Luang Prabang, Laos

December 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The third leg of our trip was to Luang Prabang, in northern Laos. When our flight landed, the first thing you notice is that the city is surrounded by mountains, creating a wonderful landscape. The city itself is much smaller than Bangkok and Chiang Mai. You also notice a difference in the air as well. The air in the other two cities was full of exhaust, while Luang Prabang had the smell of a large wood-burning fire.

Our first night in the city consisted of walking around the town, exploring the night market and food stalls. The market here was smaller than the ones in Chiang Mai, but had similar goods.

Our first full day started off by traveling 2 hours up the Mekong river on a rickety long-boat to the Pak Ou Caves. All along the Mekong are farmers that plant their crops right up to the riverbank. When you reach the caves, you notice first that they are built into mountain on the bank of the river. Climbing the stairs you can see thousands of Buddha status placed there from various followers. There are two openings, the lower cave you can see from the river, and the upper cave further up the mountain.

From the caves, we traveled back to Luang Prabang and took a van to the Kuang Si Falls. These falls are famous through the region for their turquoise waters created by various minerals found in the water and rocks. There is a large 60m waterfall as well as some pools of water that people can swim in. The water was a bit cool to be swimming so we stood by and watched rather than joining the large crowds of tourists. The falls were pretty neat to see and the waters made for some great photos. On our way back, we stopped by a small village that the tourism ministry and industry helped build. There were a lot of children playing football (soccer) in the courtyard and some others helped their mothers sell some of the goods they made. That evening we spent walking around town again, eating our way through the night market and vendors.

The next day we spent the morning at “The Living Land”, which is a local community rice farm owned by 7 families who all pitch in to grow and harvest the rice and other vegetables. The farm is set at the base of the mountains and offers a fantastic view. They have a water buffalo named “Suzuki” that is used to plow and fertilize the farm. We started by learning about the various stages of growing rice before we took our shoes off and got dirty in the mud actually doing each of the stages. These stages include:

  • picking the right seeds from last year’s harvest
  • germination of those seeds
  • plowing the field
  • transplanting the seedlings to the plowed field
  • weeding the rice patty
  • harvesting and drying the rice
  • thrashing the rice
  • fanning the empty hulls away
  • pounding the rice to release the hulls from the grain
  • tossing the rise to remove the hulls to reveal the rice grain
  • cooking the rice
  • eating the rice

As you can see from the photos, we were up to our knees in mud. The mud was slippery and very sticky, so staying upright was the largest challenge. Overall, the day was one of our favorites on the entire trip. It was amazing to see the amount of work that goes into growing rice and it’s great to support a local farm with their efforts.

That evening we went to the museum at the old royal palace. It was neat to see some of the older royal wares and collections. After that we climbed the stairs up to the Phou si temple. This temple is at the top of the Phou si mountain in the center of town and offers a fantastic view of the mountain ranges and city and is a famous spot to watch the sunset. We got their early enough to get a good seat and I think it paid off from the photos that we got.

That evening we walked around the market again and ate at this street buffet. It seemed a little sketchy because you don’t know how long this food was there, but it seemed like a popular spot so we jumped right in. We also had some nice conversations with others that have been traveling around the region.

The following morning we walked around some other parts of town before catching a tuk tuk back to the airport.

Luang Prabang was a nice city that offered a respite from the larger cities we were in. You can still see some remnants of the French colonization in the architecture and cuisine. We would definitely recommend a stop by this small city if you are in the region. I hope you enjoy photos from Laos!

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