The descent into Luang Prabang was the most beautiful on any flight we’ve experienced. Our view from the tiny airplane window was incredible: dense mountains separated by long narrow rivers, vibrant green vegetation everywhere, and brown thatched roofs scattered throughout. We landed and walked along the jetway toward the airport, our heads on a swivel in attempt to take in our surroundings. We knew we were in a special place.
We spent a week in Luang Prabang, and our favorite memories came in the simple moments… Standing on the sidewalk above the Mekong River watching a group of boys play freely on the banks below. We couldn’t help but feel their joy and freedom. Speaking with two young boys at the Lantern Festival who asked, “Can we be your friend?” and tried so hard to talk to us in English, grasping for words and smiling when they did not translate. Riding on a long boat down the river as fishermen cast lines into the water and children gleefully jumped in to swim.
In addition to these, below is a list of our favorite things we did, spots we ate and drank at, and places we stayed.
- Night Market – The Night Market is set up every night and is a quiet and calm way to shop and eat. Plenty of vendors set up selling paintings, scarves, bags, wooden sculptures, and the like. There was even a woman selling metal jewelry made out of old bombs.
- Cooking Class – Another delicious cooking class, which we’ll recount in further detail in an upcoming post.
- Mekong River Cruise – We took a slow boat down the Mekong River (about 3 hours roundtrip) to visit the Pak Ou Caves. The boat ride was the highlight of our day, and we loved seeing Laotian life up close on the river.
- Pak Ou Caves – This was the main stop on our river cruise, and there are two caves here that are filled with over 2,000 Buddha statues.
- Kuang Si Waterfalls – We rode motorbikes about an hour away to visit these famed waterfalls, and it was definitely worth the trip. The drive there was scenic and remote. The waterfalls were beautiful! We got there early in the morning to avoid the rush, which was a bright choice (we saw crowds were piling in on our way out).
- Observing the Monk Almsgiving – Every morning the monks in Luang Prabang wake up before sunrise and line up on the streets near their temples to receive food that the people offer them. This is the only food that the monks receive all day, so they are dependent on the morning ceremony. This is an important religious tradition that we were lucky to observe.
- Biking around town (and beyond) – Our hotel (and most in the area) have free bikes for guest use, so we took advantage of these and explored the surrounding areas.
- Street Food – the Night Market had the best street food we’ve had in Southeast Asia, but it’s located down a narrow alley so it was a little tricky to find. The dumplings and pork skewers were our favorites.
- Utopia – This cafe/restaurant/bar is perfect. It’s hidden deep within winding streets in the city and overlooks the river. We sat in comfortable couches under a thatched roof and enjoyed drinks, food, and the view.
- Manda de Laos – Delicious dinner in a very peaceful setting. We sat at table with couches situated around a lily pond and enjoyed traditional Lao food – lemongrass stuffed chicken, duck, curry, and sticky rice with jeow (a dipping sauce).
- Opera House – Great drinks and food (we shared a pizza) with a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
- Tamarind – We took our cooking class through this restaurant but never had dinner here. Everyone raves about the food!
- We read amazing things about Secret Pizza – it’s only open for dinner two nights per week and the owner sells pizza until it’s gone.
- Lakangthong Boutique Hotel – We fell in love with this little hotel which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the main road in town. The people working were so kind, especially Min, and they helped us rent motorbikes, book a bus north to Nong Khiaw, and find a boat for a Mekong River Cruise. The room was around $30 per night and included breakfast – the most delightful banana pancakes!
- Saynamkhan Hotel – When Lakangthong was fully booked for our last night in Luang Prabang we stayed here at Saynamkhan. It had a great location, close to the river and to the main road in town, and was clean and comfortable.
- We also read that Satri House is a nice place to stay with a great pool (it was a little more $ than we wanted to spend). We strolled past and peeked in to discover that it does indeed look serene.