We’d heard big things of this town so we were both pretty psyched to see what all the fuss was about. I guess the big deal is that it is so different from your regular SE Asian tourist stops. Thanks to the French stomping into Laos in the 1700s, this town still has plenty of swagger. Many of the French colonial style buildings have been resurrected into gorgeous guesthouses with cute little shutters and lanterns in the trees. That being said, there’s also plenty of once good looking buildings sitting around waiting for someone to give them a well needed renovational hug (yes Mum I know renovational isn’t a word…).
Pretty much surrounded by rivers (our old mate Mekong and the Nam Khan River), Luang Prabung has plenty of big leafy trees and sneaky side streets filled with tiny shops, cafes and guesthouses. Well- that’s the old town anyway. The rest of LP (lazy blogger speak for Luang Prabung) is much like any other SE Asian town, dusty streets, motorbikes and dogs. The difference in LP is that there are baguettes. Lots of baguettes.
There’s also a Wat on the hill in the dead centre of town. We hiked the steamy 328 steps up to watch the sun go down (with half the other tourists in LP it seemed…). The trip down was a bit more inspiring though. Yes it was downhill but we took the back track that snaked through a series of other smaller temples, monuments, statues and even a school for baby monks.
This time of year it’s nearing the end of the dry season and dusty as hell. It’s about 40 degrees and makes even walking around during the day a taxing activity. Sometimes late in the day the skies open up and relieve us with a cool-ish change or a light shower but not nearly enough to make up for the sweltering heat and pain we went through during the day. It seems like most of the time the weather gods are just flipping us the bird and making us suffer until the monsoon comes, when no doubt we’ll probably just wish it was dry and hot again.
To escape the heat of walking and cycling around the city sites, one day we ventured out to the Kuang Se waterfalls, about 30kms out of the city. These waterfalls were insane. I mean, I’ve seen waterfalls before but nothing like this one. The main waterfall cascades down 50 metres and then flows downs a series of cliffs, creating other falls and pools for swimming. We schlepped it up the hill through the jungle scrub to the top where the main waterfall collects in a pool and then drops again off the cliff. The water was crystal clear and fresh as it gets. Just what the doctor ordered. Oh and there were bears there. Not in the waterfall but in an enclosure near by. Not too sure what that was about…
All in all LP was a cool town and a nice introduction to Laos (the baguettes helped). Laos is still getting on it’s feet when it comes to tourism but that being said there’s plenty to do – hiking, kayaking, caves, waterfalls, boat trips, bears etc. It really is a beautiful area and Laosians are sweet as pie so no doubt things will pick up and it will soon and they’ll catch up to their SE Asian neighbours.