When people ask me where to go in SE Asia, depending on the day, my mind instinctively thinks of Koh Rong, Cambodia / Hanoi, Vietnam / or Luang Prabang, Laos. Luang Prabang embodies the thing I love most about travel—feeling surprisingly swept away into a different moment in time—like 1940's Indochina, where time moves slow and hot days linger. People staring at their cell phones on the street disappear and monks making morning walks take their place, as Mekong rolls on the in the background. The strong and steady force the backbone for this charming town.
Luang Prabang is a like a 1940's picture book dream. It's quiet and sweet, with an understated quaintness. The french influence differentiates it from other areas of SE Asia. It's one of those places you show up for a couple days, and end of staying longer because you're just not ready to leave. Luang Prabang takes you somewhere and makes you feel like the modern world doesn't exist. To me, this feeling is what travel is all about.
Go to Luang Prabang if...
You want to take it slow. You enjoy balconies and bike rides, and take an almond croissant seriously.
why it's special...
It really comes back to the Mekong. The river creates the rhythm here, a slow and strong pace with SE Asian-Indochina flair. Wake up to it's stillness, drink Beer Lao on balconies overlooking the rust colored light, sit alongside it during the last hours of daylight.
THE ROGUE WAY
Take the night bus in from Sapa if coming from the North. Pay the extra money ($5-$10 more a night) along the Mekong. It's worth waking up to. Sit on balconies. Book a couple extra nights to allow yourself to sink deeper into this towns stillness. Rent bikes and ride to the market on the outskirt of town, stop for ice cream, visit the Tea Lady in the afternoon, ride a scooter to Kuang Si Falls, have Palm Juice for a sweet treat and Quail Eggs along the main street for a late night snack.
Lao-style Pho along the Mekong
Have the one on Phou Vao Road, to the left of Haysoke Hotel for breakfast and your heart will thank you. Similar to Vietnamese pho, but with a richer broth.
What's the story, morning glory? If Pho Laos isn't for breakfast. The almond croissant Le Banneton is everything.
Words of wisdom: Careful of the $1 all-you-can-eat bbq at night. It is delicious . . . but you get what you pay for.
Pizza Across the Bridge: Pizza Phan Luang
Cross the footbridge for wood fired pizza. So nice to get a pizza and wine fix during your Asia travels. This expat cooks a good one.
The Thursday Night market is one of the best in SE Asia.
Kuang Si Falls
The roads are safer and quieter than Vietnam and Thailand. Rent a bike for the day and cruise around town, eat ice cream from the local ice cream man on the bike, linger in the golden hours and morning light. Take it nice and slow here, stay awhile.
Along the Mekong.
The Tea Lady
My dream woman. If I lived in Luang Prabang, I would want to be the Tea Lady. She must be one of the most successful and adored women of this town, for her imaginative array of sweet liquids she serves up for the masses. Come afternoon people surround her stand. I couldn't help but visit her (every day) to try a new combination and hang out in the local scene surrounding her.
Tried and true: Red tea and fresh lime juice (borrowed this one from a local), coconut milk and mango, classic thai iced tea. You really can't go wrong.