Luang Prabang: For Travelers than Tourists

Luang Prabang probably is the most difficult destination to write about simply because there's hardly enough perfect words for me to describe what it is about. To date, it remains my favourite destination because it has a lot of the elements that I prefer in a destination. To me, Luang Prabang is the epitome of what South East Asia is all about.

It wasn't any shorter than an 8 hour bus-ride away from Vientiane but every minute spent on the narrow beds of that sleeper bus was definitely worth it. I might not be able to describe it well, but I would like to see it as a way of giving you room to experience it for yourself. 

It was my first time to hop on a sleeper bus and I have heard stories about how it is not for the claustrophobic. I never really understood what they meant thinking how could a bus ride be so infamous. When I finally saw my bunk bed, it was then that I learned that I will have to share what appears to me as a single bed. It felt a little uncomfortable to me with my asian size and I could just imagine how difficult it would have been for those from the west. But it was still a worthwhile experience and the thrill was just starting to build up.

I have an affinity with water, bodies of water excite me the way a mountain does to a climber. It is one of the elements I look for to consider a destination desirable. An hour away from Luang Prabang is Kuang Si which is like nothing I have ever seen, the water flowed through various directions and gravity has designed the waters to fall so beautifully onto different paths and leads to numerous basins for everyone to bathe in.

The water was ice cold but it didn't weaken my desire to take on the adrenaline rush of jumping off the tree and splashing my way to the deep. Fishes nibbling on the soles of my feet added to the fun.

Following a tiring but fun affair at Kuang Si, a cozy and relaxing place is a must so we got our feet on the road and went inside alleys of houses to reach Utopia, this cafe brings your senses to rest and giving you enough space to breathe in and just relax, overlooking the Nam Khan river that is directly connected to the mighty Mekong. 

I couldn't really think of a better way to unwind than finding a spot on the river deck of Utopia. If I didn't settle for a bottle of beer, a yoga routine would have been a worthwhile option while waiting for the sun to set. Whatever the choice is, it such a good time to find "me" time and probably partner with your favorite book or talk to the one next to you. Time flies so slow at this point and feeling in the moment was so much rejuvenating. 

Getting hungry in Luang Prabang is not a problem because like the rest of the world, Lao people knows what good food is all about at a cost even the budget-est travelers could afford.

I tried to be a vegetarian years ago but it only lasted for a day, with a buffet for only less than 2 US Dollars however, I might reconsider. I didn't realize vegetables could have so many variety on the table and the taste definitely did not bore me like the usual. 

You don't only get to enjoy good food, you also get to share tables with strangers turned friends. I did brush up on my Spanish skills with a Spanish couple who we got the share our table with, but then I retreated back to English as my attempt to converse fluently had its toll on us all.

Because the vegetarian buffet is in the night market, it is inevitable to go on a shopping spree at the stalls of the night market - I could not imagine Asia without night markets and it is one of the elements I always look for because you get to know more of what the place has to offer by the products they sell specially those you couldn't find very often. 

The Lao people are probably the easiest to deal with when you want to haggle for a good price, they're very nice and so different from the arrogant sellers we usually encounter on typical night markets, and even the vendors here accept US Dollars. 

The following morning was something I have been wanting to do my whole life in traveling Asia. I have always wanted to be a philanthropist but its easier said than done so I devote myself in every opportunity I could to share, and sharing food better known as alms giving to the monks was one of the moments I could never forget in my life. Rising up early morning seating on the paved streets so that I don't go higher than the monks was an experience of a lifetime, we bought bananas at the night market the night before and around 5:00 in the morning, we immediately jumped out of bed to share the fruits to the monks. 

Monks are very much reliant on the food and alms that are given to them by the community and I want to be part of community who understands sharing.

The act of kindness and giving is something every human being should get used to. People don't need to suffer gravely before triggering kindness from us, it should be as random as a mundane act is. The chance to be up close with monks who we shared food to sparked something in me that is beyond the words I can utter. This is why I travel, because beyond selfies, it enriches my character in so many ways. We might just have fruits to share that morning but I know the act in itself doesn't wither even if hunger fades.

We were still half awake after the early morning session with the monks but it did not stop us from riding on our bikes and heading out the streets to explore more of Luang Prabang. 

Luang Prabang was once a French colony leaving marks in their architecture and the general look of the streets of Luang Prabang. But still, the South East Asian vibe is a strong hold where buddhism has been the center of the Laotian faith.

I truly enjoyed biking down the streets, passing by temples and cafes, shops and a lot of hostels at every spot, smiling at every tourist and locals, breathing in fresh air, until the sound of our stomach started to take our attention away from the quaint beauty that surrounded us. 

We soon reached Khem KhongRestaurant which is fairly small, with a space for about 30 people and their menu includes authentic Laotian food at a very cheap price and what you get is a priceless experience of dining beside the Mekong River, the life of Indochina. 

Since leaving Laos, I couldn't help but think about the Lao Stuffed Lemongrass and the Coco Milkshake made from natural coconut milk.

Also a good way to relax is to hop one of the cafes and bars, there's quite a number of some really interesting places to hang out over a cup of drink or a local beer and you'd see a number of people just talking to each other, reading a book or just feeling in how time flies so slow. We got to check out the famous Lao Lao Garden and true to its name, it had a forest feels inside. The entire Luang Prabang is very laid back and relaxing that even when I sat inside Lao Lao Garden, I found myself having a power nap on the table.


Climbing up Mount Phousi introduced me to understanding Buddhism more, I soon learned that Buddha appears differently every day and statues of Buddhas were everywhere en route the peak of this hill. 

The sun was high and it was a tiring climb to the top but what really redeemed all the sore was a view of Luang Prabang and two monks playing at the peak, enjoying the view of this wonderful place, appreciating that they live in not the wealthiest place on earth, but definitely one of the richest. 

If there's one thing I regret it is not spending too much time in Luang Prabang because I doubt if you could ever get enough. Its not as busy as the typical tourist destinations, but it is one of the meaningful trips you could have. Its not as hyped as the ones you've probably been to because Luang Prabang only appeals the travelers and not the tourists.

Luang Prabang probably ranks least in social media activity, but ironically, everybody seems to be so connected with each other while being disconnected from the outside world. I love how the backpacker feeling is so alive in this place because backpackers always give a very friendly environment, its so easy to talk to each other both fellow foreigners and locals, each smile thrown by a stranger looks very genuine and even quick hellos, which is a usual thing about backpackers, often lead to conversations that totally change your perspective about life in general. I was fascinated about the moment and those moments came in quite plenty in Luang Prabang. It is definitely a place to find traveling a meaningful activity. These elements, altogether, makes it the ideal destination for me. 

Luang Prabang is my favourite destination because it reaffirmed why I fell in love with traveling. 

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