We spent most of our time in Luang Prabang just chilling out and visiting a few things that we really loved last time, as well as visiting a few new temples. It was nice to spend time around the river, and just wandering around town.
We climbed Phou Si mountain again to watch the mist float off the mountains in the morning and it was still really cool to do it again a second time.
This time we were quite amazed at how much more touristy Luang Prabang has become – not surprised at the tourism numbers themselves because Laos is fast gaining it’s reputation as an amazing place to visit – just surprised at how it is being handled. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we were quite shocked to find that all of the temples now charge entrance fees, and have shops selling junk food and trinkets to tourists either inside the temple, or just outside. It seems somehow wrong to take these beautiful historical buildings and turn them into crass shop stalls to make another buck from falang. The idea of charging entrance fees for temple upkeep seems a good one, and in many parts of Laos this really does help towards maintaining and repairing the temples; it was sad to see that the temples with the highest entrance fees had rubbish in the grounds from the shop/stall vendors who were selling packaged products, and no rubbish bins around either, so fees are clearly just being pocketed and not used positively.
Also now there are signs up around LP saying that the morning alms giving for the monks has become such a huge tourist attraction that now they are trying to discourage tourists from purchasing sticky rice from the morning vendors – apparently now instead of locals giving to the monks, they prefer to sell products to the tourists to give to them; a strange paradox – the monks are still getting fed which has to be a good thing, but some locals are worried that the religious significance of the alms has gone. Very interesting to see the progress (if you can call it that?) of this town.
Anyway, we had a pleasant few days checking out Luang Prabang again, it was really nice to be back and we’re sure we’ll return again at some point! Our photos are here.
On our last day in Luang Prabang we quickly realised we had saved the best for last. We got a car and driver to take us to the largest waterfall in Luang Prabang early so that we were there before any other tourists arrived. We didn’t realise before we got there that there is also an Asiatic Bear conservation centre on the same site, so before we even got to see the waterfall we spent some time watching the beautiful bears play and sleep. When we got to the first part of the waterfall we were impressed – a lovely pool at the bottom to swim in, and the water was freezing which was very welcome in the Lao heat. (Even at 8 in the morning it’s hot!)
After half an hour or so swimming at the bottom, we decided to investigate the next level up, and were blown away at how huge the waterfall was. When we got up to the main large part of it, we saw a sign that said you could walk right to the top – and instantly decided we’d do that.
While walking up the almost vertical path/rock ledges to the top, at times we wondered if the effort would be worth it because it was insanely steep and seemed to go on forever… when we reached the top though we were rewarded with breathtaking views not only of the mountains in the distance but also we could actually stand on the edge and look down and see all the water falling below us. There was even a rainbow in the waterfall below so it was pretty awesome!
We spent probably an hour or so at the top and then decided to have another swim in a different part of the waterfall on the way down. We ended up spending most of the day there and it was absolutely the best way we could have finished our time in Luang Prabang. Our photos are here.
View our location map in Luang Prabang
When we arrived at our beautiful guesthouse just outside of Luang Prabang we were so pleased that we had chosen it to stay for about 2 and a half weeks here. We had a large, awesome bungalow with a big balcony overlooking the Nam Khan river which was really private and cool. We had a view of rural river life and saw Monks bathing in the river, local fishermen, people tending vegetable crops along the side of the river, and boats gently floating downstream. A cool insight into local river life.
So we were devastated when we found that their internet was really slow, and we had planned to use a week or two for working on the website in Luang Prabang. We stayed for 4 blissful days before reluctantly moving into the town (“city” is the word they use but seriously this is a small town the size of Warkworth).
We had some added excitement when Karen inadvertently put her pack over a hole in the floor and the next morning noticed a couple of ants on top of her pack – which on closer inspection turned out to be about 2000 ants that had taken over her entire pack and required complete emptying of said pack and thorough cleaning! We must be in the slow Asian groove by now though because she found it quite funny and thought it was a good opportunity to clean out her pack anyway.
We have visited some awesome temples in the town and seen some of the pretty French architecture, and the night market is really amazing. So many awesome different foods and some really nice clothing and household items too. So far though we haven’t quite found the magic that people talk about here. We aren’t sure if this is because we are jaded after being amongst so much natural beauty up north, or not, but Eric, Emma and Tricia expressed the same feeling so we think that might possibly be it. Other people are talking about how quiet it is here, and for us it seems quite busy after the serene beauty in northern Laos. Eric and Emma have already left and gone to Vang Vieng, and are trying to convince us to go and join them there… so we will have to see. We are going to spend a few more days here at least to see how we like it in town and then decide what to do next. Our photos are here.