Luang Prabang takes about 6 hours to get to by bus from Vang Vieng. Luang Prabang is not the capital of Laos, but it is certainly way more beautiful and cultural. So beautiful, in fact, that it became a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. If you only have time for a short trip in Laos you should skip the capital (Vientiane) and head for Luang Prabang instead.
Kuang Si Waterfall
This is a must in Luang Prabang- in fact, a must for Laos. Kuang Si Waterfall is more like a series of waterfalls. Just keep walking up until you find a spot that you like. My favorite spot was the pool with the Tarzan rope swing. In this pool you can even get a free fish spa. This pool is home to the same fish that you find in fish spa’s across South East Asia- except these are bigger. They nibble at the dead skin of your feet. If you find this annoying just keep your feet moving to keep them away.
While at these falls you can also visit the Asiatic Black Bear Rescue Centre. Most of these bears have been saved from being used for traditional medicine. The entrance fee is about 20,000 kip. You can read more about the project here.
To get to the falls the easiest way is to take a tuk-tuk. Try and find as many friends as possible to join you to split the cost since the falls are about 25 km away.
Considering that Luang Prabang has 33 temples you have no excuse not to visit one. At many of their temples you can buy caged birds and set them free when you reach the top. In Laos they believe that this will bring you good luck. I didn’t do it because birds terrify me.
Mount Phousi is beautiful to visit in the evening because even though there are a lot of stairs to climb it will all be worth it to watch the sun set over the beautiful city. You can reach it from the town center.
Luang Prabang has a fantastic night market! Most of the street vendors don’t have real stands but instead have their items displayed on clothes on the ground. Even if you are traveling light and don’t want to buy anything you should still go just to check out the wonderful items and enjoy the market atmosphere.
This market isn’t very crowded, which allows you to enjoy your time browsing a lot more. Many of the items here would make for great gifts- I bought some jewelry and a beautiful chopstick set.
I would recommend that you circle the market first before buying anything because you might see something that catches your eye and then 5 minutes later see something that you like even more. And don’t be afraid to bargain!
Hang with Locals
As I always say- meeting locals is the best way to experience the culture. This photo was taken late one night when we were sitting on the patio of a restaurant and went in to use the bathroom before we left. The restaurant was closed but the workers were all singing karaoke and invited us to join along.
They invitingly passed around the beer for us to drink- everyone drank out of the same glass and the beer had ice cubes in it to keep it cold. They sang some local songs and when our turn came we sang “The Summer of 69.” We had no music or lyrics to help us out but they seemed to love our rendition of the song anyway.
A few beers later we were playing the drums with chopsticks on random items around the restaurant. You can’t buy memories like that.
Elephant Village Sanctuary
Do you have any travel regrets? Were in a country and missed out on an opportunity that you may never have again. Well, missing out on the Elephant Sanctuary was one of my biggest travel regrets.
A few days before coming across this opportunity I had been pick-pocketed and so had no money or cards. I was relying on my friend from New Zealand that I was traveling with to lend me money- and she wasn’t too happy about it. She also wasn’t too happy about the idea of going to an elephant sanctuary. Why someone wouldn’t want to make friends with such beautiful and majestic animals is beyond me. Since she didn’t want to spend the money to go I felt awkward asking her for money so that I could go without her.
I don’t remember the exact price (it varies from who you buy it from and your bargaining skills)- I do remember that it was more expensive than anything else that I came across in Laos. But since this is Laos that we are talking about it was still a very cheap price for such an amazing experience.
Unfortunately, I cannot speak about the experience but their website has more information and testimonials from people who have gone to the elephant sanctuary. So unless you want to be like me and regret not going- you should probably check it out.