Hello again guys! I recently travelled to my 31st country: Laos! The beautiful Luang Prabang is the former capital.
I will be sharing with you the places you definitely have to visit when exploring Luang Prabang; and the beautiful hotel where I stayed, which is right in town and so convenient!
Hugged by towering mountain ranges, lush greenery, and the majestic Mekong River, Luang Prabang, literally meaning “Royal Buddha Image”, is a city in north central Laos. Just 35 minutes away from the Laotian capital of Vientiane, its picturesque town is now marked a UNESCO Heritage Site for unique and well preserved architectural. It is known for its religious and cultural heritage, with a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries. The city has for centuries been luxuriated in its royal patronage, glistening temples, and incredible Buddhist culture, bringing throngs of travellers into the cosy town, and with them – an insatiable appetite for food, culture, and sightseeing.
I stayed in MyLaoHome for four days. Opened in 2007 by work partners Nin and Benny, MyLaoHome is right in the heart of Luang Prabang. It is just a 5 minutes walk to the Night Market; and easily accessible to restaurants, coffee houses, massage places and temples like Wat Xieng Thong.
With 60 rooms spread out over 4 different buildings, tourists are spoilt for choices, as they can choose either a traditional Lao house, a modern room or even a mixture of both traditional and modern. As the buildings are UNESCO-certified, the owners did not make any changes to the interior and exterior of the buildings, and did their best to preserve the authentic traditional Lao houses. There is a spa area at MyLaoHome for guests to be pampered with massages and therapies. The hotel has a restaurant too, serving Western and Lao cuisine, but at the moment, it is under renovation.
Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by the staff and making us feel at home. The staff will go out of their way to make sure guests’ needs and wants are met. Our room was located in Jasmine Villa, which has is a yellow colonial house with a mix of traditional and modern styled interior. After freshening up, I had some time to explore the grounds. Besides the Jasmine Villa, MyLaoHome also has a UNESCO building, Garden House and Orchid House.
MyLaoHome has created a website called Discover Laos Today, where they collaborate with over 40 companies to create a platform where tourists can have a large variety of tours and accommodations to choose from when traveling to Laos. Their mission is to enrich Laos’ tourism offerings to the world and promote sustainable tourism. This website is not purely for people exploring Luang Prabang, but other parts of Laos as well. If you are thinking of making a trip to Laos, I highly recommend using this platform to plan your itinerary!
I was able to explore the beauty of Laos with the help of Discover Laos Today. Our first stop in Luang Prabang? Kuang Si Falls! You cannot imagine my excitement! I’ve been hearing so many awesome things about this waterfall and wanted to see it with my own eyes for the longest time! The water is just the most beautiful shade of turquoise and very refreshing for a dip, especially in the heat we were experiencing. We had the whole place to ourselves when we arrived exactly at opening time.
Kuang Si is a giant waterfall that flows through limestone-rich jungle and empties out into a series of three gently cascading pools. Legend has it that a wise old man summoned the water by digging into the earth. Then a golden deer made its home under a rock protruding from under the new waters. That’s where the name Kuang Si comes from: kuang means deer, and si means dig.
It is just so peaceful without a crowd! Do be careful and heed the warning signs as some parts of the fall are really deep! There is also entrance fee on 20,000 Kip.
Do check out the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre as well. It is located within the waterfall. Do not worry this rescue centre isn’t supporting animal tourism. It is actually operated by Free the Bears and houses up to 23 moon bears. These bears were rescued from poor abusive circumstances, where they were locked in small cages and their biles were harvested for medicine. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to abuse these adorable furry animals. The centre doesn’t receive any of the admission fee for Kuang Si, so if you’ll like to support the cause, you could purchase a T-shirt sold at the falls.
I can assure you that adding the falls to your Laos itinerary is one of the greatest travel decisions you’ll make!
The second waterfall we visited in Luang Prabang, with Discover Laos Today, was Tad Sae waterfall. Tad Sae waterfall is another spectacular natural wonder. Like Kuang Si waterfall, the water at Tad Sae is a beautiful turquoise, but the cascades aren’t as high as those in Kuang Si. There are many streams of water pouring over unique limestone formations, and you can actually swim in the pools. The water is actually really cold, despite the mid-afternoon heat that day. It was really refreshing. Do be careful of the slippery grounds though. I slipped a couple of times while exploring.
Tad Sae waterfall is actually divided into a few sections. I swam in the second section as the first section is mainly used by elephants during the elephant rides. Also, do take note that many places call themselves elephant sanctuaries but they are not, as they include elephant riding. I do not support such things.
Tad Sae is only reachable by boat, which is 10,000 Kip per person for a return trip. Locals often visit the falls over the weekend, so you’re better off visiting during the week if you’re not a fan of crowds. However, even when we went on a Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t as packed as we thought it would be. You can actually still get photo opportunities without anyone photobombing. But hey, if you’ll rather not risk it, I suggest going at opening time at 8am.
On our way to Tad Sae, we visited the Buffalo Diary Farm in Luang Prabang for a quick bite. The diary farm is the first and only buffalo diary in Laos and is a social enterprise where the team cooperates with villagers in Luang Prabang by renting their buffalos for milk. The villagers are able to earn a regular income by loaning their buffalos.
We tried the cheese platter, buffalo ricotta cheesecake, buffalo tamarind and coconut ice creams and buffalo mozzarella balls.
There are a few tour options, with the price starting at 50,000 Kip. For more info, you can check out the website here.
On our second day with Discover Laos Today and exploring Luang Prabang, we went to Nahm Dong Park, a self-sustaining eco-tourism spot. The park consists of beautiful plants, lush greenery, exquisite flora and fauna and rushing waters. It has cosy picnic places, some under straw huts and flower gardens. There are a number of activities that you can actually do at the park. Besides enjoying the waterfall, you can have fun ziplining, take cooking class, bamboo weaving, tree top walk, and many more. Admission into the park is 20,000 Kip, but if you would like to take part in the activities, you will have to pay more.
The royal palace, also known as Haw Kham, was built in 1904, in Luang Prabang, during the French colonial era for the King and his family. During the year 1995, it was converted into a National Museum. What’s so cool about the architecture is that it combines traditional Lao and French Beaux-Arts styles.
The grounds have a number of other buildings, including an exhibition hall, a chapel, a garage containing the last King’s collection of cars, and a statue of King Sisavangvong. The royal quarters have been faithfully preserved and offer a fascinating glimpse into the lifestyle of the king and his family.
Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist temple built around 1559-1560 and located at the Northern tip of the Peninsula of Luang Prabang. It is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. It opens between 8am to 5pm and is 20,000 Kip per person.
Before I end this post, I would also like to share with you the charity work that MyLaoHome is doing. Known as Uplift Laos, volunteers from schools in Singapore like NUS and NTU, help to create a better tomorrow for the locals in Luang Prabang. One of their latest projects was building a bio-sand filtration system, known as Project MyLaoDrinkingWater, and solar panel to provide accessible drinking water and electricity for the locals of Luang Prabang.
Speaking to one of MyLaoHome’s owners, Nin, he said that he hopes that they can continue expanding MyLaoHome and that they are currently building another hotel called Ban Lao, a luxury hotel that will cater to a different group of tourists, compared to MyLaoHome.
If you are ever traveling to Luang Prabang, do not hesitate to check out MyLaoHome and use Discover Laos Today to plan your tours.
Discover Laos Today
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Stay tuned for more on exploring Luang Prabang!