48 Hours In Luang Prabang

by - 3:00 PM


'You've got to be kidding me.' Those were the first words that came to mind when my slow boat arrived at the port of Luang Prabang in Laos. There was nothing there except for an inflatable dock, a staircase into the jungle and a sign saying that it was indeed the port of Luang Prabang. It was my second day in Laos and I was kind of afraid Luang Prabang would be a disappointment. Judging by the port there wouldn't be much to do... And I had 48 hours to kill... Luckily my first impression of Luang Prabang couldn't be further from it's true awesomeness.

As it turned out, the port is just a bit of a fake thing to make tourists pay for a tuktuk ride to the peninsula where all the touristy stuff is. I didn't mind (I can almost hear my dad think: That's because you didn't have to pay for it), because I really like tuktuks. It took us to, well, some place. No idea exactly where we were and the driver couldn't explain either. So with a Lonely Planet in hand my parents and I  wandered onto the peninsula to find a place to stay. The first thing we came across was the night market. It's totally aimed at tourists and I loved it. It was extremely Instagrammable. If I hadn't been backpacking I probably would've doubled the weight of my luggage with handmade stationery and little lanterns with fairy lights in them. It's a wonderful busy place after sunset, which I'd recommend visiting. Especially if you still need some cute souvenirs to take home.

My parents and I checked into one of the many guest houses on the peninsula, got some food and sorted tickets to Vientiane and Phnom Penh out the next morning. Then my dad and I rented bicycles. There are lots of places that rent out bikes for practically no money and an ID as deposit (expired student IDs are fine too). The peninsula is a great place to ride a bike. It's calm, there isn't too much traffic (for an Asian city) and it feels like cycling on a Caribbean island. Most tourists stay on the peninsula, but it's easy to discover more of Luang Prabang by bike. My dad and I, stubborn Dutch people as we are, decided to go to the other side of the Mekong river to cycle there. That wasn't the best idea, but it made for an awesome story for another day.


I spent the rest of that first day buying souvenirs and almost passing out. Turns out I don't handle a combination of heat and hunger well at all. A bit of pork with garlic from an alleyway restaurant later I was fine thought and the next day I was all set and ready for the excursions we'd book.

Early in the morning we took a small boat back up the Mekong. I tried to take a nap, as it was the exact same route we'd taken with the slow boat, but couldn't sleep because of a plus-sized woman going from the left to the right of the boat and back to take pictures. I was fairly sure she'd make the already not too stable boat tip over by switching sides every few minutes, but luckily that didn't happen and I even managed to sleep for a few minutes.
After what could've been hours or maybe minutes (I have no idea since I lost all track of time) we arrived at the Pak Ou Caves. These caves are accessible from the rive and are home to over 4000 Buddha icons. It's been a sacred place for centuries, where locals come to pray. We had to pay a small entrance fee, then also made to small donations. In exchange for the donations I got a small orange candle which I could burn on an altar. It was there, in the lower Tham Ting Cave, that I prayed for the first time in my life and started to get a little bit into Buddhism.
Once the candle had been burned I started the steep climb to Tham Theung, the upper cave. The upper cave is darker, creepier and also filled with Buddha icons - and for some unknown reason one of a penis. I would've liked to spend more time in the upper cave to take some good pictures, but had to rush to catch the boat back to Luang Prabang.


A short lunch break in Luang Prabang later we got into a minivan that brought us to what everyone simply calls 'The Waterfall'. It's officially called Kuang Si Falls, but The Waterfall will do just fine, everyone will understand what you're talking about. Again we had to pay a small entrance fee, but this time the minivan driver tried to scam us. Luckily I'd learned to count to four in Lao, so my dad and I managed to make clear we wanted the money he took for the fourth ticket back, because there were only three of us. When that was all cleared up we entered the park, which had both a bear rescue and the Kuang Si Falls as tourist attraction. I walked straight to the waterfall because I desperately wanted a swim. Yet when I arrived at the lowest tier of the waterfall I forgot all about swimming. The waterfall was the most beautiful waterfall I'd ever seen. The water was a beautiful shade of turquoise, there was a fine mist in the air and the tropical trees and plants all around made it look like paradise. It was a true photographer's dream. And as soon as I dipped one toe into the water I decided to stick with photography because the water was freaking cold. Totally worth the visit though. Instagram aesthetics, you know.

Back in Luang Prabang my dad and I decided to climb the random staircase on the peninsula that had been calling our names since the minute we arrived there. It led to a legendary stupa, a building that contains a Buddhist relic, which had been put there by the god Hanuman because he apparently liked it better in Laos than in Sri Lanka. We paid yet small another entrance fee and suddenly found ourselves completely surrounded by a mob of tourists once we reached the stupa. The sun was about to set and the stupa is the most popular place in Luang Prabang to see it happen, which my dad and I neither knew, nor cared about. It was a cloudy day anyway, so my dad and I admired the stupa that all the other tourists ignored.

By the time we came back down from the stupa I was pretty tired. As we walked back to our guest house I took my final pictures of Luang Prabang's peninsula. It was such a relaxed place with so many beautiful views. I could've easily filled my memory card then and there.
Close to the guest house I came across Big Brother Mouse, a small local publishing house that works hard at providing Lao children in the entire Luang Prabang region with quality books in their own language. Every day they organize free English classes for the local schoolchildren and invite tourists to come and practice with them. Your accent doesn't matter. The children are really good at speaking English and are used to accents. I'm ashamed to admit I was too chicken to join in, but if you're ever in Luang Prabang and want to make a small positive change in the world, go to Big Brother Mouse at 9am or 5pm. It'll be much appreciated.

That night marked the end of my 48 hour stay in Luang Prabang. The next morning we'd take the bus to Vientiane. I already knew I was going to miss Luang Prabang; it was busy and lively, but not crazy and crowded like most Asian cities. It's one of those place I hope to see again one day.

x Envy

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14 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Wow, I am so glad that your trip to this place improved after the slight disappointment of the "port" haha! I would definitely have been tempted to splurge in on the handmade stationery at the pretty market as well! The waterfall is absolutely amazing and you've captured the light beautifully in your photos, that must be an unforgettable memory for you! Not surprised that you want to go back!

    Abbey 🎃📚 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk/

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    1. That port was the most confusing thing ever. I really felt like I'd been dumped in the middle of nowhere, haha. The stationery was so cheap if you haggled a bit. Not that I even tried, I hate haggling. Lucky for me my dad loves it.
      The waterfall was one of those places that looks good in every single picture, no matter how shitty your camera is. It's amazing.

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  2. Sounds like an amazing place to go to. Everything sounds so amazing and tempting! I am on holiday in Gran Canaria just now. not as exciting! xx corinne

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    1. I think there aren't many places like Laos. Europe doesn't come close in any way!

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  3. Hi, glad that things got better on the trip, love the photos the waterfall looks stunning.

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    1. Thanks! It just kept getting better after crossing the border into Laos :)

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  4. These photos look incredible! So glad you grew to like the place! Must get this added to our bucket list!

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Jessica & James | Food & Baker

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    1. Thank you! I slowly fell for Laos at first and suddenly I was madly in love.

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  5. Yeah so I just spent half an hour staring at that picture of the waterfall. It looks amazing.
    Your adventures are so incredible and I love how you write about them. You don't gloss over it, you're honest. It's amazing.
    Cora ❤ http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

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    1. Hahaha I hope you enjoyed that half hour of staring. I hate people who gloss over stuff, reality is beautiful in itself and if we paint a picture that's too pretty people will end up hurt and disappointed. That's not what I want with my blog.

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  6. Wow, what an interesting place to visit! Love that pic of the waterfall.

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    1. Thank you! It's one of the most interesting countries in the world in my opinion.

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  7. Luang Prabang sounds like a really interesting place to visit - I've put it on my travel list now :)

    Femenish

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    1. I hope you get to experience Luang Prabang for yourself one day :)

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