If I would have to pick one city in Laos that was my favorite than it would be Luang Prabang. Without a doubt.
Downside: it’s fairly touristic, which is what happens if a city is pretty and has all sort of fun things to do. I thought I would list a few things to do when in Luang Prabang 1.Breakfast at Joma cafe; French style bakery with good coffee. There are more locations around town and they have them in Phnom Penh as well.
2.Rent a bike; there are plenty of bike rental shops around town, so pick a good one with bikes that look decent. The town is perfect for a leisurely bike ride and the little breeze will be most welcome I can assure you!
3.Morning Market :The morning market in Luang Prabang is fantastic or at least I think so, but then I am a market junkie. I don’t like touristic markets with all kinds of junk but if you do then you should definitely visit the night market as that is mostly touristy stuff but fun to walk through as well. For a more authentic experience go to the morning market and browse around the endless lines of stalls and try and guess some of the ingredients… (we saw fried rats! Yuck!)
The Melon temple (Wat Aham) is one of he many temples of Luang Prabang and quite possibly my favorite. The other highlight is the mosaic temple but that was overflown with Chinese tourists when we were there and way too noisy and crowded by far.
The one thing I remember clearly when talking about Pak Beng is the warning in the Lonely PLanet that Pak Beng is mostly famous for the fact that bags get stolen out of the hotelrooms…. Stuff like that always makes me nervous. Carrying a lot of camera gear around is not always good for your sanity and/or your back.. ;) If you take the slow boat from Chiang Khong (Thailand) to Luang Prabang you’re most likely to have a stop over in Pak Beng. It’s an uneventful little town, with a few guesthouses and a few restaurants and that’s about it. Good enough for one night but not something you want to stay any longer!
The plain of jars is an area in the Xieng Khuang area in Laos and consists of 90 different sites where these ancient stone jars have been found. The jars date back to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) and are believed to be used in burial rituals.
We visited site 1 and maybe weirdly so I was more impressed with all the signs signaling where it was safe to walk than the actual jars. We came from Luang Prabang so to get to this site we had to drive through the mountains for a long time, sleep in the horrible guest house I told you about earlier and then travel back the same route we came. And quite frankly I am terrible when it comes to stones and ruins. I just don’t think it is worth spending time and while the weather was nice and cool the jars themselves are well…just jars. Riding 16 hours just to look at some stone jars for about an hour seems a bit silly to me. If you have any interest in the history of those jars, than by all means go there, but for me it was a waste of two days.
More interesting was the knowledge that part of the war was fought there as the terrain was riddled with trenchlines and the safe paths were all marked as it is not sure there are no more mines in the area. Knowing that there are still people being blown to pieces in Laos on a regular basis due to leftover mines, it’s quite something to realize what has been going on there.