3 Days in Luang Prabang
I have no motivation at the moment due to jet lag, so if this post is rubbish I do apologise but I'm trying and that deserves a pat on the back.
Our time in Laos was very short and so we decided to only visit Luang Prabang. We had heard from multiple travel videos and blogs that the capital, Vientiane, doesn't have much to do and is known to be pretty boring for travellers so we decided against visiting. The main other area travellers visit is Vang Vieng, which is supposed to be absolutely awesome but we just didn't feel like doing the 7 hour bus journey when we had such little time in the country. However, I do not regret this even the slightest because I utterly adored Luang Prabang. Lots of people travelling SE Asia aren't sure about whether or not Laos is worth it, we ourselves questioned it too. I am here to tell you now that it is worth it 100%, go there, there are french bakeries and awesome food and loads of lovely cheap souvenirs.
Laos was once a French colony and so has had a strong French influence, which can be clearly recognised by some of the cuisine and architecture. There were times it felt like we we strolling through the streets of a little French village, like we were in Europe and not on the complete other side of the world.
The best part about visiting Luang Prabang is the Kuang Si Falls. It takes about an hour to get there in a tuk tuk so we decided to set off at around 7am to get there when it opens at 8. This was an awesome decision as it meant when we got there, we were the only people. Seriously, we didn't see anybody else there for at least 40 minutes. We were in our own little magical world, with the calming sounds of the running water descending into the lower pools. I do not use the word magical lightly either, just look how stunningly turquoise the water is, it's just magnificent. When standing on the bridge I had 3 gorgeous butterflies chasing each other around my head, yes they did make me feel like a princess.
The only downside to being the only people around was that we were unsure which of the pools you were allowed to swim in. It seemed every one we passed had a 'No swimming' sign. This led us to keep walking upwards and we ended up doing almost an hours steep hike through the Laotian jungle. I was not happy. We nearly walked into a spiders web which was stretched between two trees and home to the largest, scariest looking spider I have ever seen in my life. Once we were at the VERY TOP of the waterfall, we met an older English couple who informed us the swimming pools were the first 3 at the bottom...We just hadn't noticed when we first walked past because we were in utter awe of the place and there was nobody there swimming in them for us to notice that oh look, there are changing rooms right next to it. -.-
Once we did start swimming it was bloomin freezing, but amazing. If you've ever had your feet in a fish spa, you will understand the sensation I am talking about when I say, there are wild little fish that nibble on your feet and legs. Well, I say little, they are a lot bigger than the fish spa ones. When I tried to get in they all surrounded me, making me too scared to submerge even my feet. Luckily for me a nice man saw my cringing and decided he would get in first to break them up a bit so they wouldn't all go for me. Just a random guy, not my boyfriend noooo, he was already in and laughing at me from far away obviously.
Outside the waterfall, there is a Sun Bear sanctuary where you can watch the cute little bears playing and messing around with each other. It was so sad to find out that these bears are listed as vulnerable due to them being kept in captivity to harvest their bile. Yep you read that right, their bile. Why would anybody want the bile of a bear you might ask? Ancient Chinese medicine...the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Here is the wikipedia info on 'bear bile' for those interested:
The bile can be harvested using several techniques, all of which require some degree of surgery, and may leave a permanent fistula or inserted catheter. A significant proportion of the bears die because of the stress of unskilled surgery or the infections which may occur.
Farmed bile bears are housed continuously in small cages which often prevent them from standing or sitting upright, or from turning around. These highly restrictive cage systems and the low level of skilled husbandry can lead to a wide range of welfare concerns including physical injuries, pain, severe mental stress and muscle atrophy. Some bears are caught as cubs and may be kept in these conditions for over 20 years.
Though the value of the bear products trade is estimated as high as $2 billion, there is no evidence that bear bile has any medicinal effect. The practice of factory farming bears for bile has been extensively condemned, including by Chinese physicians.
The Luang Prabang night market was without a doubt the best we went to in all the places we visited in Asia. Most night markets have hundreds of stalls selling the exact same things and you have to try figure out who is going to rip you off the least. However, this market had so many beautiful and original handmade souvenirs including clothes, bags, notebooks, stuffed animals etc. I bought both my little brother and sister the cutest little outfits for such a reasonable price we didn't even have to try and bargain! Also the food was absolutely amazing, I won't go into it too much because now I'm thinking about it and craving it and I can't get it and that's not fair. But the meat on a stick is awesome, we had an amazing bratwurst, fresh fruit and smoothies and oh my god the French bakery don't even get me started.
|Look how cute their little outfits are! They were about £2.50 each!|
|*trigger warning* look away now if you don't like mayo|
Also that's my bear shirt I bought at the sanctuary ;)
Last but not least, we visited to UXO museum. This is a really small museum showcasing the huge amount of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War, dropped by the USA. For people who don't really know about the Vietnam War, Laos was bombed extremely heavily, more bombs were dropped in Laos alone than all the bombs dropped in WW2. This was because the Ho Chi Minh trail went through Laos (a trail for Vietnamese soldiers, supplies and artillery), unfortunately this means most of the bombs were dropped in rural areas full of quiet villages. Many of the bombs didn't explode and still today, children in the rural areas find them and curiosity gets the better of them. This museum was extremely interesting and even though I studied the Vietnam War in History, it is so much more hard hitting when you are learning about it in the countries which had been absolutely devastated. Also, the real bombs are on display without any protection around you...those things are HUGE!
- I was going to put a picture here but I don't really want to end my post with pictures of bombs and guns
That concludes our 3 day stay in Luang Prabang. I hope I've convinced some of you guys to put Laos on your travel lists, it was one of my favourite places and I'm so glad we decided to go there in the end.
|This is a picture of me being really pissed off we had ended up on a hike...seriously I was so mad|