February 23, 2013 by 2sorefeet
We had heard great things about Luang Prabang from other travellers before we arrived, so we had high expectations of the city without knowing exactly what to expect. Situated on a peninsula surrounded by the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers, the city is an absolute gem, a mix of colonial French architecture and Asian temples. A UNESCO enforced constriction has ensured that all the buildings within the city have stayed a maximum of two stories, so visually the city almost feels like a town from an old western.
Marketplace in Luang Prabang
When the sun sets, the main street of the city transforms into one of the nicest night markets in Asia (apparently) changing the atmosphere and feel of the city completely. A food section complete with a giant buffet with barbeques offering local grilled fish for 20,000kip (around €1.90) being our favourite part of the market.
Master of chopsticks
After being on the road for 2 and a half months, we were delighted to find that the French had not only left their influence on the architecture but also on the many restaurants and cafes lining the streets throughout the city serving croissants and baguettes better than in Luxembourg!
Although the city is quite small, we spent 4 days here occupying our time with a healthy mix of chilling out, cycling around the city, meeting up with a Canadian friend we had met in Thailand and visiting an insanely beautiful waterfall 30kms outside the city for a long anticipated swim.
At the waterfalls
Ridiculously beautiful waterfalls near Luang Prabang
- At the waterfalls
With Matt, Canadian friend and pirate lookalike
Our next port of call was Vang Vieng, a 6 hour minivan ride southwards through breath-taking lush green mountain scenery that seemed to go on forever. Anyone who has travelled in SE Asia before has more than likely heard of Vang Vieng for tubing and partying. But we were a bit late for that, the party stopped in November last year and all the bars were closed down. Not by choice either, we heard lots of stories of the police/army burning down some bars and knocking others with bulldozers overnight.
Vang Vieng countryside
Vang Vieng countryside
Not impressed by the town, we quickly rented mountain bikes and headed for the countryside. A 7km cycle outside of the town and we were surrounded by karst cliffs, rice fields and blue lagoons ripe for swimming and cooling down, which is exactly what we did for the one day we spent here. And just like that, it was time to pack up and leave again.
Mountain biking in Vang Vieng
Vientiane, the nation’s capital, nothing more than a centre of administration and governmental buildings- we didn’t really like it here so decided to leave after one day. But, then my body decided otherwise. A quick trip to the French embassies’ medical centre told us that I didn’t have malaria or dengue fever- just a flu that required a few bed stricken days to get over. So, now Vientiane takes its’ place alongside Delhi on our list of capitals we have been stranded in due to illness. Role on Bangkok (again), Phnom Phen, Santiago, La Paz & Lima…
6 days and a sleeper bus later we found ourselves in the southern city of Pakse faced with a tough choice of either renting a motorbike and hitting the Bolaven Plateau to the East or going directly to the 4,000 islands in the south which borders Cambodia. Deciding on the latter, we headed for Don Khon, one of many islands created at the Mekong’s widest section (reaching 14kms wide during the rainy season)
A super chilled out, tranquil island with bungalows equipped with hammocks was what awaited us after our 30 minute boat trip from the mainland. Friendly locals, great food, chatting to other travellers & yes, you guessed it… more cycling around and visiting waterfalls (one of the most spectacular we’d seen in Laos) was the flavour of the Don Khon throughout our 4 days of island life, we even managed a swim in the mighty Mekong.
Fishermen on the Mekong
Canyon running through the Island
Then, sadly, the realisation came that our month long stay in Laos had come to an end and it was time for a supposedly “short” bus journey to Cambodia… more on that later.
One of the incredible sunsets on the Island
Laos, we love you & we will miss you. Goodbye for now, please don’t change too much.