After a 10-hour sleeper bus ride from SaPa we get to Dien Ben Phu, last Vietnamese town before the border, but not satisfied we decide to go on to Luang Prabang for other 14 hours on a minivan!
If you need info about crossing the border between Vietnam and Laos, check our dedicated post How to go from SaPa to Luang Prabang.
We leave Dien Bien Phu at 7.30 am and cross the border after a couple of hours, saying goodbye to the country which has been our home for unforgettable months. After 26 endless hours of travelling we get to Luang Prabang, exhausted.
The minivan drops us as usual at the out of town bus station but, despite the tiredness, we opt for a walk together with other backpackers, as the tuk-tuk drivers try to rip us off with absurd prices. This was just a taste of Laotian high prices, compared to Thailand and Vietnam. Considering the country being the poorest in Southeast Asia, we naively expected it to be cheaper; instead we quickly understood that demand and competition are quite low, and this increases the prices.
Getting closer to our guesthouse, we immediately notice the charming colonial style of the city: narrow alleys run amongst imposing villas, white fences and well finished gardens.
We decide to spend the first day exploring the town, and we immediately understand why it’s so appealing to tourists. The centre lies on a highland at the confluence of rivers Nam Khan and Mekong: it is so familiar to us, we immediately think of our hometown Cuneo back in Italy (yet we don’t have the Mekong there!).
Majestic temples are all around, very colourful and Thai-style shaped.
As we walk on the riverside, we meet the huge Mekong, bars and restaurants lie on its bank offering a nice view to their customers. An electric tuk-tuk stops by and we jump on for a quick tour around the city, a nice ecologic and cheap idea (0.50 cents a ticket).
We get off along opposite Nam Khan river, and climb on a steep path leading to the Phusi Temple complex, dominating Luang Prabang from above. We lose time cognition in this very peaceful and evocative area, where we encounter many monks living by their traditional life style.
At the top we enjoy a broad view on charming Luang Prabang, embedded between two rivers and a thick jungle.
Getting down from the hill, we stop at a market supplied with all kind of sandwiches and smoothies, mostly avocado for Ambra’s happiness.
In the evening we dive into the night market, which takes place everyday along the city’s main road: the souvenirs and local products are very nice. Our dinner consists of a buffet, which seems very popular but doesn’t satisfy us very much. We still haven’t understood the peculiarity of Laotian kitchen yet, actually they sell a lot of Vietnamese dishes here.
The next day starts well with the tasty breakfast offered by our guesthouse. We get a bike-to-rent for 100,000 kip (about 12$), instead of taking the sponsored tuk-tuk tours, and head to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The site is 30 km away, the road is awesome among forests and villages; we only get stopped by the army officers, as they are shooting with guns and mortars on a hill next to the road!
KUANG SI WATERFALLS
As we get to the waterfalls, the set up is very touristy, luckily we got up early enough to avoid the big crowds. After walking through the jungle and past a rehabilitation center for black bears, we reach these incredible falls: the river forms naturals pools of turquoise waters where you can dive freely.
The water is quite cool but after getting in we don’t want to leave anymore! The colours are absolutely stunning, almost unreal!
We walk up the stream to find our peaceful corner, there are dozens of pools, and we find ourselves alone for a while in this magical waters surrounded by the jungle sounds only. As we climb on the rocks we go from one pool to the next, under the falls, we look around and realize how lucky we are!
We hike up to the top of the waterfall, where the lazy river rests before jumping off. Coming back down we can’t resist a last swim in the awesome pools.
We get back to Luang Prabang for our last night, in the morning we are leaving to continue our journey through Laos: an adventurous slow-boat cruise on Mekong River will take us west towards Thailand!
Only downside, Edo got cut under his foot while diving from a tree branch, and so won’t be able to walk properly for a few days, but a comfortable boat will be the perfect solution for our next travels.
WHERE TO STAY:
- Le Bougainvillier, Luang Prabang: charming welcome in the lounge area, great staff and excellent breakfast!
- Mekong Charm Riverside: amazing location in front of the river, great hospitality and food, free bicycles.
- You can book all your accommodation in Laos with free cancellation here.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
- Check our post How to go from SaPa to Luang Prabang;
- another way to arrive/leave is by boat on Mekong River;
- motorbike rental, from 10-12$ per day;
- tuk-tuk: 5,000 kips per km in town.
- Book your tickets to travel in Laos on amt.12go.asia
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