading for the airport in Chiang Mai and not for a long overland journey. When I say strange, I mean amazing. We adopted the Steve Harvey approach to flying and got to the airport with a few extra hours to spare. We flew through security, had lunch and found 100 baht on the floor. Thank you mystery person. Our deluxe bags of crisps and Malteasers were very much appreciated.
The 1 hour flight was short but sweet, leaving just enough time to scoff a complementary burger and can of Beerlao before the descent into Luang Prabang. Cruising along the Mekong River, the green mountain landscape rolls out as far as the eye can see and more than justifies the ticket price.As we walked off the plane and on to the tarmac, we joined the other passengers, spinning on the spot and trying to take in the scenery that lined the horizon. We breezed through immigration as the officers were more than happy to accept one of our printed photos for our visas (Thanks again Simon!) and grabbed our first first lot of Laotian kip from the ATM (1,000,000kip) before hopping in a shared taxi into town.
📷 – Simply exceptional! 🍔😍
The roads into town were somewhere between good roads in India and bad roads in Thailand, lined with little wooden huts and family’s selling fruit. It was immediately obvious that the line between the have and have not is much more distinct and that highways laws are much more relaxed, having been continuously overtaken by 12 year olds on motorbikes.
Our hostel, “Downtown Backpackers Hostel” was only a 2 minute walk from the Mekong river and surrounded on all sides by market stalls selling fresh fish, meats and fruits and vegetables. At night the area would come to life, as people travelled from all over Luang Prabang to visit the Night Market. Our hostel was 2 floors of 6 bed mixed dorms and served a decent selection of free breakfast every morning. Unfortunately when we arrived, the staff were unable to give us the keys to our lockers as a self important American girl in our room had decided that she needed two lockers for all of her crap. She was carrying a backpack that was bigger than both of ours put together and that somehow made her think that it was acceptable to cover the place in her mess. We wouldn’t have minded if she hadn’t come back at 2am and got pissy when nobody else considered her to be a princess. #doyouevenhostel
We spent the first evening walking around the town, mostly in search of the cheap eat recommendations and had a cheap burger at Coconut Luang Prabang. It seems the plane burger hadn’t fully scratched that itch. On the way back to the hostel we walked through the night market to have a proper look at the stalls selling craft souvenirs alongside whiskey bottles with cobras and scorpions inside.
We spent the next day walking along the Mekong River, having woken up at 5am to catch the monks daily alms giving procession before heading back to the hostel for free breakfast and a nap. The river, dotted with little pop up restaurants and buffets, runs around the town and can be crossed by several wooden bridges that families have built as the water level has gone down. We spent a few hours hiding from the sun and watching the monks crossing back and forth before heading back into down for dinner and a free movie night.
On our last day, we enjoyed a free breakfast of omelettes and banana pancakes before picking up another motorbike and heading out of town to explore the nearby waterfalls. The bike was a semi automatic, a bit unusual having gears and no clutch but really lightweight and fun to ride. We rode for 30km to Kuang Si waterfalls, our first stop. These are without doubt the most touristy falls in the area so we got there early on the bike, ahead of the droves of tour minivans that arrive at lunch. The 20,000kip entrance fee goes toward the black bear sanctuary, situated at the entrance to the falls. The sanctuary was setup to rescue animals on their way to the bile farm. Never that fun to see animals in cages, no matter the size, but it looked like these bears were a lot better off than their cousins that got turned into Chinese medicine.
📷 – I’ll admit, it was a silly day
Despite the early start, there were already quite a few groups at each level of the falls. The large pool towards the bottom is mainly used by tourists for swimming, diving of rocks and taking selfies in front of the waterfall but the higher up the falls you go, the better your chances of having some privacy become.
📷 – some upper level pools at Kuang Si
The largest pool is towards the back with a footbridge that crosses in front of the main 150ft waterfall. The numerous “no swimming” signs make it a pictures only area but here you can cross the bridge and climb up a leg numbingly steep set of natural steps in the cliff face. The view from the top is almost too overgrown to see anything but it’s a bit quieter as people are put off by the climb and its a good way to kill some time until the bus groups leave again.
On the route back we stopped off at the lesser known Keo Waterfalls, having been tipped off by another couple. Owned by a family who have turned the land into a little restaurant and garden rest area, the single waterfall is much smaller than Kuang Si but we were the only people there and definitely preferred the peace and quiet. The little fish giving you a constant pedicure was an added bonus.
📷 – Ella pretending to be a leaf
📷 – bath time 🛀🏽
On the way back into town, we stopped off at the bus terminal to buy or tickets to Vang Vieng. A 7 hour journey through winding mountain roads. Luckily we managed to grab two seats at the front so we’ll be able to enjoy the view.