A huge fan of South East Asia I was very excited to finally get the chance to visit Lao this year but with only 3 days up my sleeve, that meant just enough time to visit Luang Prabang.
A pretty good indication of what a good time I would have was the friendly airport manager who met our plane on the tarmac and chatted all the way into the terminal. Once there my visa on arrival took a whole two minutes to be processed. I quickly learnt that the Lao people are just as friendly and welcoming as other parts of Asia but a little gentler and quieter.
I was very fortunate to be hosted by our ground operator in Lao and treated to a stay at the 5 star Sofitel Luang Prabang. The hotel is located in what was the French Governor’s Residence http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-9669-sofitel-luang-prabang/index.shtml
The hotel, its grounds and staff were exceptional however Luang Prabang has a range of fantastic accommodation from 3 to 5 star. My hotel was about a 15 minute walk from the centre of town and this is one place where it really is totally safe to walk around at night. In addition, almost all hotels offer free bike hire.
With not an awful lot of time to spend here, I had a private guide for a day and it was a great and very efficient way of seeing as much as I could, along with learning so much about the country and its people. It didn’t take me long to realise that I could easily spend a week in such a pretty town. The location is fantastic at the meeting point of the Mekong River and Nam Khan, surrounded by hills and mountains covered in dense forest. The French heritage is so much more evident here than in any other part of Asia that was colonised, including traditional French bakeries opening at 5:30am with freshly baked croissants. With more than a couple of nights here, of the many activities or sights you can include are, an elephant sanctuary, visits to temples, waterfalls, river cruises, giving alms to the monks, local craft classes, spas and cooking schools. There are also many great options for more serious biking and trekking just outside the town. But this is also a wonderful place to do not much, move from café to café, treat yourself to beautifully made authentic Lao handicrafts and enjoy the slow pace or lie by your hotel pool.
GOOD TO KNOW
- There are many religious sites within the town so take enough light layers to keep your shoulders and knees covered whenever you plan to visit them.
- Similar to Cambodia, they use their own currency, the kip, along with the USD.
- With Singapore Airlines now flying regularly into Luang Prabang and Vietiane, along with direct connections to major cities in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand this incredible country is so easy to add into any Asia itinerary.
- The most popular time of year to visit is November to February but our winter is also great as long as you don’t mind the hot and humid weather (average of around 30-35 degrees). The only time to avoid is March to May.