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Published: February 20th 2011
We made it to Luang Prabang after few days on the road. If you want to have more details on the way to reach Luang Prabang, check our last blog Slow boat on the Mekong to Luang Prabang
How many days should you stay in Luang Prabang? Well, this is an esay question to which the answer will always be...longer than what we stay!
We could have easily spent a week here and be fully busy with different activities, but we had only 2 full days...life is always about choices...and time is a very scare supply when you are a 10 years old with full time schooling.
What we did not do and would have love to do....2 days of trekking with a home stay, spending a full day learning mahout skills with the elephants, going kayaking for another full day, even having a full day cooking class (Leslie would have love this!)...you can count, a full week would have been perfect.
We stay for 2 nights at Le Belair. I have to thank CATE AND BENN
for recommanding the hotel. We had a beautiful room with river and garden view...great breakfast along the river, internet, and better, free renting of bicycles for the full stay.
Leslie loves bicycles, but living in Bangkok, it's still not the safest way to go across the city. The hotel sits just beyond the Old Bridge, away from the crowd, but 3 minutes cycling to the center of Luang Prabang.
These days Luang Prabang offers a choice in accomodation for any budget....from the hundreds of backpackers...up to the new Aman at 840usd a night. Why would anybody spend so much knowing that you spend most of your time outside your hotel...and on top of this, the Aman doesn't even have proper views...well...
For two days we spent our time cycling around the city, visiting sites and enjoying life. You can spend your time going from one Wat to another Wat, we decided to keep ourselves to seven of them.
We also spent a lot of time enjoying nice food...here you can go from Lao, to nice BB, to Indian, bakeries, pizza, name it, find it, it's here....and yes, few Beerlao were enjoyed too...
On our first morning, we also woke up at 5.15am to witness the monks alms. Great news, even Leslie was wishing to wake up so ealry to come with us...yes, he is growing!
There has been a lot of ink used to argue about the monk alms and which kind of zoo it is these days in Luang Prabang. My personal point of view is simple, from which ever faith you are, you should respect others faith and not make a tourist show of their believes.
The alms happen all around town with the monks walking the street at the rise of the day to collect food. This is something we witness everyday at home too (in Bangkok), at least when we are up and outside at 6am (not often). In Luang Prabang it has become a tourist attraction. Yes, we did witness more tourists than monks, but this is not my point. Why do tourists who are not even bouddhist participate in the alms? Ok, it brings food in, this is the only explanation I could accept. But it is turn into a tourist show by many groups around (actually mainly by groups). I simply do not find this very respectful...witness the alms, yes...keep your distance...yes too. We saw way too many people (interestingly mainly asians) pointing their huge cameras right at the face of the monks. I understand that not
everybody will agree with me, but I wish some tourists would simply keep a little more their distance, still witnessing a very humble experience.
What we seriously do recommend is the sunset out of Phu Si right in the middle of the city. Make sure you arrive early because the place ended up crowded, very crowded!
When should you come to Luang Prabang. First, you should not come when the smog is on. You may be aware or not about this, but it is a very important point. Farmers all around South Asia burn their fields to prepare for the new season. It is also widely used by loggers to clear forests after logging, and this is way more the issue. In Laos, it happens around March to May. At that time, Luang Prabang ends up in a serious smog cloud....meaning you will not see the blue sky, and could suffer from red eyes and respiratory difficulties. This will only clear with the first rains which are coming early May. From May to November you have the rainy season....not really an issue except for sunset! And from December to February, you have a great time, but still want
to avoid Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year when the place becomes really crowded...My point is...that doesn't leave you a huge amount of perfect weeks...
We had a great time in Luang Prabang. Wish more places were still like this around Asia. It simply show you that when you make a place less accessible, with less tourists, you can bring a better atmosphere for the few visitors.
Coming by plane or by boat...my choice is easy, the slow boat was the way to go.
From Luang Prabang we made our way to Vang Vieng, but this is coming in our next blog...
We are just back in Bangkok...and for me, back soon on a plane too...
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