THE WEEKLY #21: LIVING IN LUANG PRABANG
The week began with an arduous bus journey from Cambodia to Laos, which spanned almost three days.
THE THREE DAY BUS JOURNEY
Normally I would stop off along the way but I was meeting a friend in Luang Prabang on December 3rd. During the trip I rode in 12 different vehicles such as motorbikes, jeepneys, a sleeper bus and the ever reliable Tuk-Tuk.
By traveling on from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang land instead of flying I spent an extra 50 hours in transit and saved $90. Worth it? I am not sure. However, 24 hours of that transit was spent exploring Vientiane, which is a city I wouldn’t have seen had I flown. Crossing the border from Cambodia to Laos was also an interesting experience with lots of commissions, local knowledge and systems to be aware of. I will publish a full blog post about the journey in the coming days.
LUANG PRABANG, LAOS
I arrived in Luang Prabang and was immediately surprised at the level of infrastructure throughout the entire city, which is situated alongside the mighty Mekong River. Most towns and cities I had visited in Southeast Asia had some nice hotels, restaurants and so forth but it was never a long walk to see some sub-par living conditions for many locals. Maybe I have to dig deeper but on the surface Luang Prabang looks void of shacks, shanties and huts for the most part. Obviously I have spotted a few but in comparison to Siem Reap or El Nido the overall appearance of the town is quite well structured.
The impact this standard of living is quite evident in the prices of general groceries, food and drinks. While still comparatively cheap to western countries, when comparing Luang Prabang to the neighboring countries it is a little on the steep side. If you come straight to Laos from a western country you will laugh at me for saying that as you can still get a beer for $1 but if you come from Cambodia or Thailand you will understand.
After a day of relaxation it was time to get out and explore. The great part about Luang Prabang is that the Mekong River winds along the outskirts of the town center. Walking along the path, peering over the edge every so often to see monks paddling canoes, locals building bridges and tour boats floating past is a great way to enjoy a few hours wandering. I found a set of stairs and got right down on the bank of the river watching three young monks frolicking around in a canoe without too much purpose.
KUANG SI FALLS
The highlight of the week was exploring Kuang Si Falls, the most well-known attraction in Luang Prabang. A 45-minute van ride for a few bucks from the town center delivered us to the falls, which is also attached to a bear rescue sanctuary and a butterfly garden. The bear rescue center seemed legitimate but we did see a local guy catching hundreds of butterflies presumable to take to the butterfly garden. Nothing unusual or cruel but a little odd to capture butterflies from the waterfalls and put them in an enclosed area. Tourism.
The waterfall walkway can be traversed in less than fifteen minutes, although in reality it will take you a couple of hours as you stand in awe of multiple cascades of luminescent blue water. The major attraction at the Kuang Si is a giant waterfall, that doesn’t crash down with force but rather flows down platform by platform, the water cascading down towards a large creamy pool pastel blue.
I have another week left in Luang Prabang to explore a couple more waterfalls, maybe a few villages and lookouts and spend some time in the “office” and “gym”. Yes I do both of those from time to time.
Hope you all had a great week!