Laos was a quick trip: only 3.5 days over a long weekend. Given the short timeline, I picked just one location, Luang Prabang (hereafter, LP), to settle down for a few days to do some exploring and soak in the Laotian culture.
LP is a very cute, quaint little SE Asian town that feels nothing like other ‘big’ cities in Asia (I’d compare it to Chiang Mai in Thailand but it’s really nothing like it). Getting off the plane in LP (coming from a couple days of work in Bangkok), it felt like a breath of fresh air. LP has none of the hustle and bustle of other cities, but all of the charm.
I didn’t have a place booked when I got to LP, and figured I’d walk around and check out a few spots until something felt right. That plan quickly got exhausting as it was incredibly hot when I got into town, and the first place I wanted to see (#1 rated on Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor) wasn’t available. The second place I checked out awful, and then finally I saw some backpacker looking travelers on the street and asked where they were staying. That’s when I discovered Kounsavan Guesthouse. This place was awesome: decent dorms, aircon, decent bathrooms and showers, a pool, and a great common area and hangout spot. If I hadn’t been pointed towards this place, I think my time in LP would have been significantly different (more boring).
I met some cool people at the hostel that I’d spend time with over the next few days, and even two awesome Canadian girls who I’d randomly end up on the same trek with in Sapa (Northern Vietnam) 3 weeks later – more on that in the coming Vietnam post.
The first full day I headed out on scooters with a few girls I’d met at the hostel towards the town’s main attraction: Kuang Si waterfall. I’d heard that Laos had the best waterfalls, and it did not disappoint! This place was awesome. We spent most of the day here hiking up to the top, and then swimming and jumping into a nice large pool towards the bottom of the falls. Also outside the falls there was a bear sanctuary. They were ridiculously cute hanging out however they wanted (in hammocks, climbing over structures, or chilling in pools).
Waterfall jumping at Kuang Si in Luang Prabang
Bears chilling in their pools at the Bear Sanctuary
Nightlife in LP was interesting. There is basically one bar that everyone goes to around 8 or 9pm: Utopia. This place is cool – it’s got an awesome hippyish traveler vibe, great seating and lounge areas, and even a volleyball court.
That night I was determined to do the one nighttime activity that everyone in LP knows: The bowling alley. This is the only place in town (or rather, a 20ish min jeep ride outside of town) that serves alcohol after 11pm, and it’s where everyone heads to when the bar scene shuts down.
The second day a few of us got a Jeep taxi out to another waterfall that had a ~2km hike around it. There wasn’t a ton of water (except the rain falling from the sky), but it was a nice hike and we had a good time. It was a quick activity, only took us a couple hours and then we were back at the hostel.
That last night I relaxed in the hostel, wrote a blog post, tuned into a work meeting at midnight my time, and then slept in before my flight back to Bangkok and then Singapore the next day.
I didn’t get to see much of Loas, and nothing about what I did see was super amazing or awe inspiring, but I think that’s what made it such a nice little weekend getaway. Not busy, not hectic, cute, and quaint, and just what I needed.