There are stories of long cross border trips and unreliable sleeper buses in and out of Laos. There are also stories of scenic boat rides on the Mekong which take more than a day to reach Luang Prabang. But no matter which mode of transport you choose, a planned trip to the old town of Luang Prabang is worth all the journey.
Day 1 of my Luang Prabang travel began the moment when the Air Asia plane touched down at the LPIA. Laos is one of the 3 remaining ASEAN countries which I haven’t visited yet. I heard a lot of wonderful stories of Laos and why every traveler always include it in their trips. I always felt that Laos has a deep story – heritage and culture as enigmatic yet profound as those of neighboring countries like Cambodia or Thailand.
Stepping out of the plane, I got excited on how the trip will start. Holders of Philippine passports do not need a visa to enter Laos. A 30-day stay in the country is usually given to Filipinos. So, it is Welcome to Luang Prabang! Welcome to Laos: The Land of the Whole-hearted People. It’s the Land of the Beer Lao. I wondered where to change my money to Laotian Kip. Thankfully there’s a money changer shop at the arrival area. Your USD 100 is equivalent to about LAK 833,200. There’s a couple of shops at the airport that sell SIM cards for internet data.
If your hotel doesn’t have a free airport pick-up, your option is to hire a van or tuktuk for a fixed price. We were booked at Luang Prabang Legend Hotel. A van ride shared with other passengers is LAK 50,000 for 3 persons. Vans are located in front of the arrival area. If you choose to get a tuktuk, you need to walk and go out from the airport terminal complex. Then you need to agree on the price with the tuktuk driver.
Our hotel was like 6kms away but it’s only a few blocks from Sisavangvong / Sakkaline Road, the main street of the city. It was a quick ride from Phetsarat Road crossing the Nam Khan River then to the town center. Luang Prabang Legend Hotel is like a 10 minute walk to the main street. We checked in late in the afternoon.
With a few hours to spare before sunset, we started to explore Luang Prabang.
The nearest Buddhist temple from our hotel was Vat Pramahathat Rajbovoravihane. We entered the temple complex and saw only a few monks who were preparing for the end of day. A young monk was at the main temple hall, about to sound his gong for closing time. We hurriedly took pictures of the temple. The main entrance to the wat is flanked by a pair of Naga – the seven-headed serpent.
Steps leading to Vat Pramahathat
A few feet down from the temple is Khem Khong Street which runs parallel to the Mekong River. There are restaurants along this street that have great view of the sunset. We decided to have a few drinks and waited for the setting sun. Like most of our sunset chases, it was an epic fail. The skies were very hazy all afternoon.
Sunset over Mekong River
We agreed to have dinner before we do the night market. From Khem Khong, we walked towards Sisavangvong Road and headed to Sakkaline Road. Our favorite food spot was Yongkhoune Restaurant.
Street view from Yongkhoune Restaurant
Sakkaline Street comes alive past sunset. The rustic street transforms into a night market with trade displays ranging from fabrics to handcrafts and clothes – traditional and not. Unlike other night markets, this one in Luang Prabang is not so packed with people. Most of the wares are made in Laos. Walking the length of the market is not at all taxing or tough. The laid back vibe of Luang Prabang is evident. When in Luang Prabang, make it a point to visit the Night Market after dinner.
We head back to Legend Hotel to prepare ourselves for the next day. It’s going to be a full day activity, exploring Luang Prabang.