Luang Prabang is a beautiful town at the confluence of the Kong and the Mekong Rivers.





The town centre is quite small and very easy to walk around and  it lies either side of the Mekong and Kong rivers and spreads out to the east, west and south of the centre. 





Luang Prabang has a lot of the old colonial French buildings a lot of which have been restored and the whole town is very leafy and green with trees, bushes and flowers everywhere. There is a lot of birdlife and a lot of different coloured butterflies found even in the main street.  




This is the museum which used to be the king’s residence prior to the  communist takeover and was worth a visit.  Most of the rooms were very austere apart from the throne room which was painted blood red with beautiful murals done with Japanese glass mosaic.  No photos were allowed.

There are a lot of cicadas which start up in unison at various times of the day and get very loud and then stop as suddently as they start.





 A lot of the street and other signs are usually in the Lao language and English or French which is helpful.

 The beauty of the place is also in the fact that although there are a lot of tourists (mainly backpackers) the local sellers of everything don’t harrass you and there is not so much traffic.  Only the tuk tuk drivers who want a fare ask you as you pass and smile if you say no.  The tuk tuks are raised at the front which makes them look like they have been adapted to seats and motors but they look like they may have been used with horses in years gone by. 

A lot of people ride their motorbikes with one hand and hold an umbrella in the other hand to either keep the sun or rain off themselves.

Luang Prabang is what we imagined some of Hanoi to be like when we went a couple of years ago because the city was advertised as having a very French colonial feel and lots of cafes selling pastries etc but we were disappointed as the city looked very dilapidated and the buildings dirty and poor with lots of smelly motorbikes and it was hard to find any of that kind of architecture or any cafes in the old part of town.





The many red poinsiana trees are beautiful. There are many cafes selling good Laotian coffee and little stalls on the street as well as in the cafes selling fresh delicious baguettes with all sorts of fillings all sorts of croissants and pastries and fresh fruit juices .





 Most of the Laotians we have come accross can speak a bit of English and some have good English and some French and most have ready smiles.

We went to a restaurant called L’elephant owned by a Frenchman and we had the most delicious Lao food in a lovely colonial setting.  The service was excellent. 

The local Lao food is interesting and we have only had delicious food.  All the fruit  the mangoes, pineapples and pappaya are all sweet and delicious and vegetables so fresh.  They have some interesting fruit juices – Job’s Tears juice (an acquired taste) and Jujuba juice which is very nice. 

A small restaurant called the Tamarind.  We had some tasty Lao dips of smoked eggplant,   a lovely corriander, garlic and chilli dip  and fried river weed with sesame seeds (bit like Nori) We also tried the marinated buffalo which was mild and tender.  Their pork or buffalo laap (minced with lots of chilli and herbs) is also really tasty.  The baguettes with very delicious ham, mustard  and salad were some of the best we have had anywhere.  It is just as well we are doing a lot of exercise!

We chose  restaurants which had fans trained on us.  We ate Lao food at on our first night at the hotel, having arrived after dark and we sat outside and had every kind of insect arrive at the table from minute ant like things and white wispy insects to big black bugs, little black and white spiders and hoards of mosquitoes. The setting however is lovely overlooking the river and the old bridge above.





They have also left a large Jackfruit tree in the middle of the restaurant which looks funny with all it’s fruit hanging there.





We also thought we had left the “Toke’s” behind in Bali but no, we have a couple of the skink like things outside under the eaves. They wait until you are asleep and then make their sounds which are loud enough to wake you up. They must be cousins of the ones in Bali because the ones in Bali just make 3 or 4 “tokk….kay” sounds and peter out on the last note but the ones here start off with a sound like a motorbike starting up and then give their 3 or 4 sounds loudly. We have got used to them now but still haven’t seen them.

We had run out of the two bottles of Irish whisky and one bottle of gin which we had brought with us for our pre dinner drinks so we bought a real litre of Gordon’s gin for all of $9. There is obviously no tax on it and tasted like the real thing not like in China where it is in a “real” bottle but tastes nothing like the real thing in anything other than the large hotels and then you pay a lot for a drink. They also have the delicious “rosella” hibiscus drink and it is a lovely drink with ice.

The start of the low season obviously gives the locals the chance to improve their buildings and renovate and we have seen a lot of examples of this. Our hotel is doing the same and our bungalow has just been finished.  Our hotel is across the old bridge on the Kong river set in a beautiful garden over looking the river and above it the old bridge . We are in a traditional looking bungalow and they have just renovated it with beautiful local wood and all the curtains and soft furnishings are made of natural fibres. It has got all the mod cons and a lovely new bathroom with “mercedes” like optional height shower heads and a nice deep bath. Every hotel gives you bottled water and we had a nice fruit basket with delicious rambutans and a mango.

The gym is out in the midlde of the garden which is the first time we have seen anything like that. There are thousands of mangoes around and we watched a man balance precariously on two little tables to try and reach mangoes with a stick.

It is an easy 20minute walk into the centre of town over and old bridge with planks you can see through which takes only motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians. In the centre of town is Phusi (pronounced pussy) mountain and it is recommended to climb the many stairs to view the sunset which we will do while we are here if it isn’t raining. We have had some torrential downpours  but luckily haven’t been caught in it yet.

Apparently the boys don’t have to become monks here for life, just for a couple of years and it is usual for many of them to do this before they grow up and marry. Best of both worlds I guess! Some join so they can have some form of education. Reminds me a bit of military service that some countries still have! You see them walking all over town with umbrellas to shade themselves.

We were very energetic and took bikes (free from the hotel) and rode into town to see the scores of monks collect their food from the locals. Unlike Thailand where they drive on the left hand side of the road, Laos drives on the right hand side of the road so we were careful when we first got on the bikes and it will be good preparation for China who also drive on the right hand side.

Don’t think Maurice will be a danger to the “Green Edge” tour de France team!

We were told the monks walk around the main roads in town between 6-7am so we got there about 6.15 and were told that it was all over and that they always start out at daybreak which was about 5.30am! We’ll try another day.

We then rode to the bus station to see the condition of the buses that travel to Vientiane where we will spend a night before flying to Kunming. We had been told many conflicting stories about the state of the ordinary buses, the VIP buses and the mini buses and that the mini buses broke down a little less than the others. The VIP buses looked the most comfortable to travel on so we booked one of them.

There is a sign in the town which asks for volunteers every day at 1 and 3pm to come to a certain building to help locals improve their English so we thought we might go along and meet some locals other than the sales or hotel people who speak some English.

They have a night market along the main street every night and it runs for about 3 blocks.

 The goods are beautifully displayed and there are lots of good quality souvenirs (cotton and silk woven wall hangings and scarves, clothes, wooden articles etc etc. The poor sellers don’t have much business now as it is the monsoonal low season and I feel bad for them having to set up their stalls with awnings every night and lay out all the goods and then put them all away again a few hours later.

The Laotian language is similar in some ways to Thai – for “hello” the Thai’s say Sawadee ka and the Laotians say Sabai dee. Thank you in Thai is Khawp khun ka and in Lao it is Khawp Jai. I’m trying not to learn too much because as of next week I’ll need all the Mandarin I can remember so have brought my textbook with me and am revising what I’ve learnt.

We took a mini van with eight other people to the Kouang Si Waterfall and park which is about 45minutes away in the mountains. We thought we were going to travel in a Tuk tuk and it was good in one way that we didn’t because it would have taken twice as long but on the downside the French backpacker that was with us had the worst B.O we had every experienced and even after a dip in the water he smelt just as bad on the way back!





The park has an Asiatic and a Sun bear rescue centre. The bears are gorgeous and the staff hide their food so that they don’t lose the ability to forrage. They are very funny to watch trying to find their bananas and other foods with heads hidden and bottoms in the air searching for the food.  These are Asiatic bears with big white V’s on their neck.






The series of waterfalls and pools are beautiful and the water was really refreshing on a hot and humid day.







You can climb to the top to look down on the area but we passed on that and opted instead for a nice ice coffee at a nice cafe complete with coffee machine. We just had to wake one of the two sleeping staff behind the counter to make us one! If they can have a cafe and coffee machine there they can have one anywhere! The quality of the coffee is very good and strong and you just have to remember to say no sugar or they make it very sweet. The same goes for the lime with soda or rosella juice.

We got up early again (this time at 4.30am – I know amazing for me!) to watch the procession of monks getting their food at sunrise – about 5.33 at the moment.




We found our bikes in the dark and rode across the wooden bridge and had an easy ride in the dark into the main street to wait for the sunrise.   As soon as we arrived with our bikes some little ladies scurried across to us with woven baskets full of warm sticky rice, trays of bananas and others of biscuits, all vying for the opportunity to sell us some offerings.  All the monk’s  food is donated and a lot of the establishments donate food to them during the week but they supplement it with the daily ritual of walking down the main street of town in a line and locals and tourists (who pay for the sticky rice, fruit and biscuits) put the food in their bowls.





 I’m glad I’m not a monk as the procedure is to take some sticky rice out of the woven basket with your hand and put it in their bowl. The bananas and biscuits which are wrapped would be alright but I wouldn’t fancy eating the rice which has been handled by so many people along the way! Maurice and I were novices and gave the first 20 odd monks a big handful of rice and ran out pretty quickly so that when the 3rd lot came along we had nothing left so we got up and moved across the road. We then watched how the locals just take about a teaspoonful at a time to give to them.   We understood why  as there must have been about 200 monks by the end of the procession.  They come along in groups of about 20 at a time. I hope they take it in turns to be at the front as the last groups seemed not to get much food at all.

You are supposed to be at a lower level to the monks so the ladies that sell you the offerings put down mats and you sit on these. Just before the monks appeared about a dozen children turned up, climbed over the wall behind us and came back with plastic bags and containers.





They then sat down with us and some of the monks who had already received food (and Maurice and I) put food in their bags. I don’t know if these kids were homeless or just clever but they all did pretty well from us and the monks.






We then cycled on to a lovely little cafe down the road which open for the tourists who come to see the monks.





We had an iced coffee and almond croissant that could have come from Paris which we shared and then cycled back to the hotel across the river.





We will definately come back here if we get the chance.