If you just spent 2 slightly hellish days getting to a destination, you couldn’t do much better than have that destination be Luang Prabang. Set on the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, it’s an elegant, laid-back sort of place, with plenty of reminders of its French colonial history.
Things you can do in LP:
1. Get up to the sound of drums at dawn and stumble onto your guesthouse balcony to watch the monks from the various wats make their procession through town, collecting alms in the form of sticky rice.
2. Watch the local women try to sell sticky rice to foreigners so they can offer it to the monks, without revealing that the monks will not eat tainted offerings.
3. Visit Tamarind, a restaurant and cooking school run by Joy, a local man, and Caroline, his Aussie wife. Learn heaps about local food (surprisingly different from Thai and Vietnamese food). Be amazed by the utterly repellant Lao fish sauce (recipe: take whole fish. Place in water. Add salt, galangal and maybe garlic. Leave to ferment (ie. rot). Eat.) Prepare some great food in an idyllic setting. Fall in love with Lao beer snacks – dried, fried mushroom shreds flavoured with kaffir lime, chili and garlic.
4. Bump into some old uni friends that you just missed in Singapore (hey, Warren and Celia). Spend a great evening with them, drinking cheap cocktails in a secluded bar on the other side of the river, accessible only via rickety bamboo bridge, and eating more great food.
5. Visit the Kuang Si waterfall, a series of cascades about an hour out of town that look like they were deliberately designed by someone working for Disneyland or similar (this is actually a compliment). Swim in the gorgeous aqua water and wonder again why it is you don’t live in Luang Prabang.
6. Eat a gourmet French meal at LÉlephant, which but for the heat, the tiny geckos running around on the awning and the miniscule price, could be anywhere in France.