I really, really liked Luang Prabang. Yes, it was super touristy and yes, it was overpriced but the place was just what I needed following the craziness of Vang Vieng. I made two separate trips to LP with a brief trip up North in between (which I’ll get to in a separate post).
Let’s start with Luang Prabang Part 1. The bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang sucked (like…really sucked). I suppose the bus itself was fine (this was no Cambodian Night Bus Adventure) but it was the series of events that occurred that made for a shitty, shitty time.
The first hour on the bus was great. I spread out across the seats, had a nap, jammed to some Keith, and willed the hours to pass quickly. Then the locals arrived.
Under normal circumstances, a bus filled with locals can be grueling yet entertaining and I embrace the experience enthusiastically. However, I’ve begun to notice a trend on buses in Central to Northern Laos. The local people get really, really car sick. Yes, the roads are windy and I do feel a bit nauseous myself but the locals are on a whole other level.
It goes like this:
Local #1 jumps up, grabs a plastic bag from behind her and pukes. 5 minutes pass. Local #2 does the same. 10 minutes pass. A third local joins the puking party. 5 more minutes pass. I realize that Local #1 has missed the plastic bag at some point, puking all over my purse.
We eventually made a pit stop and I attempted to clean the vomit off of my bag. This is a disgusting task on a good day but cleaning someone else’s lunch off your belongings when dealing with an “In the Tubing Vang Vieng” hangover is something that no one, under any circumstances, should ever have to do (insert dry heaving noises here).
The remainder of the bus ride was spent sitting with my feet in the air (one of the locals had projectiled on the floor), my purse out the window (my attempt at airing it out), and my eyes kept on the locals, ready to hand them yet another plastic bag at a moment’s notice (they kept throwing their used ones out the window…ew).
But enough with the gross stuff.
I stayed at Spicy Laos in LP which was…alright…I suppose. I liked the people (it was a decently happening place) but the dorm kind of sucked. There was no glass in the windows yet no mosquito nets (I essentially slept outside), the fact that there was a “Boom Boom Room” consisting of one dirty, single mattress on the floor was a bit grunge (though very Jersey Shore), and the bed bug outbreak in the room down from me was rather worrisome.
BUT NEVERTHELESS. I loved Luang Prabang. There was the fill-your-plate vegetarian feast for $1.50 (such a steal), the lively little night market, the plethora of Western food options (my fave being Joma Bakery Cafe as they serve actual, REAL cheese…and bagels!), the adorable tree-lined streets leading down to the river, the best waterfall I’ve seen thus far (complete with natural infinity pool), and the refreshingly chill, low-key nightlife.
In Luang Prabang, the evening backpacker hangout is Utopia, a gorgeous bar overlooking the river complete with beach volleyball court and mood lighting. The place definitely isn’t wild. It’s just…beautiful. And I loved it.
Then there’s LP’s after-curfew “bar” scene. As with the rest of the country, everything shuts down around 11:30 pm. Normally, the after-hours stragglers are rounded up and corralled to some weird, local bar but in Luang Prabang everyone goes to the bowling alley. Very strange…but it killed me. 75+ drunk tourists bowling in harsh fluorescent lighting at 2 am? It’s a sight to see.
As I mentioned earlier, I briefly left LP then returned a few days later. Luang Prabang Part 2 was also nice. I switched to a much better hostel, rented a bicycle to toodle through town, spent a couple days at the pool, watched many a sunset, and spent a couple more evenings admiring the beauty that is Utopia. I did pretty much the same activities as before, but with a different group of Stranger Friends so it felt like a new adventure. Part 2 was very laid back and probably rather lazy but it was a great way to finish off my trip through Laos.
Luang Prabang: Refreshingly Chill.