We had arrived in Luang Prabang after our 2 day Mekong River cruise from Thailand into Laos.
Our guide Mark who had managed to pull a muscle in his leg and was hobbling along, gave us the usual orientation tour of the town. It’s a really pretty town heavily influenced by French colonial history.
We took a stroll through the market and up Mount Phousi at the centre of the city that gives you magnificent views of the city and the river. Most people go up here to watch the sunset in the evenings. Unfortunately the sun dropped behind some clouds whilst we were there but it was stunning nonetheless.
For our dinner we had a really interesting traditional Lao meal called a Lao Barbecue. We sat in a really nice open air restaurant with twinkling lights that gave a lovely atmosphere. Whilst sitting at the table, the waiter came and removed part of the middle of the table leaving a big gaping hole. Inside he put a stone bucket and filled it with coal which he then lit. On top of this was the grill which was almost like a bowl. Inside we filled it with a stock and then we had bowls full of vegetables and noodles, a plate of meats including pork, chicken and buffalo and chopped garlic and chilli.
We cooked all the meat ourselves and the vegetables and noodles were plunged in to the stock too, which would mix with all the juices from the meat and create a really tasty soup. YUM!
We then returned to the market, which was all lit up and I ate a doughnut from the bakery stall. Heidi had a delicious chocolate and banana crepe. A nice end to a lovely evening.
After breakfast we did a couple of our included activities. The first was a visit to the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre. This was a museum detailing the different ethnicities of the Lao people. There are several ethnic groups some indiginous to the country and others deriving mainly from neighboring countries such Thailand and Vietnam.
Laos has a very rich history. Random fact, did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? During the Vietnam war the US dropped over 260 million bombs on this small country, more than the total dropped during the Second World War. Unfortunately over 80 million failed to explode leaving a deadly legacy.
In the afternoon we drove 40 minutes out of town into the forest to visit some beautiful waterfalls called Kouang Si. After walking into the forest past the bear sanctuary we came to some incredibly beautiful turquoise pools, the kind you imagine on some tropical Hawaiian island. There were 4 or 5 pools one after the other all joined up by gentle cascading waterfalls. At the top of the path was a huge waterfall which looked amazing!!
The best thing about it all was that you could swim in these waters. It was so nice. The water was cool but refreshing in the afternoon heat. The biggest pool had a tree overhanging the water perfectly positioned for a rope swing. And so it was a rope dangled down which you could swing on and throw yourself off into the clear water below.
The place just had a really nice atmosphere with all the locals coming up for a Sunday family picnic in the forest.
That evening we were taken to a local ladie’s house where we were invited into their home for a traditional home cooked Lao meal. It was really sweet, the lady named La as well as her elderly Mum and some other family invited us in. They did a welcoming ceremony where they blessed us and the food and tied eight white bracelets on to our arms.
The food was then served by La and it was delicious!! A huge salad made from lettuce, tomatoes, egg, herbs, lemon…all sorts! The flavours were beautiful. There was also sausage, Lap, aubergine, seaweed and chicken wings. It was all really nice!
La was a lovely lady too and explained to us about her big family and how they live. It was a nice evening and a really unique experience that not a lot of travellers get to do.
Today we went on a days Biking and Kayaking tour through the country side and back along the Mae Kok River. The mountain biking was excellent and thoroughly enjoyable although hard work up some of the steep hills. It took us roughly 45 minutes to do about 15km at a comfortable pace.
At the end of the biking we stopped at Elephant Village which is a conservation project looking after the endagered Elephants of Laos. You can choose to ride an elephant but this seemed unecessary. Instead we bought some bananas and fed them. It was amazing getting so close to them and being able to touch their tough skin. Their trunks are incredilby versatile and good at sniffing and sucking up food to put in their mouths. After feeding the elephants we walked down to the river.
Once we reached the river’s edge we transferred to our kayaks for our 4 hour trip down river. It was nice and the scenery was beautiful but being dry season the river was quite slow and it took a lot of paddling to move anywhere. Some parts were a bit faster and had some exciting rapids. Quite a few times we felt and heard rocks underneath us scrape along the underside of the kayak.
After stopping at the river’s edge for some fried rice with chicken we set off once more. We were quite tired of paddling at this point but there were some more rapids up ahead that would help us drift along quicker so we kept going. Once we reached the rapids we followed Rhonda and Pud (our guide) who were in the kayak ahead of us. Unfortunately the side of our kayak hit a rock and we capsized.
We were fine and the part where we flipped over was shallow enough to stand up in. Our kayak, one oar, our bag of belongings and Heidi’s flip flops drifted down river but were rescued by our guide Pud.
We needed to get to the river bank so we could walk down to get back on our kayak but either side of our little stone island where we were standing was deep fast flowing water.
We started crossing after a while trying to decide where to cross. A man who was fishing and Pud came to help us but unfortunately Heidi got swept down the river which was a little scary but she managed to get on to some rocks. Once we were both safely on land and back in our kayaks we serveyed the damage. Even though our belongings were in a dry bag they still managed to get wet. Our small camera and mobile phone were promptly put in a bag of rice…as we tried to rescue them. The camera in the end was fine but my phone broke
After going down the river for a bit longer our little adventure finished and we returned back to the town.
In the evening we headed down to the night street food market which was immense! It was basically all you can eat street food. You pay tuppence for a plate and then get to eat lots of yum street food including fresh fish, meat and different types of Lao dishes. Delicious!
After we headed to Utopia, a picturesque garden retreat with a bar overlooking the river. It was a great evening and an end to an awesome time in Luang Prabang.