เที่ยวหลวงพระบาง | Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, Part 1

From the sky, the rivers of Laos, our ride in the sky and on the road while in Luang Prabang.
From the sky, the rivers of Laos, our ride in the sky and on the road while in Luang Prabang.

We were at Luang Prabang of Laos not too long ago just to wind down a bit. I was just breaking off from a tedious project and my hubby hadn’t visited the place before. Also, the month of September was a low season there, meaning cheap hotel deals and direct boutique flight :D.

Last time I was in Luang Prabang was over, perhaps, 15 years ago. I remembered it as a dusty small town with gorgeous old buildings and magnificent temples and so serene Mekhong River. One drag though is that we were staying at a very very gorgeous hotel out of the old town and that meant we needed to be couriered by a tuk tuk every time we want to stroll in the ‘World Heritage’ area of the old town. While the fabulous hotel compensated for everything, I felt that I hadn’t got enough of the World Heritage sights, so this time we were determined to stay in a place right in the middle of the down town area.

Our room at the Burasari Heritage right in the old town.
Our room at the Burasari Heritage right in the old town.

So our choice was the Burasari Heritage. They were having a September deal that included everything we’d need while there. A round-trip airport transfers, free mini bar and a late check-out since our flight back to Bangkok would be at 17.25. A great deal for the room, too.

The room that we were checked into was a ‘balcony room’ with a view of the Mekhan – a smaller river that branches out from the Mekhong right at the bend of the Luang Prabang peninsula. The room was not big and a bit dark with its all-wooden interior. They didn’t have a separated space for the shower and sink and there’s no closet, but a shallow built-in cabinet with a tight railing for us to hang our clothes. The shower room, as you can see from the picture, was only a curtained up space around a rain shower faucet. So, this was a room for husband and wife. Not a room for friends to stay together because there’s no privacy whatsoever for private business. But then, when you say you are a ’boutique’ hotel, you might be able to design whatever you wish for a room. I don’t know. However, the hotel’s superb location and their super efficient maintenance compensated for everything. The bed was plush and clean with a comforting scent in the sheets, pillows and down. The wooden floor was cleaned and waxed and their staff was friendly and well-groomed. Also in the promotion was a daily breakfast for two. We got great croissants and yummy eggs every morning while there. Will show the pictures in the next post.

The Mekhong converging to the Mekhan, our FOREX completion, our first meal and the bill.
The Mekhong converging to the Mekhan, our FOREX completion, our first meal and the bill.

The 2-hour flight from Bangkok arrived at Luang Prabang around half past noon, meaning we got plenty of time to stroll about the old town the first day. First thing we did was what my Lao friend told me to: getting the money exchanged at the bank. There’s one bank right in the middle of the main street (Srisavangvong Street) where I accomplished the first task. The exchange rate of Thai baht and Lao kip was Bt1:250 kip. I got some USD to spare, so I exchanged those. I also got some GBP to spare, but they didn’t accept those, so I turned to my Thai baht the next time I got to exchange some more.

A note here, though, is that for the residents of ASEAN countries, there’s no need to acquire any visiting visa when entering Laos. For Thais, you can also stick to the Thai baht the whole time here. There’s practically no needs to exchange the money at all. But you might want to do it for fun. It is also not cheap to eat in Luang Prabang. A meal there is about Bt400-600 per person. Coming from Bangkok, I felt like eating out at Thong Lor every day. Thank goodness that they do not apply the ‘plus-plus’ policy (adding the taxes) on top of the bills like they do here in Thailand. So, just so you know to be prepared that Luang Prabang is now a thoroughly ‘world destination’ and there’s no holding back in terms of the living costs like any other tourist places in the world.

Walking around the streets of Luang Prabang, visiting the world heritage of Wat Xiang Thong.
Walking around the streets of Luang Prabang, visiting the world heritage of Wat Xiang Thong.

One reason that we chose Luang Prabang for our winding-down trip this time is that the place practically needs no map to wander around. We just got enough of places that require too much brain to navigate the subways and streets and alleys and everything. Luang Prabang has just three main streets to speak of. If you look at the map, you will understand what I mean. The whole town, shaped like a peninsula surrounded one side by the Mekhong and the other by the Mekhan, is also small and walkable. Although popular recommendations go to biking around town, we found locking up the rented bike an unnecessary hassle. Our preference went to walking, so we can stop as much as we like to any place that we liked and as often as we liked. So..

The three main streets of Luang Prabang, however, have their own personality, if you will. The one on the side of the Mekhong was a bit tired (at least for me) for being just way too touristy with the typical shops, bars, cafes and all. Walking there and I felt like visiting an old lady who had gone through too much in life. She was bored, she was tired with a nonchalant air about her. The only interesting thing there is the public park at the end of the peninsula and the famous and gorgeous Wat Xiang Thong with its intricate interiors and murals so gorgeous.

Our lovely set dinner at Tamarind Restaurant. My favourite being the green pumpkin stir-fried with kaffir lime leaves (main pix).
Our lovely set dinner at Tamarind Restaurant. My favourite being the green pumpkin stir-fried with kaffir lime leaves (main pix).

We seized the first day by taking all the walk we wanted and taking all the pictures we wanted. The sun was up, the sky partially open. The temperatures, I believed, were hanging about 38-40 degrees Celsius for we were in a perpetual state of perspiration the whole time. But then, later the next day, we would be very very grateful of our decision to have spent those time sweating outside. Because the next day, it was pouring from the night onwards until the noontime and stayed precisely cloudy, foggy with occasional showers thanks to the typhoon Kalmaegi. It was also reported in the news that the typhoon had caused landslides and severe flooding upstream. We woke up the next day seeing the Mekhan swollen up dramatically with rapids bringing on debris after debris.

Anyway, we ended our first day with a gorgeous set dinner at Tamarind Restaurant on Kingkitsarath Road near our hotel. The set dinner was 120,000 kip (Bt480) per person and included about 5 items to share and two drinks. A good deal and excellent local flavours. I didn’t take every picture, but the meal started with a soup of bamboo shoots, a plate of Lao appetizers (dips, sausages, sun-dried buffalo meat and sticky rice), green pumpkin stir-fried with kaffir lime leaves, steamed fish in banana leaves (my fav), chicken in lemon grass and two desserts of Lao cookies and black sticky rice pudding.

Will report the next day’s adventure soon. 😀

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