Lady in Luang Prabang

Everybody loves Laos. I have read innumerable travel blogs extolling the country, its people, and its culture. So after visiting Siem Reap last week, I continued my Southeast Asia travels with a stop in Luang Prabang, Laos’ northern gem.

Golden reclining Buddha statue on Mount Phou Si in Luang Prabang Laos

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is famous for its beautiful Buddhist temples and monasteries. It is also known for its laid-back ambiance, welcoming locals, and abundance of markets, restaurants, bars, and shops.

Tissue box holders at the night market in Luang Prabang Laos

Laos was the 84th country on my 90 under 30 Travel Project. I arrived on a flight from Cambodia excited to explore it, but wondering if the city would live up to the hype. I couldn’t wait to find out.

Boat on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang Laos

My accommodation, the Kiridara, was a 24-room boutique hotel that had offered to host me during my stay in Laos. It was located just five minutes from the airport, and upon arrival I found myself in a tranquil haven with beautiful peaked roofs on a hill overlooking Mount Phou Si.

Kiridara hotel in Luang Prabang Laos

The hotel had a gorgeous swimming pool, a restaurant where I ate great breakfasts every morning, a fitness center, and a spa with spacious treatment rooms. Speaking of rooms, my room was large with high ceilings, a big bed, a desk, a flat screen TV, wardrobes, a bathroom, and a terrace overlooking the pool. It would have been nice if the bed had been covered with a mosquito net, but other than that I loved it.

Treatment room at the spa at the Kiridara hotel in Luang Prabang Laos

After setting my bags down, I took one of the hotel’s complimentary tuk tuks into the city. Five minutes later I was at the night market, which immediately became one of my favorite places in Luang Prabang. Two long rows of colorful mats stretched out under tents for several blocks, and everything from brilliant silk scarves to large paper umbrellas was laid out on top of them.

Journals for sale at the night market in Luang Prabang Laos

But the market wasn’t the only place to shop in Luang Prabang. The main street, which was one of three running along the peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, was packed with boutiques. I explored the locally made goods at Ma Te Sai, the beautiful carved wooden bowls at Caruso Lao, the clothing at Satri Lounge and Anakha as I made my way down the road each day.

Clothing at the Anakha boutique in Luang Prabang Laos

Walking around helped me work up an appetite, which I sated with trips to several restaurants in Luang Prabang. The first was a mediocre meal at Blue Lagoon, a restaurant that came highly recommended but was deeply disappointing. Thankfully it was redeemed by a lunch that was offered to me on the expansive grounds of the Amantaka hotel. I enjoyed a traditional meal of spicy bamboo salad that was a bit hot for my weak taste buds, excellent red curry with chicken, and a rich mango and lime tart.

Bamboo salad for lunch at the Amantaka hotel in Luang Prabang Laos

I didn’t just eat at restaurants, though. On my second night in Luang Prabang, I stumbled upon a narrow passage that was a foodie extension of the night market. On one side were huge tables with all kinds of noodles, rice, vegetables, and meats, and on the other were picnic tables. I took a plate, piled it with food, and paid less US$1.25 for what was a very good dinner.

Food at a market in Luang Prabang Laos

Food and shopping covered, I focused on the cultural elements of the city. Temples and monasteries were dotted throughout Luang Prabang, their gilded rooftops adorned with dragons and their interiors rife with statues of the Buddha.

Temple at night in Luang Prabang Laos

My favorite of the temples was one high up on Mount Phou Si. In fact, it wasn’t just one temple; the whole hillside was covered in golden statues, rock caves with shrines, and footpaths lined on either side by the silver scales of mythical beasts.

Golden Buddha with followers in Luang Prabang Laos

Back down on the ground, I woke up early one morning to see the daily procession of monks in their bright saffron robes collecting alms from people lining the street.

Monks collecting alms on their daily procession in Luang Prabang Laos

Most of the people giving rice and other food to the monks were tourists, which I found a bit strange, but there were a few locals in the mix as well. As the orange robes and yellow sashes made their way down the street, the monks also doled out some of their food to small children.

Feet of monks on their daily procession in Luang Prabang Laos

After getting my spiritual and cultural fix in Luang Prabang, I focused on my physical needs. Or wants, rather. One afternoon while I was reading by the pool at my hotel, I was offered a complimentary mini massage by one of the staff therapists. It was incredibly relaxing, and the perfect poolside treat.

Kiridara hotel in Luang Prabang Laos

The following day I was invited to the spa at the Amantaka for a relaxing Lao massage. My therapist worked out all of the tension in my shoulders that had accumulated while carrying my heavy bag around town. The treatment was followed by a relaxing cup of tea and a plate of fresh fruit in a secluded garden terrace outside of the room.

Spa treatment area at the Amantaka hotel in Luang Prabang Laos

Between the peaceful and relaxing ambiance of the city, the vibrancy of the markets, the splendor of the golden temples, and the gentle flow of the Mekong, I wanted to stay in Luang Prabang forever. Having arrived skeptical that the city could be as mythical and inspiring as I had read, I left firmly in the ranks of those that love it. The next stop on my Southeast Asia travels was Bangkok, a busy city a world away from the peaceful haven of Luang Prabang, but one that made me appreciate Laos all the more.

10 Comments on Lady in Luang Prabang

  1. Andi
    February 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm (3 years ago)

    Loooooved this post! You’re so right, I’ve heard nothing but the most amazing things about Laos. Your pics took my breath away and that hotel, amazing!!! I <3 Buddhas.

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      February 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks Andi! The city and the hotel were both great! Luang Prabang is a really amazing place.

      Reply
  2. Pam
    February 22, 2012 at 2:09 am (3 years ago)

    Wow, sounds perfect!! Is Luang Prabang in the midst of jungles or more in the midst of cities/towns? It is definitely on my list of necessary trips for the future!

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks Pam! Luang Prabang has the feel of a town, but you can take side trips to waterfalls, caves, elephant sanctuaries, etc.

      Reply
  3. RonFromLao
    February 23, 2012 at 12:52 am (3 years ago)

    So this was all free? You were hosted by the hotel, invited to the spa. How did you manage that?

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      February 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Ron! The hotel and spa hosted me to write reviews while I was in Luang Prabang.

      Reply
  4. Sam Clark
    February 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm (3 years ago)

    Lovely pictures – thank you!

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      February 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m glad you liked them!

      Reply
  5. Emily in Chile
    February 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm (3 years ago)

    I love that you have a different take on Luang Prabang – I feel like I’ve read quite a bit about it from various blogger-backpackers, but your post made it seem new. Sounds like a great trip!

    Reply
    • aladyinlondon
      February 27, 2012 at 8:17 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks Emily! I’m glad you liked reading about the city from a different perspective!

      Reply

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