We arrived in Luang Prabang (LP) an hour or so before the sun set. The boat used to drop you right in town, but around five years ago they moved the landing site 5km up town, so that most people were forced to take additional transport into LP. We had heard the prices were fixed, so after arriving to find out they were expecting ridiculous prices, we proceeded to walk away and try to catch a ride elsewhere. About five minutes into the walk a tuk-tuk stopped and a lovely French woman poked her head out and proudly told us she managed to haggle him down to half the prize they were asking at the pier and invited us to join them. We picked up a few more people this way and piled up together on our way into town. We were dropped at the edge of the night market, where people were starting to set up for the day. Tim left me with our stuff while he departed with the French couple to find us a place to stay. I waited for a few hours while practising on the guitar and watching the preparations for the market come up around me.
He eventually found a very affordable room in a hotel with a small balcony facing the Nam Khan river and very close to a gorgeous bamboo bridge that is rebuilt every year during the dry season and allows you to get to the other side, where some farms stand. There is a second bridge further upstream, right before this smaller river meets and joins the Mekong.
We spent a few days exploring the town and relaxing. It has a very chilled atmosphere, and lots of good street food. The cheapest again were the sandwiches, and we found a lady that made delicious ones with home made lemony mayo. Fruit juice is another great commodity and it comes in all sorts of strange and exciting combinations. To our surprise we also found a vegetarian buffet stall with a few tables on the street right next to the market where we were able to get a full plate for only 2USD.
There are quite a few things to see around town. The colonial architecture is certainly charming, and there are heaps of beautiful brightly coloured flowers. The markets sell good looking fresh produce and also some crazy products as shown below.
Moving around town is made simple with an amazing invention: electric tuk-tuks. They are much slower than their fossil fuelled powered cousins, but there is never much reason to hurry anyway, and they are fun, cheap and green 🙂
Of course there is also an amazing Buddhist temple and a few other jewels around the grounds. One of them being a chariot they use for festivals.
One of the days, we visited the iconic Kuang Si Waterfall. We bargained hard with a tuk-tuk driver to get the price we wanted and off we went. The road was windy and soon made its way through the country side. When we arrived we were surprised to find there is a sun bear sanctuary before the waterfall (and the entrance fee covers both!). They had dedicated a bit of space to update people on the different bear types and their situation around the world. Most information pertained to the sun bear of course, and informed us of the reality of this gorgeous buggers. Many of them are confined to cages and their stomach bile is periodically extracted as it is used for Chinese medicine. The creatures at the reserve look happy and healthy, though some show signs of their traumatic past (like an ex circus bear that keeps moving a paw in circles non stop). They are extremely cute and look super cuddly ❤
The waterfall itself is absolutely stunning. The limestone that forms the soil gives it a gorgeous turquoise colour unlike anything I have seen anywhere other than the NZ south island. It comes in many layers that form pools where you can swim. The water is cool, clean and extremely refreshing. Many tourist visit it daily, but it is so big that you can still find pools to swim in relative privacy. There is an old abandoned watermill that completes the picture.
After walking through the different levels for about 15 minutes, you come to the main waterfall, and impressive drop with different tears. It is possible to go all the way up through a pretty fun and challenging trail and go back down on the other side. It is definitely a must do activity when in LP!