In the land of the orange moon lies Luang Prabang the second city of the gentle country of Laos. Settled between the lesser known Nam Khan and the mighty Mekong rivers it welcomes visitors to see their temples and taste their food.
Visitors seem to be a mix of the backpacker student and the middle aged newly free of grown kids and some spare cash brigade….and the mix works. Hunched over maps and coffee in street cafes the unlikely mix share travellers tales and travel tips.
Despite being of a tropical clime the height of Luang Prabang brings cool breezes and a lesser intensity of heat in April – very welcome if you are a walker and explorer like me. You definitely get more mileage on the quaint streets if not so humid. Its very much a walkable city but with the ease of available tuk tuks if you tire or can’t find your restaurant or hotel. ……One huge thing I admire about this town is that it hasn’t allowed any chain to infiltrate so cafes and hotels are locally owned. So locally owned means fantastic Asian service and authenticity.
There are more temples here than any other Asian town that I have visited. There are delightful cafes and restaurants and many of which offer cooking courses. Some visitors choose to get up early to see the monks receive alms. I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of interrupting a significant ceremony but many do in order to take photographs of the lines of monks and novices in their bright orange flowing robes. There are plenty of agents along the main road that can organise side trips to waterfalls or elephant sanctuaries. We chose to visit the Elephant Village and had an amazing experience there. Most evenings there are night markets selling paper parasols and crafts, it’s friendly and I didn’t find the vendors pushy. We ended most evenings with a local foot massage which are cheap and spas are plentiful. We also took a boat trip on the Nam Khan river which we organised by just asking a boat owner for an hour trip. Exploring a little further we braved the bamboo bridges which swing and sway across the Nam Khan to see the villages on the other side.
We stayed at the impressive Hotel de la Paix 15 minutes walk from the centre. We chose to rest our heads on the outskirts of the town as we wanted a pool, whereas the more central accomodation choices do not have this luxury. We were not disappointed. This ex governor’s fort has been transformed into a boutique style hotel with 23 rooms. The quadrangle which must have previously been the marching and exercise area is now a pool and garden …..truly a peaceful haven for weary walkers.
The corner rooms have the added bonus of a small private pool each. The staff who tend the grounds, serve breakfast or welcome you at the reception desk can not do enough for you, cliched expression I know but they deliver and then some. Their pleasure is your pleasure, they want to make sure you have a good time, no question is too daft to ask, no request too difficult to meet. The concierge will order a tuk tuk, taxi you himself, book restaurants and answer questions and even provide an umberella if a storm gets in the way of your plans!
We only ate breakfast there but the food is plentiful and served with a Lao smile always. There is a spa but we didn’t avail ourselves of this as we like to try both the food and spa services in the town….but we know others who really enjoyed the onsite spa experience.
Would I go back? well yes if just for the smiles and the service………..but I like to see new places so am unlikely to but at the very least I can spread the Hotel de la Paix word …its worth listening to.