Luang Prabang, Laos: the country on the northern most border of Thailand is a site worth seeing. It’s mountainous, green terrain was shockingly beautiful; and something I wasn’t expecting.
Luang Prabang is an ancient city situated between the Mekong and Nam Kahn Rivers – which are known as the trade routes from China and through Southeast Asia. It was the capital city until 1975. It’s a quiet river town known for its many Buddhist temples and waterfalls.
How To Get There: After getting into Bangkok after over a day of traveling, I went through immigration and customs, got our bags and immediately went back to the ticketing area for departures. We previously booked flights on Lao Airlines and flew direct into Luang Prabang.
Where to Stay: Because Luang Prabang experiences a lot of tourism, there are a lot places to stay; many of which are considered guests houses. You can stay on either river, we chose the Mekong side and stayed at the Sayo River Guesthouse. It’s a no-frills place but right off the river, private bathroom and offers free breakfast each morning. It was about $40 USD per night. Upon booking online, I emailed the manager (owner?) about transportation from the airport and he graciously picked us up (and drove us back upon departing). He also assisted us in renting a motor bike to cruise around town. It was cheap and served our purpose and best of all had an AC unit and wifi (although spotty).
What to Do: Rent a motor bike and take the 45 minute ride through the hills to Kuang Si Falls. Wake up early and watch the Giving of the Alms where the local people give back to the Buddist monks as they parade through the streets collecting food. Take a boat cruise on the enormous Mekong River. Hike to the top of Wat Mai, the highest, most elaborately decorate temple in the Luang Prabang.
What to Eat: Honestly good food was hard to find in Luang Prabang! The street market held nightly was always fun and full of food stands and people selling everything from jewelry to wooden bowls for next to nothing compared to the U.S. Silk Road Café was one of the best meals we had. Get the local Luang Prabang sausage and sticky rice. Drink Lao Beer, it’s a mild, low ABV-ish beer that goes with everything. There are plenty of restaurants and roof top bars along the main road that are fun to go to at night. We were recommended to visit L’Elephant, a French restaurant in the city center, but this was much over hyped. The casual cafes and night market were always better bets. Every morning, I walked to Café de Laos for coffee and across the street is Scandinavian Bakery where you can get delicious breakfast pastries. Locals love Xieng Thong Noodle, a small noodle shop that runs out of food almost every day. Get there early and get a traditional bowl of Laotian noodles!
When to Go: Dry season is from November to May. I was there in November and it was certainly hot and humid. I suggest bringing mostly sweat wicking/tech clothing, good hiking shoes. Comfort will be key! I also brought bug lotion from REI. Duh the humidity the mosquitos can be out of control.
TIP 1: You do not need to pre-apply for a Thai visa! You get a Visa upon entry that’s good for 30 days.
TIP 2: Like Thailand you also do not need to pre-apply for a Visa upon entry into Laos. However, they do require a photo passport photo of you. You can take it at Immigration, you also have to pay cash for it, but if you’re good at pre-planning, hit up your local CVS before you leave and get some taken. It speeds up your process upon getting into the country.
TIP 3: Buy a SIM card at the airport. Having access to cellular data will be very helpful if you rent a motor bike for map purposes.