Every time I think about Laos, I think about the lovely and kind-hearted locals who never failed to smile at me, the pretty cafes and restaurants that adorned the streets by the serene Mekong River and the inexplicably artistic culture that swooned thousands of travelers like me, at the night market. I really wish I had stayed there for longer and explored more. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I plan a second visit to this beautiful country in the future – because it stole my heart in every possible way.
I visited Luang Prabang in Laos mainly to experience the magical sight and the celeste waters of the Kuang Si Falls. Luang Prabang is a city in Laos with a cool, laid-back vibe across the city. I stayed here for 2 days and did everything I could to visit the top attractions of this city and get a taste of the Laotian culture through its art, food and people. I have crafted this itinerary for you in case you plan to spend only 2 days in Luang Prabang. And let me tell you, you will be smitten.
Enjoy Scenic Views of the Nam Khan Tributary and the Mekong River
Start your first day in Luang Prabang by soaking in the beauty of the Nam Khan tributary and the Mekong river that flow through and enrich the entire country of Laos. The Mekong is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia and is the world’s twelfth longest river and the seventh longest in Asia. The Nam Khan tributary joins the Mekong river near Wat Xieng Thong.
Set the location of your destination as Wat Xieng Thong on Maps and as you walk towards it, you will pass by the calm waters of Nam Khan. What is even more beautiful is the line of restaurants by the river, with tables arranged to give you the best views of the tributary before it culminates into Mekong. Eat your breakfast at any of these restaurants that overlook the river and let your romance with Laos begin.
As you head further and closer to Wat Xieng Thong, you will pass by a garden where you can see the Nam Khan river joining the Mekong river. Spend time there being a standing spectator or be a bit more adventurous and take the steps down to find your spot by the still waters of Mekong. Play some good music while you sit there, lean back a bit, and fall in love with yourself, this time.
Explore the 15th Century Buddhist Temple – Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist Temple, and is one of the most significant monasteries in Laos. It is the epitome of silence, royalty and intricate art. Once you pay the entrance fee of 20,000 kip (2 USD/140 INR), you will find yourself walking amongst giant triangular structures in black, gold and red, embellished with carvings and paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. There is also a giant Buddha statue inside the Wat Xieng Thong Sim and several thousands of mini Buddha statues in another neighboring temple, inside the Wat.
You will also find a statue of the Naga (a mythical creature that is half serpent and half human in the Hindu and Buddhist mythology) in the funeral chapel. Meditate inside the temple, observe and try to make sense of the Buddhist principles through the innumerable carvings and paintings, and time travel back to the 15th century as you walk around inside this Laotian royalty.
Try Laotian Cuisine at a Local Restaurant
After exploring the Buddhist temple, it is now time to feed those hunger pangs with some delicious Laotian food. Head to any of the restaurants on the street and order yourself a Green Papaya Salad with a main course dish of your choice and get ready to hike a popular mountain to watch the sunset in the evening. There are no vegan restaurants on the streets of Luang Prabang but if you put in some effort communicating your diet preferences at any restaurant, they will cater to your needs. Just say ‘No Meat, No Fish’ and you’re good to go.
I accidentally landed up at a restaurant (right opposite to the Phamsai Houngchalern Restaurant) which had the sweetest lady who prepared my meal with lots and lots of love. She would literally bring the sauce bottles and ask me if she could use them or not. This is what I love about restaurants run by locals – they’re in no hurry and always prepare your meal with lots of love. And what’s better than empowering them and supporting them run their households by eating at their restaurants? Eat local. Always!
Hike Mount Phousi for the Sunset
Once you recharge yourself with some good food, it is now time to hike Mount Phousi on your way back to witness the sunset. This hike is a very popular one and is often crowded with tourists. So plan your visit well ahead in time. The ideal time to hike is one hour before sunset on that day. So if you feel you have too much time to kill, then head back to your hotel/hostel and take some rest.
Mount Phousi has been believed to be the home of Naga (a mythical creature that is half serpent and half human in the Hindu and Buddhist mythology) during the ancient times. It is considered sacred and you can see many small shrines while hiking up. The hike is over a stairway (there are two actually, and you can pick any one) and lasts for about 15 – 20 minutes. The entrance fee to the top is 20,000 kip (2 USD/140 INR). Once you reach the top, you can find breathtaking views of the mountains, the Mekong river and the tiny houses on the street. Climb the stairs a bit more and you can view the entire panoramic view of the skyline of Luang Prabang – a sight worth seeing. However, be prepared for the clutter of tourists since it is a popular attraction.
Swim in the Ice-Cold, Celeste Waters of the Kuang Si Falls
Your second is the day that will truly make you fall in love with Laos. On your first day, you will discover the laid-back culture in Luang Prabang but on the second day, you will discover the magic and the hidden treasure of the city. Begin your day with a visit to the enchanting Kuang Si Falls – a paradise on Earth. You can either book the tour online or locally (I would suggest booking a local tour the previous day) and believe me, you will not regret it.
The Kuang Si Falls is a magical falls that flows through a limestone-rich jungle and culminates into three cascading pools. The color of the water is celeste and is absolutely pristine. I had my Alice moment here, and a few realisations that had kept me in doubt before. It is true when they say the enigma of nature can truly make you introspect and look at life in a different way – it can change your life sometimes too. If you are visiting the Kuang Si Falls, carry your swimsuit and don’t forget to get a free massage by the thumping waters of the falls!
Also Read: My Alice in Wonderland Moment at Kuang Si Falls
Shop at the Artistic Night Market
A trip to Laos would be incomplete if you don’t visit the Night Market at Luang Prabang. Divided into two colors – red and blue, the night market gives you the essence of the artistic culture at Laos. The locals setup their own tents and sell everything from coconut bowls to handmade lamps to jewellery to bamboo mobile speakers – literally everything!
Don’t be surprised if you find talented artists selling their paintings on the spot, pretty women convincing you to buy their organic coffee and young lasses requesting you to try some of their Bohemian clothes. It is T-H-E best, believe me. Plus, there is a tonne of local, vegan foods to try at the night market which will give you a taste of the Laotian culture. Shop here, eat your heart out and dance the night away to the tune of the bustling crowds, for you, my friend, would have fallen in love with Laos, just like me.