We spent three days in Luang Prabang, an ancient capital of Laos and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is really more of a Luang Prabang retrospective rather than a Laos one - that being said, here are some of our favorite experiences during our short time in the town.
Things to do
• Take a cruise on the Mekong River. I’d always wanted to get myself out on the Mekong - it’s the world’s twelfth largest river, flowing from the Tibetan Plateau all the way to the South China Sea, joining so many diverse cultures, peoples, and landscapes together. We booked tickets on a sunset ride along the water, and coasting through the river, flanked by overgrowing green landscape on either side was the definite highlight of our time in Laos.
• Walk around. I know, it seems lame to put this on the list cause obviously you’re going to walk around anyway but still. We found Luang Prabang to be such a nice change of pace from the places we’d been lately - bustling cities like Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai. Luang Prabang truly felt so laidback, charming, very quiet, just a nice town on the river where you can take a leisurely walk without bumping into tourists or being hassled to buy something. There are fascinating local markets to explore, as well as several different temples and holy sites you can step into (just remember to dress conservatively and take off your shoes).
• Visit Kuang Si Falls. Absolutely breathtaking waterfall system not too far outside the city, with cascading, cold blue waters inside a lush tropical jungle. Remember your swimsuit! As a plus, there’s also a small bear sanctuary along the hike, so you can see a few Asian black bears that have been rescued from poachers.
• Visit the dairy farm. The Laos Buffalo Dairy farm is right on the way to the waterfalls (see above), and a tour of the grounds was cheap so we figured why not. Finally got to check “milk a cow” off the bucket list! (Well, a buffalo, but close enough!)
Food To eat
We didn’t quite know what to expect from Lao food, but here are some of our favorites.
• Sticky rice. This is the most quintessential Lao food, and was surprisingly different from the rice we’ve had before. The grains are dark purple and steamed so that they are extremely sticky, and it all sort of turns into a big ball when you eat it. Honestly it’s not my favorite type of rice we’ve ever had but it’s so traditionally Lao that we were glad to try it.
• Street food. The Luang Prabang night market is filled with street food, including several buffets. Some particularly famous street foods are skewered fish, Lao sausages, and coconut pancakes (these were the best!)
• Laarb, a type of spicy meat salad, usually made with pork or duck. Another very traditional dish, especially when followed with a ball of sticky rice.
We didn’t spend long in Laos, but we’re quickly learning that here in Southeast Asia, no amount of time ever seems like enough.