Luang Prabang

The French bequeathed the beautiful small town of Luang Prabang to the rulers of Laos in 1953. When the communists took over in 1973, they moved their Capital to Vientiane. This had the effect of preserving this colonial town, leading to the town being named a Unesco World Heritage site. In recent years, there has been something of a spat between Laos and Unesco after Unesco requested that the Laos government stop certain development in the town or risk losing their Unesco status. I’m not sure this would bother them too much, as the official banner for the town reads “Unesco Word Heritage Site”.

Set at the confluence of two rivers (Mekong and Nam Khan), LP is a gem of place. It can be tough to get there however. It’s a 11-12 hour bus ride for the 230 miles from Vientiane; 24 hour bus ride from Hanoi; or a 2 day slow boat ride from Chiang Mai. Incidentally, one backpacker told us that backpackers in Chiang Mai had insisted on two 40 capacity boats for the 80 of them on their trip. When they woke up from their overnight stop, they found that one of their boats had returned to Chiang Mai and half were forced to stand for the second day’s journey. It’s the type of experience that some backpackers like though.

We took the plane from Siem Reap – about an hour, it was a similar experience to every other plane ride we had taken.

For one of the poorest countries in region, Luang Prabang is a pretty expensive town. Accommodation, tuktuk, food and activity costs are all much more expensive than other places in the region. We did the standard tourist stuff in town (monks, religious sites, streets, markets, restaurants etc). They were all good and we liked LP very much.

We did a couple of cool things with elephants outside of LP. The best thing that the girls did was go diving with baby elephants, definitely one up from swimming with dolphins. This was terrific as you can see from the photos. They encouraged the elephants to dive by dropping sugar cane to the bottom of the pool. We also did the standard elephant trek through the Mekong river. Quite expensive, but it’s a good day out.

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We also took a longboat tour up the river. We visited some caves (desperately disappointing – I’ve seen a lot of caves and these were the worst I had ever seen) and a Buddhist temple and monks (where you could see the poverty on offer in Laos).

NB I wrote this blog over six months ago when we were in Laos but forgot to post it

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