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The Charming Town of Luang Prabang, Laos

I didn’t expect that I will visit Laos this year – like at all! I always wanted to visit this country but the ticket ridiculously does not make any sense. IDR 7 million (USD 500) just to go to SEA countries? Naw way. Sometimes I envy Europe for this, European can go to any surrounding countries only with less than USD 100! Why can’t it work the same here?

So yeah, thanks to my all time fave flight search engine : Skyscanner! Got an insane cheap ticket USD 67 for KL – Luang Prabang return! Wohooo! Overall I spent USD 187 including JKT – KL return. Still a good deal, wasn’t it?

For this trip I took only one day off from work, since we got public holiday on Monday. In total I got 4 days to enjoy both Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. Actually, I wanted to spend the whole 4 days in Luang Prabang, just take it slow and chill. But my travel mate really wanted to go to Vang Vieng. Which means I needed to squeeze up the itinerary to make things work.

I could sense my chemistry buzzing when I first arrived at the town. It felt so special, relaxing and got its own charm. I really loved the chill vibe, no hustle bustle touristic life like other famous destination, and what I liked the most was its less traffic that you can stand and take a picture in the middle of the main road.

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Wandering around the main part of city centre was my favourite. Countless time I had passed through Sisavangvong Road, an old quarter that packed of shops, cafes and old buildings. The town is not big, I could do many things just in 2 days – such a contented getaway! However, here I share you my most fave activity in Luang Prabang

Things to Do :

Having Lunch at the River-side of Mekong 

Luang Prabang lies on the confluence of Mekong and Nam Khan River. If you are walking in the down town, where ever you make a turn, you’ll end up at the bank of the river. When I first settled my foot on the city centre, my first turn took me to Mekong River, the longest river in SEA that flows from Tibetan Plateau through Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and end up at South China Sea. Somehow this fact brings certain fascination to the river. Hence, I decided to have my first lunch in one of river-side restaurant while immersing the calmness and peaceful energy from it.

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Dipping at Kuang Si Waterfall Azure pools

The major attraction that can not be missed is Kuang Si Waterfall. Oh My Holy Mother Nature — Okay, first of all, I live in Indonesia, a country with hundreds of waterfall (or maybe thousands). I’ve been to dozen of them, but none got me mesmerised. That’s why I never count waterfall as my favourite attraction. But Kuang Si has turned that over! For once in my life I finally fell for a waterfall! It was not a huge multi-tier waterfall, but the azure colour of the water pools what made it special! So pretty and so inviting! I didn’t want to miss the dipping session – for sure!

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Oh I also hiked up to the top of waterfall, there was a path to go there, just simply followed it. I almost gave up in the middle, it was quite tough for a beginner like me. But I finally made it. I’d say that the view from the top was alright, there were pools that looked like a swamp to play around or chill, but the color was not as nice as the pool below. So, I don’t really recommend it.

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It took one hour to get to this waterfall from Luang Prabang. From what I knew, there were only 2 ways that can take you here. Either renting a bike or getting a tuk-tuk. Since getting a tuk-tuk will cost me more, so I decided to rent a bike  for a day.

Speaking of renting a bike, I have news you SHOULD consider at the end of this article.

Witnessing the Morning Alms-Giving Practice a.k.a TakBat

For the first time I heard about this sacred practice few years ago, I instantly put Laos on my bucket list. Yep, this actually was my main reason to go to Laos.

Buddhism plays a very strong part in Laos history and remain a major influence in everyday life. That’s why you can easily found temple nearly in every corner of the country. One of their ritual that has been going on for hundred years is named Tak Bat.

Every morning, at around 5.30 – 6.00 am, the monks will walk in line, barefoot  around the city to collect alms from the local worshipper. While the locals will be calmly sitting or kneeling on the side of the streets, waiting for the monk to pass them by then putting the alms (usually in the form of sticky rice or banana) in the alms bowl that carried by the monks. This practice actually to support both the monks, who need food and the worshipper, who needs blessing for their life.

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Chasing Sunset at Mount Phou Si

The best place to watch the sunset in Luang Prabang is either from Mount Phou Si or from a cruising boat on the river. I obviously opted for the free one, though the struggle to get to the top of Mount Phou Si was quiet challenging.  There were 355 steps that I needed to get through – now you can imagine. Mount Phou Si is actually a big hill that lies in the heart of Luang Prabang. You can enjoy the 360 degrees view of Luang Prabang from up there, overlooking the city, both of the river, and the sun that will set in between mountains. A dramatic and very calming moment – not to count the overcrowded tourist that craving for the same view as you.

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Wandering the Night Market

I went to the night market 2 days in a row. It was interesting to see the crowd here, the most vibrant spot of the city I guess. This market was full of souvenirs stalls, a good place to find some for my colleagues.

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Where to Stay :

Everything in Luang Prabang is walking distance, so you don’t need to bother where to stay as long as it’s still in the down town. But, if I might suggest, I would go with the one with that has a river view though usually the price is a bit more than average.

Or the one that lies in the small alley nearby the river – no specific reason for this. I just loved the vibe in the alleys – it feels closer to the local life.

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Warning : I had 2 double-book experiences with different guesthouse. They usually will offer you another room in another guesthouse. So, I’d suggest to contact them after the booking confirmed, to make sure you will get the room and tell them what time exactly you will be there.

What to Eat :

Confession! Being in Laos makes me feel more grateful that I live in Indonesia, a country with gazillion kinds of food. From the soupy until the dry, from the plain until the most spicy ones, we have it all. In Laos? In my opinion, their food option were boring. Almost all the random restaurant that I went to sell the same thing – fried rice/noodle, curry, and the limited stir fried option.

One more thing to complain. Food price in Laos was surprisingly not cheap. It costs USD 5 per-meal even in a regular place. Luckily, I found a good local place with a better taste and better price! Just around USD 2 for any meal. I didn’t know it’s name but it runs by a family local family.

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For Your Precaution :

It’s widely known that renting a motorcycle in Luang Prabang is kinda not safe. There were many cases tourist got scammed when they rent a bike in the city. Basically, these tourist had their motorbike stolen and suspected the rental provider to have the copy of key and steal it to get replacement compensation as stated on the paper. There were some rental name that has to be re-considered, please google it and you’ll know how bad it is.

If you still want to rent a bike, it is better to rent it from the hotel that you stay at. Or at least from the shop that your hotel has cooperated with. Make sure it is trustable, don’t let your guard down. Ask for double lock, and read the contract paper carefully. I rent a bike from the provider that my hotel cooperated with, Thank goodness – everything was fine.

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To sum up, Luang Prabang has exceed my expectation as a UNESCO world heritage. I highly recommend you guys to come here and enjoy its charm.