Although always on the radar, Laos was a last minute addition to our itinerary while traveling in SE Asia. My friend and I scrambled in Siem Reap to take passport-style photos required for our visa on arrival and I am grateful we made the extra effort. Luang Prabang is a lush and peaceful town, even imposing a curfew at night. I recommend riding a bike to weave around the pretty side streets and as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town is increasing in popularity. I got eaten up alive by mosquitoes (even with 25% deet!), so I highly recommend a good repellent. [Nic]
[DO] Morning Alms-Giving
Wake up at 5am to participate in the morning alms ceremony. I realize that getting up that early is not what most people consider reasonable on vacation, but trust me it’s worth it. At sunrise every morning- rain or shine- the monks walk single file through the town carrying their alms bowls and the people of the town (and tourists too) offer them food. We paid our hotel $5 each for a basket of freshly made rice (I nearly burned my fingers), but a variety of other food is appropriate too. Whether you participate or observe, it is important to exercise proper etiquette and be respectful of the ritual to preserve the tradition’s integrity- no flash photography, talking, touching, street food, etc.
[SHOP] Night Market
The main stretch of town is quaint and at night is transformed into a street market. It is geared to tourists with a repetitive selection of souvenirs, yet it is still possible to find unique locally sourced crafts, clothes, home goods, accessories and other collectibles. Among the endless stalls of tribal handicrafts, I was impressed to find one clever teenager selling hand carved bamboo iPhone speakers. I couldn’t resist buying one for only $4 and it works great! It’s worth noting that unlike Cambodia and Vietnam, the vendors are refreshingly low pressure.
If you have the foresight to plan in advance, unlike us, then make a reservation for dinner at Tamarind. We were lucky to just walk in and the manager was able to squeeze us in. Like everything in life, timing is everything. We saw him turn away scores of others trying to do the same as us. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but especially remember the young stir fried pumpkin. The restaurant also offers cooking classes.