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downundergal Luang Prabang - A travel report by Kerrie
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Luang Prabang,  Laos - flag Laos -  Louangphrabang
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downundergal's travel reports

Luang Prabang - SE Asia's gem

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UNESCO designated Luang Prabang is jewel of a town jam packed with beautiful houses and buildings, a plethora of temples, a large population of resident monks and is just a treat to visit.

The pool at the bottom of the falls.
The pool at the bottom of the falls.
It has a sleepy languid feel and is wonderful to walk around in and soak up the atmosphere as traffic is almost nonexistent. Nearly every step that you take passes a temple or temple ruin and you can wander freely into nearly any of these temples. The deep purple, hot pinks and gold touches that are abundant are visually striking.

There are constantly great opportunities to photograph temples, monks, more temples and more monks which happen to be one of my favorite subjects.

A number of daytrips that can be taken including a boat cruise the Pak Ou cave and a road trip to the Kouangsi Waterfall which for me was a highlight.

There are numerous accommodation options offering great value and many restaurants serving typical Laotian food that reminded me of a cross between Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese cooking.

My favorite spot was definitely the Kouangsi Waterfall probably because it was 40 + degrees when we visited so the jungle and the waterfalls offered a lovely cool change. The easiest way is to travel by road although is quite rough still, 45 minutes on a gravel road so it gives you an opportunity to pass through some villages and see a little of the countryside as well. You can hail a jumbo which is a truck with a canopy and seating on the back tray, negotiate your price, we paid US$10 and off you go. The waterfall is actually a series of waterfalls and cascades with cool glens and numerous picnic spots. The water is the most amazing colour green due to the limestone found in it. There are several beautiful swimming holes but although I tried I couldn’t go all the way in as it was freezing in fact so cold I thought my heart was going to stop beating although my partner went for a swim and said it was wait for it, refreshing!

Favourite spots:
Phet the rescued tiger.
Phet the rescued tiger.
On the way to visit the waterfalls at the main entry there are two enclosures one containing gorgeous bears and the other a beautiful tiger named Phet.
These poor animals had been taken from poachers and are supported entirely by donations. Phet was only 5 months old at the time. If you see the tiger enclosure on the left and she is not visible check on your way out as I think we were super lucky as when we arrived we nearly walked into her. See for her full story. She is now fully grown and absolutely beautiful.
When we were leaving the bears were all waiting for their dinner, they sounded just like babies crying and meowing.
The man that looks after them is a delight, when we were standing there talking to him the cutest baby bear scampered out to greet us. This was his youngest baby. The little bear had a pat and when he had enough attention scampered back to his bed in the house attached.

What's really great:
Traditional way of fishing.
Traditional way of fishing.
The Pak Ou caves are one of the most well known sights in the area. Filled with over 4000 Buddha images there are two caves one upper and one lower set into a limestone cliff some way up the river from Luang Prabang. You need a torch to explore one of them but these can be hired at the entrance. The best option to visit is take a boat which is easily arranged when you are ready to go. It is a half day trip and approximately 25 km’s from LP.
Most trips stop at a traditional village making snake whiskey, the sample I tried almost blew my head off and Xangkhongposa a weaving and paper making village where they make some seriously beautiful handmade papers.
The boat trip also gives the opportunity to see fishing carried out using traditional nets, water buffalo wallowing in the shallows and lots of kids all cooling off in the waters and giving a big wave to you as you pass by.

Monks collecting alms.
Monks collecting alms.
Besides the two trips to the falls and caves outside the town the main sights in LP are the temple complexes. They are all magnificent but are all in various states of disrepair.
The Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Monastery) is the largest and most sacred. It has deeply sloping traditional roof’s and contains the mosaic of the “Sacred tree of life”, the royal carriage that carried the funeral ashes of the royal family and the famous reclining Buddha.

Make sure you are up early one morning as between 6 and 6.30am there is an extraordinarily long stream of monks collecting their morning alms of rice from the villagers. I was offered to also give alms for a price but declined as I think it somewhat cheapens the tradition.
The early morning light, the stillness and the stark saffron, yellow and brown robes of the monks make a memorable sight.

Room in Sala Prabang
Room in Sala Prabang
We stayed in the most gorgeous colonial hotel Sala Prabang. This was once the residence of a noble family. The staff are very welcoming and the Reception is just like being in your living room complete with a great selection of books.
Our room was in the new wing of the cottage on the second floor for US40 per night and we were lucky enough to have a view of the river from our private balcony.
The room was huge with a lot of natural timber touches, lime washed walls studded with contrasting dark rocks, polished timber floors with rattan mats and the ceiling was also timber with exposed beams. It was a pleasure to stay in. The only down side was the bed was rock hard.

Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong

Monk deep in prayer.
Monk deep in prayer.
Along the front of the river are numerous restaurants including the one attached to Sala Prabang, this is where breakfast is served each day. They offer some fantastic views whilst dining.
Our favorite place was next door also on the river. Served by two young sisters, one we nicknamed Grumpy and the other Happy. The food was fantastic, mouthwatering Lao Rice paper rolls, fried beef with cashew nuts and stir-fried veggies. Try the Lao wine as well it is a cross between port and sake.
Le Tm Tm Garden offers French and Lao food. I tried the Lao Salad, lettuce, watercress, tomatoes, peanuts and Lao dressing, beautiful baguettes and banana shakes.
“The Pizza Luang Prabang” is extremely popular with both tourist and locals and any wonder they offer great reasonably priced food.

Other recommendations:
Sunset from Mt Phousi.
Sunset from Mt Phousi.
The Lotus au Laos offers traditional Laos massage and is clean and well run. The only place that guarantees to change the mat that you are laying on $5US for 1 hour. You get taken to your private room for a shower first then prepare for a full rub down, including lots of slapping but bliss for those aching muscles.

Make sure you climb the 328 steps to the top of Mt Phousi, it is well worth it for the glorious sunsets. Don’t make the mistake that most people do and leave as soon as the sun dips below the horizon as it only gets better as the last rays reflect in the sky.

The main street is closed most nights of the week for a market, great if you are looking for some distinctive traditional Lao weaving. It stretches on for ages but most of it is similar in style, pick your piece and negotiate.

The township and surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is truly one of the most magical places that I have visited.

Published on Wednesday February 1th, 2006

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Tue, Feb 14 2006 - 03:30 PM rating by mistybleu

This is another one of your great reports. Really interesting.

Sun, Feb 05 2006 - 08:55 PM rating by kcheepv

great report. I love Luang Prabang

Fri, Feb 03 2006 - 12:04 AM rating by delfster

hi kerrie,
great report... and love the photos.
happy travel to you :)

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 12:09 PM rating by frenchfrog

It is a marvellous report. Lots of nice info. Very well written, will be the only to know things about Laos, many thanks.

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 10:29 AM rating by magsalex

Love the sunset!

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 06:50 AM rating by davidx

Seems it's all been said! Outstanding and surely sets a standard to beat if anybody else wants the RoM report!

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 03:12 AM rating by mamielle

very interresting report and beautiful pics, congratulations

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 02:35 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Your series abour Laos is the very best collection of reports in Globo. Congratulations. Muy bien Kerrie, I open Globo especially to vote your report!

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 12:55 AM rating by bootlegga

There are some great photos in this report. Thanks Kerrie!

Thu, Feb 02 2006 - 12:46 AM rating by rangutan

Brilliant report from this small country we hear so little about. Most interesting and perfect pictures too...... magical place, magical report!

Wed, Feb 01 2006 - 10:12 PM rating by ehs1193

Never would have thought of going to Laos.

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