Have you ever arrived somewhere and immediately gone "YES YES! I LOVE THIS PLACE!" and actually meant it? I hadn’t. Sure I have left a place thinking "Nooooo I don’t want to go :(" But never has a place captivated me the way that Laos and more specifically Luang Prabang has. I’m sure much younger travellers would disagree with me. This is a place that closes early (city curfew is 11:30) and rises early. There are no full moon type parties or drugs on display, in fact a lot of the young people who find themselves in sleepy LPB are in transit to the famous tubing in Vang Vieng or various other adventurous locations. I’m pretty sure the thought of staying in LPB for them is a bit frightening! For me though this is a place I could stay for months at a time and be quite happy. It’s absolutely beautiful. Luang Prabang is a town where you can just imagine great writers penning their greatest works and philosophers pondering the mysteries of life while watching tangerine robed monks walk along the banks of the Mekong River. It is a town of classic French colonial architecture; traditional villages peaking out from behind palm orchards and long-tail fishing boats slowly drifting down the river. Kids pass by weary of foreigner’s, that is until you smile and then they smile and wave happily before skipping off to join their friends. There is no one desperately trying to sell you sunglasses, transportation or crafts, even though you wouldn’t blame them for doing anything they could for some money.
The food in this town is awesome! Whether it’s Laos cuisine or French baked goods this place does it and does it well! The streets are lined with little ladies selling French bread sandwiches, fruit shakes and at night alleyways turn into Laos buffets. For 10,000 kip ($1.50) you can pile a plate high with an assortment of vegetable, noodle, rice and fruit dishes. While at dinner one night I opted to not get the buffet and while I sat waiting for my travel companions to fill their plates I watched a little boy picking through someone’s discarded takeout bag. My heart broke instantly. Here along this street of more food than will ever be eaten by all the “rich” gluttonous travellers sat a skinny child picking remnants of chicken off of 2 burnt skewers. I did what seemed logical, I went up to the buffet and piled a plate with the buffet’s bounty and handed it to the kid. He accepted shyly and said a quiet thank-you before diving in. What I did wasn’t unique, many people probably would have done the same thing but it was really the first time I’ve helped someone firsthand myself and damn it felt good… I think I’ll do it again!
About an hour outside the town centre you’ll find the Khangsi Waterfall the main draw to the area. Beautiful doesn’t seem like quite the right word to describe the attraction. Imagine coming across quiet waterfalls connecting aqua lagoons amongst a greener than possible forest dotted with wooden bridges and bamboo groves. It’s the perfect place to cool off after being in the heat of the Laos sun. Whether you chose to sit under the falls and allow the water to work sore muscles, fling yourself off a rope for the enjoyment of spectators or just float in the cool water you’ll certainly leave with an urge to turn around and go right back for more! Besides the waterfalls the park is home to the Moon Bear Conservation Park. Bears have been rescued from traditional markets and black market traders and now live in an enclosure that allows them to be almost like normal bears!
Luang Prabang is quiet, quaint and quirky. It is not everyones cup of tea or rather Lao Lao whiskey but it won me over!