Luang Prabang is beautiful. Let’s just state that up front.
Nestled where the Nam Khan river joins the Mekong, the green, leafy, laid back streets are decorated with French colonial buildings, Buddhist Wats, magnolia and palm trees. Young buddhist monks wander the streets in bright orange robes, using umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. Its a pleasure to just wander around its back streets, getting lost.
The old concrete architecture has been renovated in places and now houses boutique clothing or coffee shops serving deep, rich, tar-like Lao grown coffee, accompanied by ginger bread pancakes or apple and tamarind tarts. The cafes wouldn’t look out of place in London except the palm tree-lined Mekong flows past, slow and unstoppable. Sitting and watching the river at Saffron cafe became a simple treat, like all the best things in life.
For the holidaymakers, plush spas offer massage and body treatments. For the backpackers, the Red Cross have an hour body massage for 50000 kip (£5) and your money goes directly to help fund them which soothes your conscience too.
We spent a few days here enjoying the ambience. The day would start twenty metres from our hostel, where a 7.30am yoga class on a wooden deck overlooked the Nam Khan river. Feral dogs would roam on the sand banks in the river, congregating and playing together like small kids. After yoga was coffee and indulgent breakfasts watching the river flow by.
Our day would be spent exploring streets, visiting Wats or museums. We enjoyed the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre where we learnt about some of the tribes in Laos and their costumes. We visited a scheme called Big Brother mouse setup to help local students practice their English with tourists. I chatted to three Hmong lads who hoped their English skills would help them find good jobs.
In the evenings there is a night market where souvenirs are haggled over. I have to admit that of the five nights we spent here, three evening meals were Indian curry. You can take us out of England but you can’t take away chicken tikka masala.