Luang Prabang, Laos

A wonderful place for indulgence, Luang Prabang was a true delight of temples, great food, even better massage and good times with new friends. It was also the place that Sam turned thirty so it was fitting that we spent a lot of our time there either drunk or eating. Ideal!

  
After meeting some really cool people in a pretty grim hostel, we decided to all move together and found a much fancier place at the same price. Win! We then took a trip together to nearby Kuang Si Waterfalls, which were really impressive…

  
The falls have a (random) bear sanctuary attached to them, which was pretty cool as we got to watch some adorable black bears sunning themselves and lumbering about. 

  
The falls themselves were also really spectacular – maybe our favourite yet? – all turquoise waters, big inviting swimming holes, and a steep walk up to a look-out point. We hiked to the top for the views then took a refreshing dip in a couple of the pools, which was really good fun, then had lunch together before heading back to town. 

 

 We got on really well as a group – us, along with Ali and Richard (an Aussie/Kiwi couple), Hannah and Shruti (Aussie and American) – and decided to head out that night, visiting a temple for sunset then drinking FAR too many giant beers, resulting in an over-indulgent late-night visit to a buffet on the market

So in town they had these crazy-good market buffets, which are worth explanation for their gluttonous brilliance – where you pick what you want from seemingly endless bowls (noodles, veggies, curries, rice, deep fried things, eggs, etc.) and as long as it can fit in an overflowing bowl, they’ll fry it in a wok and serve it up. We had (beer) eyes bigger than our stomachs, and Sam ended up having his served on a TRAY as it wouldn’t fit back in the bowl. The shame.

    
The rest of our six days was spent in a fun haze of partying, eating and indulging. The following evening we had a super-fun night out that started with drinking vile Lao Lao rice whisky at ours, beers at a bar, and then a night at a local bowling alley (the only place open after 11pm curfew!) where we bowled as a team until 3am whilst drinking bottles of whisky and coke on ice, bought from the bar. Gangster! We all got some strikes, so maybe bowling drunk and barefoot is the way forward?

    
The next day brought the kind of hangover that writes off the day, so I used the time instead to plan for Sam’s 30th which we celebrated the day after. 

  
It started with a pile of donuts in bed (as all birthdays should!) fashioned into a makeshift cake, along with a customary in-joke filled card and present (much-needed new wallet). We then treated ourselves to a fancy tasting menu lunch at a restaurant by the Mekong, where we sampled delicious traditional Lao foods like laab, spicy sausage, fried sesame pork and sweet coconut rice. We’d kind of treated Luang Prabang like a little holiday and had eaten on the river before, but this fancy food felt really special after so long living on a shoe-string, and we both loved it!

    
From our little gang there was just us, Ali and Richard left by this point, but we didn’t let that stop us and celebrated the birthday with a return to booze, but this time just some beers on the river and more buffet (of course!) for dinner. They even bought Sam a bottle of whisky and card for his birthday. What legends!

  
For Sam’s birthday we also had some amazing massages – super cheap (2 quid!) – in an old colonial house in town. The setting was pretty basic (mattresses on the floor) but the massage was phenomenal – Lao massage being a perfect blend of Thai and Swedish massage, incorporating just enough twisting and elbows/pressure with softer massage mixed in. We were both walking taller and feeling totally relaxed afterwards!

The rest of the time was spent walking the pretty streets in town, checking out the fantastic night market (replete with the best souvenirs we’ve seen like handmade silk scarves and cushion covers), sitting by the Mekong river, monk-spotting and looking at all the great temples in town. Oh, and eating. On the river. At the baguette stalls (a luxury after no French bread for months!). At the market. Everywhere.

  
Aside from the fact that it’s super touristy (lots of holiday makers and tours everywhere), Luang Prabang kind of has it all, and we found it hard to leave. But alas, we had two more spots to hit in Laos so we soldiered on with what would be the worst bus journey we’d had to date!