A Bit of TLC Part 11 – Time To Plan in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, Laos  January 2024

After our exertions at the Gibbon Experience, we were glad to have a day relaxing back in Huay Xai.  Our next form of transport was a leisurely two-day slow boat journey down the Mekon to the riverside town of Luang Prabang.

Watching crowds of tourists loading onto the public boats, we were extremely glad to have decided on the “luxury” option, which offered comfortable seats with tables, day beds with cushions and blankets (it was a bit chilly in the mornings!), lunch and snacks included and a night in a hotel mid-way.

Best seat in the house…boat

There was something sublimely serene drifting along, watching the riverside life slip by as you sipped a cup of tea.  We passed villagers tending to their crops, herds of water buffalo grazing on the banks, local women doing their laundry in the river and kids splashing about at the water’s edge.  The boat did stop a few times at local settlements, to look around and purchase crafts and souvenirs.  Dozens of small children instantly surrounded those who made the trip, but this somehow felt quite exploitative, so we remained aboard. We also skipped the Pa Ou caves, which were packed with over 4000 Buddha icons, and almost as many sightseers!

We finally arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos’ medieval royal capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, set along the union of the Mekon and Khan rivers.  The French influence was much in evidence in this old colonial town, and its faded villas now housed cafes, bakeries, antique and craft shops plus copious massage parlours and tour agencies (we couldn’t get away from them)!

Lounging by the lilly pond

It had escaped the manic atmosphere of a typical tourist town however, and we instantly felt relaxed as we wandered slowly along the riverside the next morning, revelling in the novelty of actually having a pavement you could walk along (well….mostly!).  We’d decided to base ourselves here for several days to recharge and decide where to go next. Our hotel had a little pool, a restaurant surrounded by a lovely lounging area aside the lily pond, and comfy beds!!

My hard won sunset photo!

We did feel obliged to drag ourselves away from the pool occasionally however, and I had a foot scrub (I won’t go into detail, but boy, did I need one!) while Ian enjoyed a massage.  Drugs and the sex industry were strictly illegal in Laos, so Ian felt “safe” without me while having a hot stone massage.  So relaxed was he, that I couldn’t persuade him to accompany me up the 365 steps to the wat at the top of Phousi Hill overlooking the town, to watch the sunset.  He made the right choice as the summit was packed with people jostling to get the perfect photo as the sun went down – ugh!

A living time bomb

The incredibly interesting and very worthy UXO (unexploded ordinance) Museum was certainly worth a visit one morning. It was run by a team of explosive experts who travel the length of Laos clearing the country of UXOs and educating children (the main victims) on the dangers of these remnants from the Vietnam and Secret wars.  Between 1964 and 1973 USA forces dropped an estimated 2 million tons of ordinance – bombs – on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country in the world. I was horrified to learn that someone is killed or injured by a UXO on average every two weeks in Laos – even today – the worst culprits being cluster bombs which released thousands of “bombies”.  Those that didn’t explode on impact lay dormant in the ground, or in some cases in the roots of trees which then grew to contain them, and look to an unsuspecting child like a ball or a fruit. Horrifyingly, there are an estimated 80 million unexploded “bombies” currently in Lao and it will take another 100 years to rid the country of them, making it safe and allowing farmers to use their land.  Worse still, although several countries signed a treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs, they are still being used today and continue their impact decades later…tragic.

Our sticky rice tossing lesson

In need of some light relief, we’d signed up for a cookery course at the renowned Tamarind Restaurant.  The course actually took place outside the town, down a bumpy road where we were transported to a farm where they grew most of their own herbs and vegetables.  We learnt how to prepare a selection of Lao dishes including sticky rice and stuffed lemongrass (there must be easier things to stuff than a lemongrass stalk, surely!!).  It was a fun and informative evening, although I’m still unsure that Lao cuisine is amongst my favourites!

The garden of Eden…

On our final day, we took a van to the Kuang Si waterfall – which although we were “waterfalled-out” was quite impressive. The water “fell” down several levels and was an idyllic scene with clear turquoise water tumbling down rocks set amongst the jungle. It was probably one of the most beautiful and picturesque waterfalls I’d ever seen (and that’s saying something!), although too cold for me to swim in. The park also housed a bear sanctuary where moon and sun rescue bears captured for their bile (used in Chinese medicine) were rehabilitated in large enclosures. The sanctuary was featured in a BBC series “Bears About the House” and does good work rescuing and caring for bears, pangolins and other reptiles.

Discovered a wonderful Sri Lankan restaurant on our last night was the cherry on the “dosa” of our stay, followed by a stroll around the characterful night market.  Definitely a place we would like to return to.


Next Stop:  Ankor Agro

More photos!…

Living on the edge
An unexpected sight
Pa Ou Queue
Elephants everywhere!
Christmas delivery...a bit late
A walk by the river
The Royal Palace
Mick Jagger's cat??
Who will buy??
They definitely had a better class of tuk tuk here!
Beautiful Hmong girl picture in the local art gallery
Photo of the alms giving ceremony - we gave it a miss since we had heard it had become a tourist trap -PLUS it took place at 5am!
UXO Museum
Cluster bomb containing thousands of "bombies"
0ur teacher Sit, trying ...and failing..to show us how easy it is to make a rice parcel!
My lemongrass stuffing left a lot to be desired...think I'll stick to peppers in future!
The end results...not too shabby
The bear necessities
The tree of life
I really fell for these falls
So did they!

7 thoughts on “A Bit of T L C – Part 11 – Time to Plan in Luang Prabang”

  1. Another brilliantly entertaining read, thanks, Kathy. And lovely photos. Those waterfalls – wow! Sending lots of love from freezing Suffolk xxx

  2. Christine Hollis

    Thanks for the blog. Interesting as always. What an adventure. Great pictures as well. So look forward to reading them xxx

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