So on June 20th, we flew from Vietnam, a country with 86 million people to Luang Prabang, Laos, a city of 103,000. Suffice it to say, our Southeast Asian excursion took a welcome slowing of pace toward lazy wandering through the deserted streets and temples, eating luxurious meals, and frolicking in some of the most gorgeous waterfalls around. On day one, we hunted through sandalwood guest houses for our home for the week, finally setting on Sayo Xieng Mouane, which while a bit more expensive than some of the sparser digs, proved to be a wonderful choice, with its lush courtyard, friendly, helpful, and English-speaking owner, and rooms full of charm and character. We bargained to $40 for two rooms for five people, and the owner saved us a considerable bit (and hassle, I suspect) on both of our out-of-town excursions. We ate a leisurely lunch that day at Morning Glory Cafe (excellent curries, and breakfast that we came back again and again for), and dined on street food, while hunting around for souvenirs at the Hmong Night Market.
Speaking of excursions, the next day, June 21st, we took a private van through the countryside, dotted with water buffalos amongst rice terraces and mountains 30 km out of town, to the large waterfall that can only be described as enchanting. We expected the waterfalls to be kitschy, given the caged bears at the entrance, but once inside we were entranced by the glowing blue waters, the rope swing swimming area, and the large waterfall at the top. We hiked up to the top of the large fall, taking the road less-traveled, and only finding the stairs on the way down. It was a perfect mix of amateur and challenging hiking–my husband acquired a leach at the top in the jungle waters, but the rest of us emerged unscathed! Tips for other travelers: we paid 50,000 kip per person ($1=8000 kip) for a private van to and fro the falls, but there’s an additional entrance fee at 20,000 per person. We arrived fairly early in the morning, and were the only ones at the popular swimming hole with the rope swing, but by the time we came back through, it had become a crusty backpacker’s playground. Food was all outside the waterfall park, so either grab a sandwich on the way in or pack one.
In the evening, Emily and I went for foot massages at the popular, Lotus on the main street, which was heavenly, and later met the guys at the Lao Lao Garden for barbecue and towers of beer, a great way to begin our time in this tiny town.