When in Laos: I Spent My Birthday in Luang Prabang

Traveling for years has slowly turned me into a less materialistic person. This year, I celebrated a birthday with no cakes, no gifts, and no parties. The beauty of Luang Prabang in Laos was enough for a gift to feel blessed with nature.
Luang Prabang is located in the central north of Laos. It is 340 km north of the capital Vientiane. It has been known as a province that offers a laid-back experience for its well-preserved natural resources and rich cultural heritage.
I traveled to Luang Prabang by bus. I took a sleeper bus that left Vientiane at 8:30PM and arrived on the next day. Although it was a long travel of 11 hours, I just slept the entire time.
Not only did I save money on accommodation for a night (one-way bus ticket costs 150,000 kip / 18 USD) but I also got a better sleep, props to the comfortable bed! It was actually my first time in that kind of sleeper bus. I had experiences with a sleeper bus in Myanmar before, yet I find Lao buses more comfortable. 
I arrived at around 7:00AM of the following day. After a short tuktuk ride from the bus station to the guest house and dropping off my luggage, I was all set to enjoy Luang Prabang. Here are the highlights:

Climbed a Hill
In the middle of downtown of Luang Prabang is a 150-meter hill that they call as Mount Phousi. It is a good place to catch the sunrise or sunset . It sits in between two rivers, the Mekong River and the Khan River.
Going up may require leg work for the 335 steps. Nevertheless the path is mostly made up of concrete so it is not like really trekking on a mountain. It took me 15-20 minutes to climb. (*Tip: Bring bottled water and insect repellent)

A small golden stupa called Wat Chomsi can be found at the peak. It stands as one of the symbols of Buddhism in Luang Prabang. In fact, I noticed that it is spotlighted at night, showing how significant it is to the people. 
I caught the sunset before 6:00PM. Although very crowded, the view from the top was simply stunning.
Entrance fee is 20,000 kip (2.45 USD). There are two entrance paths to Mount Phousi. I took the one at Sisavangvong Road. The other entrance is at Phousi Road.  

Swam at Kuang Si Falls
As said, a trip to Luang Prabang won’t be complete without seeing the natural gem Kuang Si Falls. Located in the south of Luang Prabang, it is an hour from downtown that is usually reached by air-conditioned van or tuktuk.


Kuang Si Falls is a painting that came to life. The water flows down three tiers. It is a huge waterfall standing 50 meters long.

I was able to climb up to the second tier. Facing the falls, I chose the right side path to climb up. Apparently, I didn't realize that it was the harder trail with steeper paths and lesser pavements. Nevertheless, after the 30-minute trek, I was able to take a dip in the swimming holes. The water was cold yet refreshing.
Entrance fee to Kuang Si Falls is 20,000 kip (2.45 USD). A cheap way to get there is to join a half-day group tour that drops and fetches 12-15 travelers to the waterfalls via air-conditioned van for 50,000 kip (6 USD) per person. Two schedules are usually offered (11:00AM and 1:30PM) and the tour is good for four hours. To those who want more flexible time, a good tip is to get a group of 6 travelers and negotiate a two-way ride with a tuktuk driver for 300,000 kip (36.70 USD).

Visited the Old Quarter


The Old Quarter is a long street of ancestral buildings preserved through the years. Looking at them and the street is like traveling back in time. Despite being old, they are still functioning where most of them are guest houses, restaurants, shops, and travel agencies.

Another interesting sites in the area is a temple that they call as Vat May Souvannapoumaram. It is one of the many Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang.
Not too far is the Luang Prabang National Museum that houses an array of artifacts and exhibits from Lane Xang kingdom to French colonial era. The museum used to be the resident of the king.

Going for a stroll in the afternoon at the Old Quarter is the best time to go. Then stay until nighttime since this is the same area where the night market is at.

Bargained at the Night Market
It seems that Luang Prabang hardly sleeps especially that the night market is there to spend the night with. At 6:00PM, the long stretch of Sisavangvong Road gets closed as vendors slowly pull out and spread different items for sale (mostly are for souvenirs). The night market runs until past midnight. This is something that one should not miss when in town. 

And just like most of the outdoor markets in Southeast Asia, it is always street smart to bargain for a lower price. 

The night market is also a place for cheap street food. Popular snacks like the Lao sandwich (10,000 to 30,000 kip), fruit shake (10,000 to 20,000 kip), coconut pancake (five pieces for 5,000 kip) and crepe (10,000 to 30,000 kip) are must-eats. For full meals, some alleys in the night market offer outdoor local buffet for a price cheaper than restaurants around.



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