Luang Prabang Adventures Our first evening in Luang Prabang was very low key, which basically describes this UNESCO World Heritage town. We stayed at 3 Nagas by Sofitel, which is located on the Main Street of town. We checked in and ventured down the street to the night market. STREET is closed down every night to motor vehicles and women pack the street from one sidewalk to the other with stalls of hand made goods. They mostly sell hand made scarves, but you will also find some wood carved crafts and elephant slippers! They do sell the normal SE Asia elephant pants attire as well.
At one of the ends there is a side street that is loaded with street food stands. There is everything from fried or fresh springs rolls to noodle dishes, soups and BBQ skewers. They also have plenty of whole fresh fish on the grills as well. We enjoyed some spring rolls, green papaya salad, BBQ pork, fried rice and coconut rice balls, all for $8. There are some stalls that have a buffet style setup where you grab a plate for 15,000 kip (about $2) and load it up with whatever you want.
The most abundant food stall is the fruit shake stand. They are literally everywhere. There are two sections of the night market that seem to be dedicated to fruit shakes and consist of at least 7-10 different stands with pretty much the same offerings. Most of the shake options include your choice of oranges, pineapple, mango and banana. These are all great choices, but the best and most mind blowing of them all is avocado! I’ve definitely added avocado to some of my shakes at home, but I never thought to do a plain avocado shake. Granted, they add in some condensed milk and a bit of sugar, but you can ask for no sugar. With a little ice and a quick blend, you have heaven in a cup. So, of course, I couldn’t resist one of these as well.
After walking around we went back to the hotel to rest for our big day the next day. When we woke up we enjoyed breakfast at the cafe at 3 Nagas and hired a tuk tuk to take us to WATERFALLS for 200,00 kip ($25USD). You can opt to take a tour company van for about 45,000 kip ($6USD) with other people that leaves at a scheduled time, but you only stay at the falls for two hours. We decided we didn’t want to be on any schedule so we went on our own. The ride to the falls was close to an hour on a windy and narrow mountain road. When we arrived we were slightly surprised at how many food and souvenir shops there were. It was convenient as we needed an extra bottle of water, which we grabbed for 5,000 kip (less than $1USD). The entrance fee for the waterfalls is 20,000 kip per person ($2.50USD). It was a short walk from the entrance to the SAVE THE BEARS conservatory. You can buy a t shirt here to support the rescue foundation that maintains and protects the Asian black bears in the area. They have a few bears in enclosed habitats for you to watch as well. *keep an eye out for other natural wildlife all around you…you ARE in a jungle!
Beyond the bear conservation center are the waterfalls. The color of the water is just breathtaking. It is a perfectly clear blue and so serene. There are many levels to the falls and some of them are “no swimming” zones. We walked around and decided we would swim in a few of the pools throughout the falls. Be warned that there are fish in the falls. Not just any fish, but the ones that like to eat the dead skin off of your feet. The same ones that many of the massage and spa facilities have in tanks. If you can handle the feeling of it, which I can not, then think of it as a free pedicure. The spas generally charge anywhere form $2-$5 to stick your feet in their tanks. It was a challenge for me to get into the falls, not only from the strange feeling of the fish, but also because the water was so cold!!! You would think in +100*F weather that the water would be fairly warm, but being that it is constantly running and sourced from mountaintops, it stays pretty cool. Once you get it, it is incredibly refreshing. You cool down immediately and get use to the temperature far quicker than I expected. Even though there are always many visitors to the falls, they are so large that it is always possible to find your own area to relax and take in the tranquility of it.
We stayed for about three hours and were able to change into our dry clothes in the changing rooms there. We then made our way back to the tuk tuk and after a quick stop for a cold water coconut, we headed back to town. We dropped some of our stuff in the room and made our way to Mount Phou Si in the center of town. Although it is more like a hill than a mountain, it is the highest point in Luang Prabang, which is how it acquired the name. There are plenty of stairs to climb and if you want to make it for sunset then you want to give yourself about 15-20 minutes just to climb the mountain. 3 Nagas was about a five minute walk to the base, so we left around 4:30pm to catch the sunset. This was a perfect time to leave because we were able to get prime seats before it began getting fairly crowded. We met some new friends from Germany, Japan and Texas. We discussed how sunsets are pretty much the same as waiting for a concert that never starts. The sunset wasn’t the greatest because there was a lot of haze in the sky. It is definitely worth the hike up for the views though! Maybe you’ll get lucky…
After the sunset we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner there. The next day we woke up super early (5:00am). It was definitely difficult, but totally worth it. Every morning at sunrise, over 200 monks walk down the streets to accept alms from the townspeople, visitors and tourists. It was a very interesting and heartfelt ceremony and a once in a lifetime experience for us. We did not participate and made sure to stand back away from the procession as to not disrespect or interrupt. People mostly gave food and some personal belongings. We observed for a bit and then went back to the room to get another couple of hours of sleep in.
The rest of the day we relaxed in a coffee shop and walked around town a bit. We enjoyed the well preserved authenticity of the town and felt very refreshed by the laid back and genuine culture. We caught a flight to Bangkok and then a night train back up to Chiang Mai to finish exploring this awesome city in northern Thailand. The night train this time around was a lot better, as our beds were located more central in the car. We arrived in Chiang main around 12:00pm and were so excited for the next two days here.
Follow your tummy…
-Jess and Seven
May 10-12, 2016