We are Laotian–from Laos, stupid! It’s a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It’s between Vietnam and Thailand, OK? Population 4.7 million.
I flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos but if you have time (which I didn’t) take the ferry along the Mekong River which takes about 3 days. It’s suppose to be an interesting experience and a cheaper way to get to this neighboring country. When I was choosing what countries I wanted to visit on this trip, I included Laos just so I could say I have been to Laos…bad girl, bad girl! I should have wanted to go to experience another Southeast Asia (SEA) culture but tbh I was more concerned about checking another country off my list which I apologize for now. So I only booked to stay 3 days 2 nights and I really regret that I did not stay longer because it ended up being one of my favorite cities. That’s one of the major obstacles with traveling, you want to visit all these different places and if you are on a time restraint you may not know where to focus most of your time. Then once you get to that location it’s beautiful, fun, has charm, and you kick yourself for not booking to stay longer. A few places I visited and things I did while traveling were completely spontaneous. I didn’t know that was the thing to do until I got there and heard it from other travelers, like you have to visit this city, or you have to take the bus from this city to that city. You don’t find out that a particular location is the “place to be” until you here it from other travelers but I digress.
Visiting Laos requires a visa which you can get at the airport or land crossing. I got my visa at the Luang Prabang airport and it costed $37. You can either bring passport photos with you or pay $1 to have your photo taken there. When it comes to traveling solo the only thing that I hate is having to pay full price for a taxi. The only way to get from the airport to my hostel was to take a taxi so being the thrifty traveler that I am, I tried to grab a ride with a fellow traveler who was headed in my direction. This is where I met my new Aussie mates Bryon and Cal, I asked them if they would like to share a taxi into town. They were sweet and they seemed to be super fun; they even paid my share for the taxi ride…my travel angels. My hostel was located in city center and in walking distance of such places like restaurants, the market place, the night market, Mekong River, and Utopia. At my hostel is where I met my German friend Cynthia and Melanie from Austria. As we sat around talking, I got the scoop on the things to do while visiting Laos, so apparently I was suppose to go tubing down the river in Vang Vieng which I didn’t have time to do, whomp whomp. But there was still fun and exciting things to do in Luang Prabang so these ladies would become my go to travel companions for the duration of my stay. We made plans for the following days to rent motor bikes and head up to Kuang Si Falls, visit the Alms Giving Ceremony, the night market, take a yoga class, and visit Utopia.
Melanie and I head to Utopia to meet up with a friend she met while traveling. I had no idea what Utopia was but everyone was saying it was the hangout spot. It was not easy to find, it’s off the main street and goes into an ally with a lot of twists and turns and multiple paths but finally we found it. Utopia is a bar/restaurant that is outdoors with a really cool bungalow decor. All the furniture is made from wood and there are pillows on the floor to sit on; it’s very hippie chic. I found the Aussie boys that I met at the airport and they asked if I would like to go bowling after Utopia closes at 11:15pm, whack, because that’s the thing to do once it’s closes. After hanging out for while at Utopia it finally closes and Cynthia, some other people, and I get a tuk tuk and go to the Bowling Place. The Bowling Place was on and popping with music playing, people drinking, people smoking, and just people having a good time. To go bowling here costs 20,000kip/person and no shoe rental needed because people were bowling in regular shoes, flip flops, socks, bare-feet, anything goes at the Bowling Place (it’s not the real name of the bowling alley, idk it’s real name…sorry). I ended up winning the bowling game (yay, me) and the music was rocking so I created a dance floor and had the Aussie boys dance with me and others joined in on the makeshift dance floor. Finally around 2am Cynthia and I head back to the hostel. You know, there are some people in life that you meet who have the most fascinating stories to tell about their travels and I discovered one of those people at my hostel. Ruby was an amazing girl I met who’s stories about traveling around the world are meant to be written in books and one day I hope to be just like her.
The next day the plan was to rent a motorbike and head up to Kuang Si Falls but it rained really hard before we were going to leave and people were concerned about the road conditions so renting motor bikes plan fell through. Melanie, Cynthia, and I found another group in our hostel heading to the falls so we all decided to go together and just get a tuk tuk to take us. The round trip cost for a tuk tuk was 25,000kip/person which is about $3; that’s a steal. One of the main reasons I love staying in hostels is because it becomes a meeting place for people all over the world and in our tuk tuk there were English, American, Brazilian, Austrian, and German people off on an adventure. Kuang Si Falls is a stunning 3 tiered waterfall in Luang Prabang with secret pools and a Bear Conservation Sanctuary. The cost to get in is 20,000kip which includes the bear sanctuary. The bears are rescued from the bile industry because the bears produce a bile that some cultures think is a medicine…crazy. Some how Cynthia and I become the main attraction at the bear sanctuary amongst this group of Asian tourist. They kept coming up to us wanting to have their picture taken with us; I guess my dark skin and Cynthia’s pale skin made us a fascinating site. Getting to the waterfalls was easy but be care during the rainy season because there is a lot of mud and it gets seriously slippery. The waterfalls were very nice (brown due to the rain) but the water was cold maybe visiting during the dry season will be an better opportunity to go for a dip.
In the evening once we returned back to the hostel Cynthia, Melanie, and I along with others went out to the night market which has some really tasty vegetarian food and some of it is vegan friendly. The night markets food section consists of rows of tables with different dishes and has different owners for each table. Some tables offer one free refill and others don’t so pick wisely. The price range is from 20,000 – 30,000kip and the seating area is shared by all diners which is a perfect opportunity to meet a new friend. After the night market we decided to go back to Utopia for a night of dancing and fun. I ran into my Aussies again and they introduced to my kindred dancing sista Harriet from Australia. That night Harriet and I were the dance floor. Take note that if you decided at anytime to dance while outside in SEA, you will be dripping with sweat. After Utopia it was back to the Bowling Place for a spirited game of unstructured bowling, where tonights group was all about everything goes. After bowling and a failed attempt by the Aussies to throw a pool party, Cynthia and I headed back to the hostel around 3am and we had to be up for the monks feeding at 5:30am (truly believe while on vacation sleeping should be your last priority).
One of the rituals in Luang Prabang is the Alms Giving Ceremony where the Buddhist monks walk down the street early in the morning to receive food and offerings from the local people and tourist. It’s a peaceful and humbling experience to both witness and take part in the ceremony. There were some adult monks but the majority of them were little boys. If you decide to attend the ceremony you are not obligated to have a offering for the monks but if you wish to present them with one, you are welcome to do so. After the ceremony Cynthia, Doris (a fellow roommate), and I decided to take the morning yoga class at Utopia. The class starts at 7:30am, costs 40,000kip, and it’s outdoors overlooking the Mekong River. The yoga class is for an hour and yoga mats are provided but it feels more like a Bikram yoga class because even though it’s early in the morning the humidity will still make you sweat like hot yoga. All in all it was a good experience, the price was reasonable, and the scenery and the view made for a unique yoga class. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel and I wanted to go explore the city so I set off to the temple that was built up a hill in town where the monks live. Although there wasn’t much to see within the temple, it did offer a superb view of Luang Prabang. On my way back to the hostel I ran into Cynthia, she was headed to Utopia (I guess you can say this was the kick it spot) so I join her because in a few hours I will have to head off to the airport. We found the perfect seats on the bamboo platform looking out over the Mekong River, ordered some food, and just relaxed and took it all in…well it was great while it lasted but my alarm rings and I know it’s time to go. I say goodbye to Cynthia and hopefully our paths will cross again. Vietnam here I come.
On the next episode of SEA: Vietnam.