Luang Prabang is a city of about 60,000 located on a peninsula formed by the confluence of the Mekong River and the much smaller Nam Kham River. The Lonely Planet guidebook describes this place as “one of the most sophisticated places in Southeast Asia”, a place of “old-world romance”, “a travellers’ Shangri La”, and “a place you’ll stay longer than planned”. From our experience, we heartily agree.
Like the rest of Laos, Luang Prabang is laidback and friendly. The tourism industry here is well established, catering to all but the high end of luxury. No large chain hotels or restaurants are here, thankfully. Due to the influence of the French, who dominated this country for years, bakeries and restaurants offer fantastic cuisine, great breads, and pastries. The night market is a bustling place, filled with interesting artwork and clothing. Hawkers and touts are helpful and not aggressive. That in itself is worth a lot.
Buildings constructed by the French have been preserved and are now used as shops and cafes.
While the number of pictures of food below might indicate that all we did in Luang Prabang was eat. That’s not the case…almost. The food everywhere was terrific! Emily-Ann and Mary-Anna took a cooking course one evening and made fish soup, pork lark, and sticky rice. In the first pictures below, we’re at our favourite bakery where Aaron had one of his favourites…pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Mary-Anna and the girls enjoyed Nanaimo bars and great cakes. I had a super cinnamon bun.
Cafes overlooking the river were hard to resist.
In the pics below, rice cakes and peppers dry in the sun.
Fruit sellers would walk the street with their wares. Lychees, rambutan, and other luscious fruits were always available.
We had a fabulous meal in the market where you picked the raw ingredients from an assortment then gave it to the cook who threw it into a wok before serving it up to you. Sort of like Mongos back at home but this one cost 10,000 kip per plate, about $1.20 for all you could eat.
We ate street food frequently. The first pictures below show a rice and banana concoction on a stick which we ate for breakfast.
Luang Prabang is well known for its many Buddhist temples and schools. Monks, particularly younger ones, are seen throughout the town.
We saw small balls of rice placed into the crooks of a tree’s branches. I suspect this has some religious symbolism.
Luang Prabang is also home to many artists. A wide variety of artwork is created here and sold in shops and the market.
We spent Christmas eve and Christmas day in Luang Prabang. As you can see in the first picture below, someone made a valiant attempt to create a Christmas tree.
As part of our Christmas celebrations, we ate at Juanita’s Restaurant (the name of my oldest sister) and then stopped at another restaurant for a banana split (a Christmas meal tradition in the extended Doerksen family). To be honest, I didn’t miss the uber-emphasis on Christmas and its nauseating commercialism that we can’t help but experience each year in Manitoba. A quieter more selective Christmas enjoyed as a family was refreshing.
Check out the cool tuk tuk below. On December 27th, we took this tuk tuk to the airport from where we left Laos and flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. Laos certainly has been one of our favourite countries of the trip.