We continued our Southeast Asian adventure from Hanoi in the North Vietnam to Luang Prabang in the North of Laos.
Luang Prabang is called the “jewel of Indochina” and has a rich colonial history and magnificent landscapes. The city is formed on a peninsula where the Mekong and the Nam Khan River meet and is surrounded by limestone cliffs and mountains. The combination of well preserved heritage, architecture, and surrounding natural beauty makes for an aesthetically pleasing and chilled out experience.
We checked in at the colonial style hotel, Luang Say Residence for the next few nights. The hotel exudes a strong French colonial feel with wrap around porches, French doors, paneled shutters, and pavilion roofs. The ground’s beauty is enhanced by tropical, lush gardens and mountain views. The cheerful staff with their perma-grins always boosted my mood.
Our second day in Luang Prabang was Peter’s birthday.
A few weeks before his birthday I had reached out to family and friends asking them to send me a quick video wishing Peter a Happy Birthday. I put together one long video for him comprised of what everyone had sent me. It was a small feat to put together without him noticing as he isn’t easy to surprise and I had to learn the technology while he was around, but I was able to pull it off and he was completely surprised. I started the morning off with the video which gave him some good laughs and smiles which was exactly what I was hoping for. Three year old, Skyler Ford, gave Peter the biggest laugh by wishing him a “very poopy birthday.”
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast while sitting outside on the wrap around porch, appreciating the mountains, crisp air and tropical garden views engulfing the hotel setting.
Afterwords we set out on the town by way of bikes complimentary of our hotel.
One of our first stops was at the Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel where they were known for their world-wide Angsana Spa. Our friends Jim and Polly from Halong Bay had stayed here and had highly recommended the spa services. Peter and I each indulged in an hour and a half massage where we were treated in a serene garden setting away from any hotel noise.
Then it was back to biking riding around the city for some exercise and sight seeing.
Towards early evening we stopped at a bar along the banks of the Nam Khan river, Utopia, where we grabbed a couple of cold Beer Laos and settled in for some relaxation while loving the fun setting. Peter’s birthday was turning out to be a fantastic Laotian day.
Fun fact, our friend Andrew was once featured in a Beer Lao commercial. Its ridiculous and incredible and always makes us think of him while sipping a Beer Laos. Watch it here.
Since it was Peter’s birthday we went for his favorite cuisine for dinner, pizza. I had done my research on the best pizza in town and had found Pizza Phan Luang to be the best bet. The restaurant was little off the beaten path so Peter negotiated a tuk-tuk driver to get us there.
Fun fact about Laos. Despite having their indigenous language, there are no TV stations or shows in Laos, only Thai. So the Laotians are exposed to Thai from a young age. Peter, who can speak Thai, was able to navigate communications with the Laotians rather seamlessly.
The restaurant was a hit with great pizza only made better by the unique setting. The restaurant is tucked down a quiet street in the backyard of a small home with a wood-fired oven in the middle of it. Each table is lit by candle light and soft music is played. It feels like being in your friends backyard.
Shortly after dinner we called it a night and cycled back to our hotel. I had prearranged a birthday cake to be delivered to the room when we returned. Within a handful of minutes of being back in our room there was a knock at the door. Peter opened it and there was about 10 hotel employees standing there who all burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday. Peter, not one to make a big deal out of his birthday, shot me a glare. He thanked them for their song and of course the cake they delivered.
It was a pleasant, low-key day mixed in with some exercise, massages, and good food. It was a perfect kind of day for Peter and a birthday he really enjoyed.
Our next and last full day in Luang Prabang we hired a driver to take us to Kuang Si Falls followed by a sunset boat ride on the Mekong River.
The falls are located about 18 miles outside of the city center and one of the most popular tourists sites due to the well deserved reputation and hype of the natural beauty that awaits travelers.
Kuang Si is a 3 tiered water fall with each tier offering something unique to marvel over.
The top waterfall is accessible only by a hike up a steep hill. Clearly I was not in the best suited hiking attire. That’s not going to stop me (its so much steeper than it looks in the picture!)
Once to the top, we were rewarded by a turquoise pool of water surrounded by dense, emerald jungle and a cascading waterfall. Plus panoramic views.
The waterfall just below the top tier is just as stunning a work of mother nature to enjoy, without the hike.
The bottom tier is where many visitors jump in for a cool off and swim. The photogenic jungle scenery and clean, clear water made for one of the more unique and fun swimming experiences to date. Plus there was large thick tree trunk that Peter and I both used to launch ourselves into the pool of water.
After splashing around in the turquoise oasis we stopped for a quick visit to the Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre for Asiatic Black Bears. In 1993 an Australian women, Mary Hutton, discovered on a TV program that black bears were being held captive in coffin size cages while having their gall bladders drained by dirty catheters for their bile which is used for medicinal purposes. Since then she has set up a number of rescue centers across Asia, including Laos, to protect these creatures. The one in Laung Prabang started in 2003 after three cubs had been rescued that had been previously confiscated from the wild.
The last part of our hired tour was a sunset boat cruise on the Mekong River. Our driver pulled us up to one of the funkiest and coolest boats I had ever seen. Bonus…we had it to ourselves.
We settled in, cracked open a couple Beer Laos, and toasted to a good couple days in Luang Prabang. We glided through the river and took in the scenic jungle while we waited for sundown.
That evening we took a visit to the night market before dinner. This proved to be the low light of Luang Prabang for Peter who already isn’t into shopping whatsoever. All the stalls were for short people so he had to crouch down throughout the entire market. There was cheap and generic souvenirs everywhere and people meandering around completely aimless. It was a real life nightmare for him and his self-admitted irritability was getting to dangerous levels. We got out of there quickly.
For dinner we went to Blue Lagoon Restaurant which was another solid choice. The place delivered on food, service, and setting. We enjoyed our meals in a romantic courtyard setting with very attentive and friendly setting with a higher end vibe than many of the other restaurants in the area. A great close out to a few days in Luang Prabang.
In the morning we were road tripping to Vang Vieng, courtesy of Peter as our chauffeur. Wish us luck.
Thanks to Luang Prabang that delivered on natural beauty, atmosphere, great people, and providing a perfect spot to celebrate Peter’s birthday.
Till Vang Vieng.
Happy Birthday to this gem of a human.