Luang Prabang, Laos, A Hidden Gem in the Far East

November 13, 2023

Traveling to Laos can seem difficult because it’s a communist country but when we traveled there it was easy. Our perception turned out to be a invalid and we were able to enjoy the beautiful country, learn its deep history and participate in a daily tradition. While in Thailand, we planned to visit Luang Prabang for a few days. This area was significant to our family as my father in law spent much time there during the Vietnam war as part of his work with Air America. When we arrived at the airport near Luang Prabang, we walked from the airplane to inside the airport. We waited in line to get a visa to enter the country simply with our IDs and our travel itinerary (tickets, hotel information, departure dates, etc.)

We stayed at the beautiful Burasari Heritage Hotel in Luang Prabong. It was like taking a step back in time with its heavy wooden doors, iron locks and handles, dark mahogany wood accents and circular shower near the bed. We enjoyed sitting outside and watching the Mekong River from our balcony. There was a wonderful open air restaurant on the first floor that served the best breakfast. Laos has a history of being a protectorate of France in 1893 so there are many French influences in the country. Our favorite were the cafes with strong coffee and delicious pastries that lined the streets. Each morning we would wake up and make our way to one of our favorite cafe to enjoy a coffee and croissant while watching the Buddist monks walk by for their morning alms. We even got to participate one morning in the morning alms, or Sai Bat or Tak Bat. Each morning Buddhist monks walk the streets very early and collect food and other offerings from the local community in exchange for humility and detachment from material possessions. It’s a popular tourist attraction and we filled their baskets with sticky rice and cookies as they walked by. I hope that isn’t all they eat throughout the day! At the end of our first day, we enjoyed a sunset river cruise while we tugged at my father in law’s brain to share his memories of Laos in the 60s and 70s.

On our second day there, we took a tour of the Mekong River and also visited a National Park full of breathtaking waterfalls (I love visiting National Parks and this may be my first international park visit). Part of the Mekong River cruise involved visiting a small village, Ban Xang Hai, to shop and learn about how they make rice whiskey. Of course Andy and Jack had a sample while I shopped for some beautiful hand-loomed pashmina. Also visited another temple but this one involved many steps up the side of a mountain and into a deep cave. I was astounded that my father in law who is 83 had no problem walking those steps with us! Let’s just say I made sure not to breathe heavier than him on this hike. Another stop on this tour was to a Hmong village that had a museum. The owner of the museum shared the history of their village, what a typical home would look like, how they make their clothes after making the thread and also demonstrating their hunting weapons. Again, Andy and Jack enjoyed trying out his crossbow but only one hit the target. At the end of the tour, we visited the National Park and walked through Kuang Si Falls. There were many tourists there enjoying the falls too and it was a challenge to get a photo on the bridge. The highlight of the day was a buffet lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong river surrounded by the tropical forests. We really enjoyed seeing elephants roaming around the Mekong river. One even followed us to our table to check out what we were eating and maybe score some bananas.

The next day we spent time walking the streets and tootling around the city. The food was always delicious and there was so much to do and see. We felt very safe and noticed certain parts of the city were bustling with life and others were a little more slow and relaxed typically in the touristy area. We traveled in October which is considered part of the rainy season but it was actually near the end of the season. We didn’t experience too much rain but we really enjoyed the reduced rates for our lodging! I highly recommend looking for an early October travel time if you too would like to save money. After a few days, we returned back to Thailand to see where my husband was born in Udon Thani. You can read about my entire Thailand trip on another blog I wrote.

Laung Prabang was a hidden gem that we were very surprised about how much we enjoyed it! We highly recommend a stop in Laos and this beautiful city if visiting Thailand.

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