For all my harping on about the perils of slow travel we accidentally ended up spending two whole weeks in the charming holy city of Luang Prabang in Laos. I’m still very much in favour of experiencing as much as possible without burning out but we were getting a wee bit fed up with spending so much time on buses, trains and tuk tuks so decided to eat our words and find out what all the fuss was about.

The stunning scenery on the mighty Mekong

The stunning scenery on the mighty Mekong

It ended up being the perfect way to recharge the batteries and revive our excitement about the upcoming parts of our journey. I was getting to the stage where I was feeling that every town was “same same… but different” and not experiencing the usual joy of visiting somewhere new. I knew this was a bad sign and all the advice on how to handle this pointed to establishing some sort of routine. Paul and I are somewhat creatures of habit so this sounded like a brilliant plan.

 

Our favourite street stall - best lemon shakes in Luang Prabang

Our favourite street stall – best lemon shakes in Luang Prabang

We arrived in Luang Prabang having spent 2 days on the infamous slow boat from Huay Xai and the Thai border along the Mekong River. During the 1st day I seriously thought my bum was going to fall off due to prolonged numbness and the boredom I felt had no bounds. Day 2 was significantly better and I really started to appreciate the dramatic scenery of the extremely remote villages and enormous limestone karsts. We had a great combination of tourists and locals on the boat and the most adorable and well behaved kids I’ve ever seen, we Brits could take a leaf out of the Lao parenting techniques.

 

Morning alms giving

Morning alms giving

Luang Prabang is known as the city of the holy Buddha and was the home of the Lao royal family before the abdication of the throne. There is a huge population of Buddhist monks and a stunning collection of temples to admire. It is technically a city but has the feel of a smallish town and as a remnant of French colonialism the architecture is really beautiful. We’d booked a couple of nights in a lovely guesthouse just steps from both the Mekong and the very lovely night markets and day 2 in the city found Paul disappearing to negotiate a longer term rate with our guesthouse owner. We’d be spending 2 weeks in one place, something we hadn’t done since revelling in the luxury of our friends’ hospitality in Melbourne. We had a plan to do a little sightseeing, catch up on writing, photo editing and trip research and just generally calm down after a hectic few months.

 

Paul chowing down on yet another delicious baguette

Paul chowing down on yet another delicious baguette

We spent our days eating delicious French baguette sandwiches, banana bread and our own body weight in lemon fruit shakes. We checked out the £1 street food buffets and discovered a great restaurant on the banks of the Mekong that did delicious spring rolls and large Beer Lao for 10,000 Kip (90p). Notice how most of our activity revolves around food, gives you an idea about our priorities!

 

Ambling around the temple complex of Mount Phousi

Ambling around the temple complex of Mount Phousi

To combat the gorging we signed up for yoga classes. I haven’t done yoga in 10 years and Paul has never been to a class, his exact words were “how hard can a bit of stretching be?” Mwaa ha ha, the sweat pouring down his face at the end of our 1st class had him rethinking the benefits. We enjoyed the classes mostly at sunset on a terrace overlooking the river and it sounds ridiculous to say but I had no idea how relaxing it would be. As soon as I have an income again I will be signing up for classes when we get home.

 

£1 street buffets crowded into a busy alley

£1 street buffets crowded into a busy alley

We visited the famous Kuang Si waterfalls outside the city with a cracking Aussie couple we met in Sumatra and who just happened to be in Laos at the same time. We climbed the huge hill in the middle of town to admire the otherworldly temple complex of Mount Phousi and to try and find a monk to chat to (to no avail). We wandered the French colonial streets and sauntered through the night market stalls who were selling the most beautiful arts and crafts. We read a lot of books and watched tons of movies. It was a completely different pace to what we’re used to and it was weird to adjust, but on reflection I can whole heartedly agree with establishing a routine if you’re getting burnt out. It was wonderful and quiet and by the time we packed up to head south I was raring to go again.

 

Gorgeous Kuang Si waterfalls - this is one of the swimming holes

Gorgeous Kuang Si waterfalls – this is one of the swimming holes

 

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19 Responses

  1. Sarah Somewhere

    Gorgeous! We didn’t spend enough time in LB to truly appreciate it, as we were also suffering a bit of burn out and were heading the other way on the slow boat to Thailand. I also loved the trip along the Mekong, as long as it was, the scenery was spectacular! Looks like you used the time well, STUNNING photos!!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Livin’ the High Life at El TajMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      It was just what we needed at the time and it weirdly felt good having a routine every day. Laos is such a beautiful country and the people were so welcoming that it was fairly easy to have a great time.

      Reply
  2. Kim

    Sounds like an amazing time and I’m glad you got a taste of the slow life. It’s wonderful to be exited and ready to go again… we just spent a bunch of time in one place in Pokhara, Nepal and were so ready to get moving. The joy I felt landing in Bali was intense.
    Kim recently posted..Sit still and let happiness find youMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      I think the way you guys manage travel is a really healthy way to enjoy as much as possible without running the risk of burning out, plus it keeps the excitement flowing!!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Casey 🙂 It’s just really quiet and chilled out. The people are fairly reserved and there is no constant beeping of traffic, it’s superb for a quiet escape. P.S I was so excited to see bread again that I genuinely only ate baguettes for the first 5 days!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Oh you mean the time he was stung by a bee TWICE on the same toe?! Yeah, it might have been mentioned once or twice, you know your brother. We actually thought Erawan had a slight edge on Kuang Si, maybe because it was much quieter or possibly because we’d never seen anything like it before. They are very similar.

      Reply
  3. Phil

    Yeah, I thought Erawan was way better, tbh. Still Kuang Si was very nice. Maybe I’m bias as I saw my darling brother get sting by a bee… TWICE! That surely makes the experience more satisfying 😉 Bless him. Did he ever tell you about the time he was stuck in a train door 😉

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Oh yeah he did, he’s weirdly proud of all his childhood mishaps. The burnt/bandaged feet in Jersey and being kicked in the head by a horse are personal favourites, also explains a lot 😉

      Reply
  4. Carmel

    Shawn is definitely a creature of habit where as I like a little more variety. We do want to settle in to a routine and have a few places along the way to not go anywhere. I know one of those places will be Perth when we go to visit my cousin, but I think the other places will just be left up to our whims. This looks like a great place to settle for a couple weeks! I’m also very food driven, as we’ve already discussed on Twitter…
    Carmel recently posted..MY UNDERWATER FEARFUL ADVENTUREMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      We’re fairly similar to you guys in that we always planned to have an end date for the trip, as a result we’ve tried to see as much as possible. I’m still determined to carry on doing that but sometimes you just need a break and Luang Prabang is perfect for that! I guess it’s about striking balance and every single traveller I know enjoys a different pace to the next. P.S if you visit you probably won’t want to leave due to the food!

      Reply
      • Maddie

        We were exhausted after the first 6 months but we’ve found a happy rhythm now, whenever we start getting travel fatigue we just slow it down for a week or so and it seems to work. We should have seen around 19 countries in 18 months which seems like a nice healthy number without going crazy!

  5. Julie

    Hey there! Great post about Luang Prabang. Glad you enjoyed the yoga class. Was wondering if you could post a link to our website to help spread the word. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Hey Julie, your classes were great! I’ve added a link into the post and a couple of people have asked me for details so I’ve sent them your website.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Hi Jenia, the place we stayed in Luang Prabang was called the Mekong Moon. We ended up staying for 2 weeks so negotiated a discount rate. It was a great spot, just next to the night market which was really handy and the Mekong River was at the end of the street.

      Reply

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