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4 nights in Luang Prabang 

Often when you're traveling, you feel pressure to make the most of things by trying to see everything and do as much as you can squeeze into your itinerary. I had read that the pressure is off in Luang Prabang, and I could not agree more. We flew from Chiang Mai into Luang Prabang and spent four very chill days here before leaving for Hanoi. It was so nice to just be in a city and this UNESCO Heritage designated city, in particular, because it feels delightfully low key. Don't worry, there is still plenty to do, but if you don't get very far on your list, then that's ok too. 

Our hotel, Satri House, provided bicycles and we spent most of our time just riding around and exploring, getting off the bikes when we wanted to see things, like Wat Xieng Thong, the temple and monastery on the edge of town. There are bamboo bridges to cross and local artisans shops along the main street, like Ock Pop Tockworth checking out. We rode our bikes to Mount Phousi and climbed to the top for sunset. We also rode to the river and negotiated a boat trip on the Mekong River. We rode at night to see the Garavek Storytelling, which was a local guy with traditional musical accompaniment telling stories about Laotian culture and traditional stories. We rode to the Royal Palace and came back in the evening for the nightly market on the road in front of the palace. We rode our bikes at dawn to participate in the Alms Giving procession through town, where we sat in a long line of people giving the local monks rice to take back to their temples. 

Restaurants we rode our bikes to

  • Dyen Sabai. We parked our bikes on one side of the river and took the rickety bamboo bridge across to dinner. We were seated on the floor and fed a delicious Laotian barbecue in what felt like a tree house. 

  • Manda de Laos. It was lightly raining during our dinner here, so we had a view of the Unesco Lotus Pond, but we didn't spend a lot of time walking around. I wish we'd come back during the day time to see it in the light because the grounds looked beautiful. 

  • Le Banneton for yummy french pastries. 

  • Saffron Coffee for delicious iced coffee slowly consumed while playing multiple games of cards. 

  • Lunches at the Avani+ restaurant. The nam khao was so good I had to eat it two days in a row. 

  •  L’Elephant Vert. Surprisingly we were the only people eating here- I don't know why because it was so good!

  • Pizza Phan Luang. We didn't actually bike here, but we were able to walk back across the old bridge and pick up our bikes in town. This pizza was so good and worth the effort to find this hidden gem. 

  • Street food you must eat while out riding around, Khanom Krok

One outing that required a car was our day trip to Kuang Si Falls. We used our early start on the day that we did alms giving to get to the falls when it opened. It was pleasantly empty when we got there and stayed pretty quiet throughout our visit, though we could see the visitor count picking up when we were leaving a few hours later.  When you first arrive, you pass the Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre, on the walk to the falls. You will see rescued little black bears that are adorable.

The water at the falls is a breathtakingly clear blue and you can see the little fish that will nibble your feet when you get in. It is fun to explore the various levels of the pools and you absolutely should climb all the way to the top of the mountain where there are hidden ponds and rope swings. It's definitely wet and slippery, though so proceed with caution. 

On the way back from the falls, we stopped at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park. This natural habitat was opened by Dutch expats who wanted to teach locals about Laotian butterflies, host plants, and preservation because of environmental issues in Laos. It is small, but worth stopping in to support the work they are doing. 

Where we stayed:

  • Satri House. We loved this hotel so much. The bikes were of course a huge bonus and helpful since the hotel was just slightly out of the main zone of town, though I would say this is a plus instead of a hinderance. You feel like you are staying in a private home- well, a large and grand home to be sure- and the people working there were so sweet. I particularly loved the woman who spoke barely any english, but managed a full conversation every morning over breakfast. The grounds of this hotel are magical and the rooms were spacious and very comfortable. 

  • Practical Info: You need a Visa to visit Laos, but Visa On Arrival is available at the airport. For our family of three we needed $110 USD and 2 passport photos.