To wrap up our Asia trip we spent six days in Luang Prabang in Laos. It was the ideal place to end our Asian journey.
Luang Prabang like many towns in Asia is two very different places. With one section on the peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. With guest houses, hotels and restaurants and the odd temple. The rest spread over a large area. A hodge podge of residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
The peninsula part of the town is small. Crammed with guest houses, travel agents, restaurants and hire shops. Guest houses with fascinating names like “Charming Place Hotel” “Mekong Moon Boutique”, “Mini House”, “Treasure Hotel”, “Big Brother Mouse”, “Wisdom Laos Hotel” and my favourite "Puck Luck".
Many of the sights are within walking distance. The streets aren't busy and walking helps you to feel the vibe of the town. On one day we hired bicycles (an ideal option) and wandered around the greater area.
We took one organised tour, one advertised on every tour advertising board in town. And there are many.
Our Day Tour
Included; kayaking, visiting a village (weaving and whisky), a cave, lunch and a waterfall. By shopping around we got the tour for $35 per person although other quotes were up to $45.
Collected in a very comfortable minivan there were about 12 people on the full day trip.
The first impression as you leave town is that many of the the roads are potholed and bumpy. But there is a lot of road building and construction. Much of it looks like it is Chinese financed or instigated.
There is also the classic examples of waste and excess. Around the university there is an imposing plastered and painted wall. It goes on for kilometre after kilometre. Many sections completely taken over by trees snd bushes and inside jungle!
The tour started with a visit to a local village. Where there was a local whiskey tasting and shopping for woven cotton and silk products.
From here it was on to the place where some people would ride elephants. And we would take a kayak trip across the Mekong to the Bat Ou cave.
We had to leave our bag containing our clothes. There were no lockers but we we told that leaving it on an open shelf "no problem there is a camera!!"
Our paddle across to the caves was manageable but you could feel the power of the placid looking river. There are 2 caves. The lower one filled with many Buddha statues. The upper one requires a longish climb up steep stairs. This cave is very dark and needs a torch. Both were quite disappointing.
From here we kayaked back to the elephant camp. This was a lot more challenging as I had a partner who had never kayaked before. At one stage we managed to be heading back up the river!! Back at the camp we met up with the elephant riders and had a delicious vegetarian lunch.
Kuang Si Falls
The waterfall is an hour and a half drive away (perfect for an after lunch nap). As we arrived at the waterfall which also has a bear rehabilitation area we were surprised by the number of visitors.
The waterfalls cascade their way down the hillside. There are 4 pools where you can swim and we went into all. The floors are very uneven and as the water is opaque it involves some stumbling around. This was real fun and with my accomplice I'd met on the tour we were like two kids!!
We eventually arrived back at the hotel at about 6pm. Tired and cold and exhilarated. An excellent day!
The Secret War in Laos
On the final day we experienced the other side of life in Laos created by the illegal stealth war in the country.
At the UXO Laos Information Centre you will read chilling facts and hear heart rending stories about this "crime against humanity" perpetrated during the 1964 to 1973 Vietnam War.
The millions of tons of bombs and hundreds of million of cluster bomb "bombies" that were indiscriminately dropped on Laos.
A chilling fact: At least one person a day dies a day from unexploded bombs and bombies.
The next day was an early start and we were going back to Kuala Lumpur.