French-Colonian architecture, history, monks, morning alms, breathtaking sunsets, massaaaaaaaaaage, neverland, temples, a proposal.
That pretty much sums up the most enchanting place we’ve ever been—Luang Prabang, former capital of Loas, UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most unexpected experience in a little town we knew nothing about. Legend has it that during the creation of the city, Buddha would have smiled when he rested there during his travels… I realize that's not saying much seeing as though every postcard, figurine or statue depicts him as an enlightened, plump and jolly o’l fella. Nevertheless, we agree with the sentiment.
W H A T T O E A T
Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos
After one bite of anything on the menu, you'll want to eat here every day. Right on the Mekong, this quaint little restaurant absolutely nails every part of what makes a memorable food experience. The presentation, flavors, service, location—everything about the place is spot-on. Oh and there is a cooking class you can take. Do it.
O R D E R
Chicken Stuffed Lemongrass (Oua Si Khai)
Fragrant lemongrass stuffed with chicken, kaffir lime and coriander with lime-peanut side dipping sauce.
An introduction to local flavors, dip sticky rice into these 'jeows' or dips:
Jeow Bong (Luang Prabang spicy sweet chili paste with or without buffalo skin)
Jeow Mak Len (mild tomato salsa)
Jeow Mak Keua (smoky eggplant dip)
Jeow Pak Hom (blend of coriander, chilli, and garlic)
Lao Lao (Laotion Whiskey)
They make their own and infuse with local, unexpected flavors.
Pizza Phan Luang
50 m up the road from Dyen Sabai across the bamboo bridge/free river crossing
To be honest, we were a little disappointed to see one of the best rated restaurants on Trip Advisor was a pizza joint. Who wants pizza when you're in Luang Prabang? YOU DO.
The dramatic journey across the bamboo bridge alone made you feel like you were straight out of a Nicholas Sparks love scene. When you start to hear the almost gyspy-like jazz (Django Reinhardt), see the glow of market lights and smell of what will be some of the best pizza you've ever had, you've found Phan Luang.
Nestled in the backyard of the owners home, Phan Luang serves up an intimate, candlelit atmosphere with good wine, beer and a perfect view of the hand-made wood fired oven at work. As far as recommendations, the menu is small, so just order your favorite pizza combo. We loved this experience so much, we served wood-fired pizza and Djangology at our wedding.
Center of Town
Lucky for you this shin dig occurs every night. The most extensive collection of legit, hand-crafted items—Incredible textiles, hand-stitched garments, accessories, hand-carved bow & arrows, homemade lao lao whiskey, shoes, figurines, and of course a smorgasbord of food.
T I P - I know it's tempting when you're among fellow expats wandering the world, but don't go for the MC Hammer pants. The second you get home and pull out those comfy-frumpy pantelones patterned with elephants, you may have a WTF was I thinking moment. Trust, I know from experience.
OR buy em', knowing that you are supporting a local make a living.
Back to the food. Incredible. Exotic fruits, any animal or fish you can think of on a spit and noodle bowls to die for. Sweet sticky rice balls and fresh fruit smoothies (made to order) are fantastic. Just come hungry and eat everything. For the price and the flavor, it's a tough option to pass up every night.
Le Banneton Bakery
Offering a full range of French-baked goods and a perfect cappuccino, Le Banneton is worth the morning jaunt. Really can't go wrong with a classic pan au chocolat & cap. Lovely, quaint, go there.
W H E R E T O S T A Y
My Dream Boutique Resort
starting at $75
Situated just across the Old Bridge, the bungalow bnb offers traditional Lao style with modern accommodations. The rooms are simple, clean and tastefully designed. The service- quite hospitable, and the food- fantastic. The staff is ready and willing to make any requests a reality and a great resource for the city.
Don't let the location turn you off— It's actually really nice biking in and out of the bustle of town.
W H A T T O D O
At sun-up each morning (roughly 5:00am) the monks mindfully walk the streets of the 700-year-old town for the collection of their alms—a ritual done in complete silence where locals give gifts of food (mainly sticky rice) into the monk's bowls as an act of spiritual redemption. This is the only food they are granted to eat for the day. Pretty incredible to observe.
T I P - Don't be a douche and disrupt the sacred ceremony. We felt a little guilty even being in the distance taking photos... until we witnessed a fella with an obnoxious close-up macro lens in the face of some of the adolescent monks. Just stay distant and do not partake in the ceremony.
Kuang Si Waterfall
Quite possibly the most breathtaking water-world we have ever seen. No exaggeration. The only thing missing from the three-tiered waterfall cascading into crystal clear turquoise pools would be a couple mermaids. Other than that, it's neverland. There's bears there too. Kinda random, but fun to look at during the trek in to the pools.
The falls reside about 18 miles south of Luang Prabang and can be accessed by bus with tourists or scooter. Scooter is much faster and much more enjoyable view of farmland and villages along the way.
Tip top of the city and locale of Conner's proposal resides Mount Phousi, that's (Poos-y). I know, took us off guard too. Rising 150 meters above the center of town, the sacred site is stacked with intricate temples, statues, shrines and magical views. It's a bit of a climb, but once you reach the summit at sunset with 360 views, you won't mind the I-just-finished-a-100-meter-dash look.
Protected by UNESCO, the city houses 34 Wats (temples) with more than 1,000 monks. Some temples charge a small fee, which is worth the tour. Each temple is different and so interesting to explore the intricacies. Like any religious abode, dress respectively—cover shoulders and knees and remove your shoes before entering the inner sanctum.
Get it anywhere, get it often. On pretty much every corner, you'll hear a sing-off of masssssssaaaaaaaagggggggeeeeee with numerous vendors vying for your business. Prices equate to about the price of a fancy coffee in the states, so don't just choose one, support them all! Fair warning, you will have someone standing on your back, you will have a mystery tool (still unbeknownst to me) digging into your foot, you will walk away debating on whether the experience was a dream or reality, and then you'll go back for more.
M O O D M U S I C