Backpacking Southeast Asia Twelfth Stop: Luang Prabang, Laos

Last Updated on February 9, 2021 by Tina

After spending four days in Hanoi, I flew to Luang Prabang, Laos. I arrived there late at night, and from the airport, I went straight to my hostel, Friendly Backpacker Hostel.

At the hostel, I had a Chinese guy roommate who was also backpacking. He was very nice and gave me some tips about Luang Prabang, like where to book the cheapest tour to Kuang Si Waterfalls and where to exchange money at the best rate.

The following day, I decided to check the town. I fell in love with it immediately. My original plan was to spend 3 days there then visit Vang Vieng and Vientianne. But I decided to skip Vang Vieng and Vientianne and stayed there for almost a week. I actually didn’t want to leave the town anymore. Below is how I spent 6 days in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Day 1

On my first day in Luang Prabang, I decided to just walk around town and visit some temples. There are over 30 temples in Luang Prabang so I decided to visit those that were near the center of the town, like Wat Xieng Thong, the most popular Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang that features a tree of life mosaic.

The Tree of Life mosaic
The Tree of Life mosaic

After visiting Wat Xieng Thong, I stumbled upon a shop selling antique fabrics from various Hmong Communities in Southeast Asia that were reworked into wall hangings, cushion covers, and clothing.

Then about an hour before sunset, I climbed Mt. Phousi. It is a hill in Luang Prabang that is 100 meters high and is a famous spot to watch the sunset. The hill is a local religious site and houses several Buddhist shrines. At the summit is Wat Chom Si, a Buddhist temple. The summit gets super crowded during sunset. There are two stairways leading on top of the hill, each with over 300 steps. Going up I took the stairway next to the Nam Khan River. It has more steps but has more scenic spots such as a small cave temple, a footprint of Buddha, a reclining Buddha, a number of seated Buddha images, and a multi-headed serpent. I took the other stairway on my way down, and it goes to the night market.

Sunset at Mt. Phousi
Sunset at Mt. Phousi

My last activity that day was checking out the night market. There are so many nice things in the night market, and I was able to buy there the postcards that I sent myself, my friend and my sister.

Day 2

On my second day, I moved to a different hostel, the Chill Riverside Hostel and Cafe. Friendly Backpacker Hostel was nice but I prefer the vibe at the Chill Riverside Hostel. Both have free breakfast. On my way to Chill Riverside Hostel, I dropped by the post office to send the postcards.

After checking-in at the hostel, I walked to Mekong Riverside and had lunch in one of the restaurants there. After having lunch, I moved to a quiet spot in the riverside and just stayed there, observing the things taking place at the river.

I also recorded there an audio recording of a bedtime story I promised my friend. He’s having difficulty falling asleep at night and we thought listening to a bedtime story might help. (It was just a joke.) I’m not supposed to include it here anymore but it’s a funny memory that I would like to remember when I grow older and I read this post again. The bedtime story is supposed to be that of Sleeping Beauty, but we called it the millennial version because the story was different. In that story, she fell asleep on purpose because she was being forced to get married.

After spending a long time at the riverside, I went to a lovely coffee shop called Novelty Cafe near the Royal Palace to have cheesecake. The coffee shop has a display rack of books that you can read while you are there.

Novelty Cafe
Novelty Cafe

Related Post: 14 Highly Recommended Things to Do in Luang Prabang, Laos

Next, I decided to cross the bamboo bridge at the Nam Khan River near the entrance to Mt. Phousi. On the other side were shops and a restaurant. I checked out the shops but I didn’t eat at the restaurant because it was a bit pricey. Instead, I ate at a stall along Nam Khan Riverside.

The bamboo bridge near Mt. Phousi
The bamboo bridge near Mt. Phousi

When I got back to the hostel, my only roommate that time, a Taiwanese told me she’s going to climb Mt. Phousi at 10 PM. There’s an entrance fee when you climb it in the daytime, but at night the ticket booth is already closed. Though I’ve climbed it already, I decided to join her because I wanted to see how it is at night.

View from the top of Mt Phousi
View from the top of Mt Phousi

After climbing Mt. Phousi, we also crossed the bamboo bridge that I visited earlier that day. Just like Mt. Phousi, there is an entrance fee to cross the bridge but at night there aren’t people at the ticket booth anymore so you can cross it for free. We stayed at the bridge for a while. We just sat there and listened to the sound of the river. It was so relaxing.

bamboo bridge at night
The bamboo bridge at night

Day 3

On my third day, my roommate and I woke up early to experience Tak Bat. It is a daily tradition of locals paying alms to the monks where orange-robed monks carrying bowls line up in a single file to collect offerings in front of them. They line up in order of age, with the eldest monk going first.

When we got back to the hostel (around 5:45 AM), I took a nap because it was still early for my trip to Kuang Si Waterfalls. I booked a seat in a shared minivan to Kuang Si Waterfalls and I was picked up at the hostel around 8:45 AM. The drive takes about 40 minutes. At the entrance of Kuang Si Waterfalls is the Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center. It is home to more than 20 rescued Asiatic Black Bears. I spent some time there observing the bears before checking out the waterfalls.

Kuang Si Waterfalls is a tiered waterfall and the most beautiful waterfall I have seen so far. Its waters flow down through a series of pools that you can swim in. If you ever visit Luang Prabang someday, make sure you include it in your itinerary.

In the afternoon, I decided to just stay at the hostel because I was feeling lazy to go out. I just went out in the evening to the night market with my roommate, and we had ice cream on our way back to our hostel.

Day 4

On my fourth day, I went to visit the Royal Palace. But I woke up late so I got there around 11:20 AM. I was told that the museum closes at 11:30 AM for a lunch break. I had no plans of checking out the museum because my roommate told me there’s an entrance fee and taking pictures inside is not allowed. So I thought it should be fine even if they close at 11:30 AM. I thought only the museum closes. Apparently, they close the gate of the Royal Palace too. I went to the back of the palace, near the area where the car collection display is located. I spent a lot of time there taking pictures.

When I went back to the front, I found out the gate was closed. I thought I had to wait until 1:00 PM when they open again before I could go out. So I decided to take photos on the pathway. When I achieved the picture I was going for, I decided to ask the people there if there is any way I could go out. They showed me a small gate at the side.

I walked to the Mekong riverside to have lunch in one of the restaurants there. After lunch, I walked around town and went to the alleys that I haven’t checked out yet. I discovered the Heuan Chan Heritage Centre and went inside to see what’s in there. I found out it is a century-old traditional Lao house, and at the back part is a nice garden and a cafe. I’m not a coffee drinker but during that backpacking trip, my friend influenced me to drink coffee. I had iced coffee at the cafe.

Related Post: Postcards From My Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

From the heritage center, I continued exploring the town and found a shop selling handmade paper products such as notebooks, scrapbooks, and gift wrappers. The wrappers were so cute, I bought lots of them. It is what I’ve been using now to wrap the shampoo bars that I am selling.

The shop was near Wat Wisunarat, the oldest temple in town. I dropped by there before going back to the hostel to leave in the room the things I bought at the shop. The lady at the paper shop told me that the best place to watch the sunset in LPB is at the small tip of land where Nam Khan River flows into the Mekong River. To get there, you need to cross the bamboo bridge. But this bamboo bridge is a different one from the bridge that we crossed on my second day there.  I messaged my roommates about the spot and we agreed to meet at the entrance of the bamboo bridge.

With my roommates at the hostel
With my roommates at the hostel

After watching the sunset, we walked to the night market to have dinner and ice cream.

It was my first time eating ice cream in a cone using a spoon.

Day 5

On my fifth day, I visited Pak Ou Caves. But instead of booking a tour to the cave at the tour agencies, I decided to just look for the ticket office for the public boat to Pak Ou Caves. I saved 15,000 Kip doing that. The money I saved, I used to buy coffee at Saffron Coffee, the coffee shop located just across the ticket office.

Inside the cave
Inside the cave

The Pak Ou Caves are caves set in a limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. Nearby villagers and pilgrims use these caves as a place for damaged and old Buddha statues. The boat trip to the cave takes 2 hours but we had a  stopover at a whiskey village.

When I got back to the town proper, I met up with my roommates for lunch, then we went to L’hibiscus Spa and Massage and tried Laotian Massage. It was quite interesting because before the massage, we were given a towel and a pajama set. Then we were told that we have to take a shower first. The massage was fine but oil massage in Thailand is better.

In the evening, we just stayed at the hostel because we were feeling lazy to go out.

Day 6

On the sixth day, I went to check the morning market. It is the place where people come to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Here you will also see so many interesting and unusual foodstuffs like worms, grasshoppers, bee’s larvae, crickets, and frogs. There are also many local dishes to try in the morning market.

Some of the things being sold at the morning market
Some of the things being sold at the morning market

From the market, I walked to my favorite place in Luang Prabang, the Mekong riverside. I had an affogato in one of the coffee shops there. Affogato is an Italian dessert that takes the form of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso.

Next, I took the ferry and crossed the Mekong River because I was curious about how it is like on the other side. When I checked Google maps, I saw Wat Chompet.  It is a temple located on a hill. The temple is small and a bit decayed but it is a good spot to view the world heritage town, Mekong River, and the surrounding hills. To get there, you need to walk for 15 minutes from the ferry station, then climb the stairs with 123 steps.

Wat Chompet
Wat Chompet
View from Wat Chompet

At night, my roommates (we had two new roommates) and I went to Utopia,  a bar and restaurant with the tagline ‘Zen by Day, Groovy by Night’. It is nestled along the banks of Nam Khan River and is a few meters away from our hostel. It was the only time I drank beer during my backpacking trip. We only had a bottle of beer each, because the following day, my Taiwanese roommate and I were taking the slow boat to Thailand and we had to leave early.

Expenses

As mentioned in my earlier posts about this backpacking trip, my challenge was to try to live on a US$ 20 per day budget. I brought US dollars for this trip and exchanged it to the currency of the countries I visited. The official currency of Laos is the Laotian Kip (LAK). I exchanged my USD at SSEN Mekong, located near the Mekong Riverside. It was the one recommended by my Chinese roommate. I checked and they indeed have the best rate. The exchange rate there was 8,810 Kip to 1 USD.

Day 1

Taxi to the hostel- US$ 5.67 (50,000 Kip)

Sim card- US$ 10

Bottled water + toothpaste- US$ 1.02 (9,000 Kip)

1 Bed in 6-Bed Dormitory Room in Friendly Backpacker Hostel (2 nights)- US$ 6.95

Fries- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Coke- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

Lunch (Lao sausage + coke)- US$ 2.84 (25,000 Kip)

Chicharon- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

Wat Xieng Thong Entrance Fee- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Wat Tham Phu Si Entrance Fee- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Snacks (Cookies + Coke)- US$ 1.93 (17,000 Kip)

Bottled Water- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

CR Fee- US$ 0.23 (2,000 Kip)

Dinner- US$ 2.84 (25,000 Kip)

Soap- US$ 0.34 (3,000 Kip)

Postcards- US$  3.41 (30,000 Kip)

Day 1 total expenses: US$ 43.75

Day 2

1 Bed in 6-Bed Female Dormitory Room in Chill Riverside Hostel & Cafe- US$ 4

Lunch (Fried rice + Coke)- US$ 2.84 (25,000 Kip)

Cheesecake + Coke- US$ 4.99 (44,000 Kip)

Dinner (Streetfood + Pepsi)- US$ 1.93 (17,000 Kip)

Entrance fee at the Bamboo Bridge- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

Day 2 total expenses: US$ 14.33

Day 3

1 Bed in 6-Bed Female Dormitory Room in Chill Riverside Hostel & Cafe- US$ 4

Kuang Si Waterfalls Transport- US$ 2.84 (25,000 Kip)

Kuang Si Waterfalls Entrance Fee- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Lunch- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Dinner- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Ice Cream- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Day 3 total expenses: US$ 15.92

Day 4

1 Bed in 6-Bed Female Dormitory Room in Chill Riverside Hostel & Cafe- US$ 4

Laundry (2 kilos)- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Lunch- US$  3.41 (30,000 Kip)

Dinner (Khao Soi + Coke)- US$ 2.95 (26,000 Kip)

Water Refill- US$ 0.23 (2,000 Kip)

Ice cream- US$ 1.70 (15,000 Kip)

Squid- US$ 1.02 (9,000 Kip)

Entrance fee at the Bamboo Bridge- US$ 1.14 (10,000 Kip)

Coconut Pancake- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

Iced Coffee- US$ 1.70 (15,000 Kip)

Day 4 total expenses: US$ 18.99

Day 5

1 Bed in 6-Bed Female Dormitory Room in Chill Riverside Hostel & Cafe- US$ 4

Boat to Pak Ou Caves- US$ 7.38 (65,000 Kip)

Cookies- US$ 1.14 (10,000 Kip)

Coffee- US$ 2.61 (23,000 Kip)

Lunch- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Massage- US$ 11.35 (100,000 Kip)

Snacks- US$ 1.70 (15,000 Kip)

Day 5 total expenses: US$ 30.45

Day 6

1 Bed in 6-Bed Female Dormitory Room in Chill Riverside Hostel & Cafe- US$ 4

Afogatto- US$ 2.61 (23,000 Kip)

Lunch (Sausage + Coke+ Sticky Rice)- US$ 4.31 (38,000 Kip)

Ferrry to the other side of Mekong River- US$ 0.57 (5,000 Kip)

Dinner- US$ 2.27 (20,000 Kip)

Beerlao- US$ 1.36 (12,000 Kip)

Chips- US$ 1.14 (10,000 Kip)

Prepaid load top-up- US$ 1.14 (10,000 Kip)

Ice-cream- US$ 1.70 (15,000 Kip)

Day 6 total expenses: US$ 19.1

For Luang Prabang, I passed four out of six days. I think it is because Laos is cheap, and I stayed long in the town so the expenses were spread out. Also, it was a small town so I didn’t have to spend money on Grab Bike.

I really love Luang Prabang. It was my favorite place among all the places I visited during the backpacking trip. We were supposed to go back there last May, but this pandemic happened.

If you have any questions regarding this trip, feel free to leave a comment. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. You can also check out my backpacking highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.

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