Laos - we didn't know much about this place except for what we watched on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". We knew it was a small country (about the size of Utah), and that the Mekong River runs through it, that it used to be a French colony so coffee shops and French bakeries are everywhere, and that sticky rice is a main component of meals. We were excited to learn more about the people and the culture on our week-long visit to Luang Prabang.
Originally we thought about visiting a few different cities in Laos, but we ended up deciding to move a bit slower and take in more time in one spot. Sure, there's tons to see all over the country and eventually we'll make it down to 4000 Islands. But Jake and I both really enjoy the moment when a place starts to feel familiar, when we start to know our way around without a map, when we see the same vendors on the street and wave hello. So we opted out of blowing through the whole country in order to be able to experience that here in the north. And I'm glad we did - this small town is gorgeous. The mighty Mekong River on one side, the smaller Nam Khan river on the other, the rushing water looks like rich chocolate milk against the bright green jungle-esque hills. All of the colors are so vibrant here - the red tile roofs of the many temples, the whitewashed walls that surround the royal palace, the blue and green glass that shines from the serpents that line the stairways around town, the bright flags that line the streets. It's all so alive with color; my favorite being the deep orange of the monks robes.
"Let's take a bus!" One way to get from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang is to take a loooooong overland journey - first, a 10 hour bus ride through the mountains to the Thailand-Laos border; then cross the Friendship Bridge into Laos; then board a slow boat for the 2 day trip down the Mekong until you reach Luang Prabang. Yes, we're on this trip to have some incredible adventures…but I want my adventure to be a bit more convenient (and I really didn't want to be carsick on winding roads in a hot bus for 10 hours). So we opted to fly! Our short 1 hour flight with Lao Airlines was lovely - we got lIttle ham and cheese sandwiches with the crust cut off, tea, water, and free Beerlao! Much more fun that a smelly bus!
While we started our trip with one night at an overpriced hotel, in the morning we checked into a guest house called Phenomaly that is owned by a husband and wife couple who are both teachers. The room was small, but the AC worked really well, and the price was right - about $14 per night. Sure, we could spend a few more bucks and stayed at the nicer place, but with more expensive activities like horseback riding in Patagonia and SCUBA diving in the Galapagos on my mind, I'd rather save the extra dinero and make those dreams become a reality! The owners were super nice, and the place looked clean - not a cockroach to be found that first night, so we booked up the rest of the week!
We'd actually been really lucky with regards to bugs thus far - we never really saw any bugs in Europe, and in Southeast Asia so far we'd only seen cockroaches on the sidewalks at night and had the occasional ant trail or tiny spider in our rooms. Unfortunately that luck ran out one night. And I'm painfully afraid of cockroaches, way more afraid of cockroaches than I am of spiders. When we got back to our room after dinner, I opened the door and flipped on the light and saw a cockroach scurry into the floorboards against the wall. Barely able to formulate actual words, I made Jake use a flashlight to see if he could see it in the cracks. It was nowhere to be found. So I cautiously entered the room. We had kept the bathroom door closed as it's always hot in there, and I really needed to take a shower. So I tried to relax and stripped down for my shower. Definitely afraid of what I might find in the damp, warm, dark bathroom, I turned on the light before opening the door, hoping that any creature present would disappear (if I can't see it, it doesn't exist!). On high bug alert, I went in to the bathroom and slowly looked around - nothing behind the door, nothing on the walls, nothing behind the toilet, nothing next to the shower head or drain. It was looking like I was in good shape to take a bug-free shower. Just as I was about to give Jake the all clear, I turned toward the mirror and the just-about-eye-level shelf right in front of me and THERE'S THE BIGGEST COCKROACH EVER just hanging out next to our toothbrushes, hanging out on my little container of shave liquid. He was about 2 inches long (seriously). I screamed bloody murder and ran out of the bathroom and onto the bed and basically have a panic attack, stark naked. Jake took a glass in the bathroom and caught the big guy and got rid of him for me. Even he was saying, "he's a big one!" Thank god for my brave husband!
On our first night we had no idea where to go for dinner or what to eat, so we wandered out to the streets in search of sidewalk fare, hoping to be as happy with street food in Luang Prabang as we had been in Chaing Mai and Bangkok. We found ourselves inching down a crowded, awning-covered alley lined with table after table with 20+ platters of food on them and tourists looking at them all with hungry eyes. We had found the buffet street! For about $1.50, you get a bowl to pile as much food in as you can from one of the vendors (of which there were many, all basically selling the same vegetarian dishes). Several things are running through my head, "What's that?", "How long as this been sitting here?", "I wonder what this tastes like!", "I hope I don't get diarrhea from this.". This was exactly the kind of food we were told to stay away from in Southeast Asia, food that's not prepared fresh in front of you. But there were so many western tourists eating it, and so many locals eating it, we decided to take a chance! We each grabbed a bowl and moderately loaded them up with several different kinds of noodles, fried eggs, green beans, fried dough, fried bananas, and some other stuff. It was all fairly mediocre tasting (just like I had read it would be), and could have benefited from some hot sauce, but it didn't make us sick and it definitely filled us up!
As we were eating at one of the big communal picnic tables, we were joined by a British couple, Charlotte and James. These two geniuses gamed the system by paying for one bowl and piling as much as they could manage into it and shared it. They probably ended up with more food than we did, and only had to ay once! We admired their smarts and chatted with them all through dinner. These two are on a three week trip through Southeast Asia, hitting up many of the same locations as us. Charlotte is a teacher and James is going back to school to become a pastor. Both of them have hilarious senses of humor and a particular knack for puns. Before coming to Laos they had spent some time in northern Thailand (including Chiang Mai), and had just arrived that day on the slow boat - they did the bus to boat trip that I had been dreading, and was frankly too afraid to take - and they said it was actually a fun adventure! (Maybe next time!)We got on so well over our buffet dinner that we decided to meet up several more times during our trip, mostly over food.
Knowing they were adventurous enough to brave the buffet, we thought they'd be interested in another dinner adventure. When we met up again for dinner a couple nights later, I suggested a Lao specialty - sindad, or Lao BBQ. It's similar to shabu shabu. You sit around a coal burning fire over which sits a metal thing that kind of looks like a metal sombrero - the raised middle part is where we grilled meat and the lower brim is where broth simmered and cooked our veggies. It was delicious and awesome (even in the 90+* heat that was that night!). Like everywhere we've been in this part of the world so far, we were joined by several feral cats, ever hopeful that we'd drop some meat on the ground. We enjoyed our giant meal, sitting on tiny chairs in a tarp covered "restaurant". It was one of those times where I looked around, totally happy to be right where I was, and thinking "There's no way the FDA would allow this place to operate at home!" It was great!
Not every meal was as easy as our first two with Charlotte and James! The four of us set out later in the week to have one last dinner together before they left Laos and headed to Vietnam. Our first idea , to grab dinner at a place Jake and I had seen earlier in the week that was packed with locals all eating from shared bowls on each table (I have no idea what the food actually was), didn't pan out because it was closed. Our next idea of tracking down a noodle place I'd read about didn't work either - we couldn't find it (turns out it was closed too). The third place we found mainly served fish, which James doesn't like so we left. An hour and a half after we met up with them, we finally found a place we were all happy with, located outside, right on the Mekong River. Good thing we found it when we did, because as we were walking it had started to drizzle, and moments after we sat down it started to pour! At our suggestion, Charlotte ordered the khao soi, the Laos version was different from the Chiang Mai version, but spicy and delicious. Little did we know just how spicy it would be at this restaurant - both James and Charlotte both tried to eat the fiery broth but just couldn't handle it, so Jake switched his soup with hers. Little by little we've been increasing our capacity to handle spicy food, and it paid off that night! After dinner we strolled to the Indigo Café's rooftop lounge to watch the storm roll through. It's probably one of the biggest storms I've ever seen! Constant lightning lit up the sky like a strobe light, incredibly loud thunder cracked directly overhead, powerful wind made it look like the palm trees would blow right out of the ground. It was pretty awesome to watch!
Speaking of Indigo Café, Jake and I had been there earlier that day for breakfast and it was terrible - overpriced yogurt (that wasn't even cold), yucky coffee, and tasteless dragon fruit. The baked goods, however, we great and we went back for banana bread a few times. Two of our favorite breakfasts, though, were at Pilgrim Café, where we got French toast, amazing coffee, and breakfast burritos (more like breakfast tacos, really), and Xieng Thong Noodle, the noodle place I had been searching for with Charlotte and James but never found. Turns out this place is only open from 7am until they run out of their
famous khao piak (chewy noodles in a thick broth with fried garlic and egg), around 2pm. Our strangest breakfast, by far, was had on our last day in Luang Prabang. Jake and I set out to the morning market in hopes of finding a pho stand for some early morning noodle soup. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any among the stalls of mushrooms, fruit, fish, and live frogs, chickens, and ducks, all with their legs tied together. The morning market is really not for the faint of heart. So we headed to the main road for a spontaneous plan b. Across the way was a busy corner eatery - a lady sat on a stool next to a giant pot of…something…outside while people crowded around her stand waiting for bowls of whatever it was. Since it was swarming with people, we figured it must be good! So we ordered two bowls and sat down at a table. What appeared in front of us looked like the jok we had in Chiang Mai - rice porridge. Only this one was different. Accompanying the porridge was pork meat (good, no problem there), a hard boiled brown egg (brown from the soy sauced it's cooked in, I think), and big chunks of liver. From what animal? I have no idea. But I certainly wasn’t expecting the liver! It was soft and mushy and weird, and I hated it. I ate as much as I could so as not to be rude to the chef, but I just couldn't finish it. We had earned another banana bread, so we picked one up to reward ourselves for our courageous eating!
We did manage to have one really great adventure breakfast, much better than liver in my porridge! I had read about a "Lao Omelette" place overlooking the Mekong that was supposed to be incredible. The article didn’t provide a name the for the place, nor an address, but advised that it would be outside, across the street from a hotel, and there will be a wok on top of a wood burning fire next to folding tables. Well alright then! As we walked down the sidewalk with our eyes peeled, we saw a bright yellow sign, "Lao Omelette". "I think that's the place," I said to Jake. As we approached we noticed the wok on the wood burning fire, the folding tables, and the two owners smiling at us a waving. "Breakfast!" they said as we walked to them. We sat down on the folding chairs at the tables and brushed a bunch of ants off the table as best we could. Had we not read that this omelette was out of this world, there's no way we ever would have eaten here - the cleanliness level was really not quite as high as I would prefer - but I'm SO glad we did! Soon Son, the wife, and Let, the husband, whipped us up an incredible breakfast of fresh squeezed Laos orange juice (which kind of tasted like not-sour lemons), and omelettes, or a thin pocket of eggs containing stir fried bean sprouts and morning glory, accompanied by a spicy tamarind and peanut sauce. With one bite we were hooked! It was truly delicious! After hacking down some branches on a tree with a machete so that we could have a better view of the river (seriously), Let sat down near us and we chatted in broken English as we ate. We learned that he and Let have three kids (30, 28, and 24), and 2 grandkids. He asked if we have any kids, "No, not yet," we told him. Then he lifted up his shirt to show his sizable belly and pointed to it, "I eat too much, this is my baby! I'm pregnant!" We laughed with him as we finished our breakfast and waved goodbye. What a perfect way to start the day!
Over the course of the week we did manage to fall in love with a few particular street snacks, grilled bananas and coconut cakes. The grilled bananas were so interesting - they're peeled and dried before their cooked over charcoal, so the exterior is tough while the inside is warm and soft. They're not mushy or moist, so they don't make your hands dirty. The coconut cakes, though, were the big winner. Our favorite vendor, Aek, sat all day in front of his round pan over a fire, in which he poured coconut batter into each little cup. The batter firmed up just a bit and he pulled the little cake out, paired it with another one, and put them in banana leaf cups. I would eat these all day long if you would let me! I think we visited Aek's stand 5 times in 24 hours, and I've been longing for them since we left! If you're ever in LP, you must find Aek or Piak + Aek Coconut Cakes! YUM!
It’s hard to believe that we celebrated our five month "travelversary" while in Laos - I can't believe that we've already been on the road for five months, and that the trip is half over! To commemorate the milestone, we decided to splurge on a "fish feast" dinner at a restaurant called Tamarind. Every Friday night Tamarind invites guests to join them for a traditional fish feast - everyone who partakes sits at one big communal table and shares everything family style. What really excited us was the opportunity to eat sticky rice (which we love) and a chance to get some instruction on how to eat traditional Lao cuisine. We spent the evening devouring sticky rice with four dips of varying spiciness (mild made from tomatoes, sweet and spicy made with buffalo jerky, really hot made from smoked eggplant, and holy-shit-that's-hot made from some sort of devil chili), and making little lettuce wraps with the beautifully cooked halibut that was wrapped in banana leaves and cooked with tomato, lemongrass, and herbs and roasted over a bbq, rice noodles, peanuts, cucumber, tomato, fried banana flowers, and basil. As we ate, we chatted with our neighbors, Jeannie and Mitch, who were just a few years older than us and traveling for seven weeks to celebrate some major accomplishments in their life together - Jeannie's jewelry and consulting businesses have been doing really well, and Mitch recently kicked testicular cancer's ass! Based on their energetic conversation and upbeat personalities, it's no wonder that they've come out of a very difficult year on top. They started dating a few months before Mitch was diagnosed, and helped each other as he fought the battle of his life. They live in Maui, and Mitch's family lives in Canada - he actually grew up on an Indian reservation. When his treatment started, Jeannie had yet to meet his family, but housed them all when they came to stay to offer their love and support to Mitch. What a way to start a relationship! Looking at Mitch now, you'd never know that he was sick. He is muscular, has great color, and stands tall. His hair is short, especially compared to the chest-length hair he had prior to chemo, but he looks healthy. We talked with them all through dinner, through the dessert of fresh fruit (I learned that I love mangosteen) and purple sticky rice, and over a beer at a bar later. Jeannie said she'll contact us in October to plant the seed to move to Maui when we return to the US. I could think of worse places to live! :)
Our favorite meal, though, has to be the most simple one we had the whole week, noodle soup from Nong Nay, a street vendor pop up spot that appears on the corner of the main streets near the night market. The owner/cook's noodle soup, with savory broth, fresh noodles, roasted pork, and fresh herbs and lime to throw in as we pleased, was heavenly. We loved it so much we went back twice!
OK OK, ENOUGH OF THE FOOD. DID YOU DO ANYTHING BESIDES EAT?
As you well know by now, we love to immerse ourselves in the culinary culture of a place more than anything else (hence the long discussion about food), but we did get out of the local restaurants for some sightseeing, too!
Charlotte, the take-no-prisoners negotiator, had been able to arrange a van to take us all to Kuang Si waterfall for a reasonable price, with the added bonus that we could take as long as we wanted! While most tours were on a time crunch and cost more, we were able to spend practically the entire day enjoying the "jewel of Luang Prabang". I'm so glad that we did not have to keep a schedule, because this place really was spectacular and required several hours to explore! At 9:30, the four of us piled into the van took off on the 45 minute drive to the waterfall with our crazy driver - we sped down bumpy dirt roads and past water buffalo and rice paddies while swerving around motorbikes and other vans. It seemed as though he was in a race that no one else knew about! Since we left earlier than most other tour groups, and our driver drove like a maniac, we arrived before most of the crowds.
We started our walk into the park grounds, past Free The Bears, a bear rescue center where many black bears live (they're adorable), and along the water. We came to the lower pools and were blown away by the color - bright turquoise against white limestone and bright green trees. What is it about colors around here?? As we continued our walk up the hill, the pools and small waterfalls that poured into each one got better and better. We found the main swimming spot, a large turquoise pool with a wall of waterfalls feeding into it, people jumping off a tree into the cold water 10 feet below. Before going for a swim, though, we continued our walk. "This place is pretty," I thought, "but I don't really get why everyone goes crazy over it." Within minutes, I understood. We arrived at the main waterfall, a 60 meter high cascade of clear water surrounded by lush greenery. It was, in a word, stunning.
Hot, sweaty, and ready for a swim, we wandered back down to the main pool. James, Charlotte, and Jake waded their way into the cold water, but I knew I wasn't going to be tough enough to inch in little by little. I took my newfound confidence of water (thanks SCUBA!), made my way up the jumping tree, and launched myself into the pool below. It was exhilarating, and still surprisingly cold! As the four of us waded around, tiny fish nibbled at our toes and legs - not a nice feeling! Now I never need to go to those fish spas, I've already endured the weird feeling here in the waterfall! We swam until my fingers started to turn purple and set off for a bit of a hike. On either side of the main waterfall were trails up to the top. And as many of you know, if there is a mountain Jake can climb, we're going up! So up we went, up the slippery, muddy mountainside, to the top of the waterfall where we found a peaceful lagoon, the water not coming from a rushing river like we would see in Yosemite, but a calm, wide, and shallow stream that lazed towards the edge before plummeting into the pool below. Our bare feet covered in squishy, cold mud, our faces bright and smiling at this spectacular place that not many have ever seen before. We waded into the knee high lagoon and admired the view from the top for a bit before slipping and sliding back down the hill on the other side. Ok I was the only one to actually fall, everyone else did great! After some lunch, we climbed back into the van and braced ourselves for the ride home. It was a really wonderful day exploring such a gorgeous place with our new friends.
One morning we got up with the sun, around 5:30, in order to witness the morning Alms ceremony, when the hundreds of monks in the city walk the streets in line and receive food from the locals. They carry baskets with them that people will fill with sticky rice, candy, crackers, all kinds of things, and this will be all the food they have to eat for that day. It's a beautiful ceremony, a fascinating tradition to get to watch, and I love that we were able to catch a glimpse of the real, local customs. But it was also kind of sad - tourists are ruining it. Hundreds of tourists lined the streets, chattering and pointing, doing whatever they wanted to get the picture they just had to have, including stepping in front of the monks and interfering with the service and using a flash right in their faces. It's become such a popular tourist attraction that now people have the job of policing tourists to stay out of the way, like security. I realize that, by being there at all, Jake and I add to the problem. It's strange position to be in - we came here to see this, but our presence and that of hundreds of others, kind of ruins it. Just like Anthony Bourdain said: when we travel, we share our experiences, and then other people travel there too, and eventually the reason why we went there in the first place is destroyed. Tourism creates a moral dilemma everywhere. We want to do our best to be respectful of that. During the Alms ceremony, we quietly stood out of the way and tried not to just be shutterbugs. We're not going to get that National Geographic photo that makes us famous, so after a few shots we put the cameras down and chose to just be present in the moment.
Morning Alms ended around 6am, so we had about an hour to kill before Xieng Thong opened for breakfast. Instead of heading back to our room on the other side of the peninsula, we took advantage of the quiet time at Wat Xieng Thong to explore. As we wandered around the many different temples on the property, the monks swept fallen leaves, ate, and prepared for their day of classes. In the courtyard, surrounded by beautiful temple adorned with bright glass mosaics, we spoke with the ticket salesman for the wat. He told us that most monks in Luang Prabang are not going to be lifelong monks, they are not there only for religious reasons, they are there for education. School is free for boys who attend at the temples, so boys come from all over the country to study and learn. They all learn English and are eager to talk to tourists, so we were free to approach them and say hello. We asked him how he felt about all of the tourists watching the morning Alms. He explained, in perfect English by the way, that he does not mind all of the tourists. "If they want to learn about my culture and my country, that is good. I am happy to share it with them."
Later that morning, after a delightful breakfast of Xieng Thong Noodle's khao piak and before it was blazing hot again (all week it was SO HOT), we climbed Mount Phousi to see Wat Tham Phousi temple. On our way, we briefly chatted with a monk! He was from a remote village and was studying at one of the temples. As he was on his way to English class that started in mere minutes, we did not want to keep him long. He gave us directions up the hill and sent us on our way (also in perfect English). As we'd heard that the temple on the top of the hill can get very crowded, we were happy to be up there in the early morning when we pretty much had it to ourselves. We admired the great 360* views of the city, taking in that incredible chocolate brown rivers against the green with flecks of gold temples poking through the trees every few kilometers. It was gorgeous.
Lastly, I really loved the night market! Fascinated by how it seemed to just appear, we climbed back up to the Indigo Café rooftop lounge to relax for a few hours and watch the night market come to life. Check out Jake's awesome time lapse of the setup here. We walked through the market almost every night as we were coming and going (Jake hit his head on just about every tent each time - they were all so short!), and I fell in love with the gorgeous silk scarves, pillow covers, and bags. I wanted to buy so many things, but quickly remembered that I don’t have a lot of space in my backpack, nor do I want to carry it all around for another 5 months. So I settled on a fun dress that I even successfully bargained for! I paid the price I actually wanted to pay! Woo!!
Something I never learned much about in school was the Vietnam War, so I certainly had no idea that Laos has suffered, and still suffers, more than any other country involved in the war. It is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Going to the UXO (unexploded ordinance) Museum in Luang Prabang was an eye-opening experience. During the war, the US dropped over 270 million cluster bombs on Laos, 80 million of which did not explode on impact. Of the over 2 million tons of explosives dropped, that’s 30% that did not detonate. The unexploded ordinances are still live and could go off at any moment, and create a deadly situation for villagers over 40 years later. According to the Laos government, all 17 provinces still suffer from UXO, and 25% of the country's villages are contaminated. In the last 10 years, there's been approximately 300 deaths annually due to UXO, and 40% of those are children. UXO has a profound impact on the welfare of families in villages because people cannot use farmland for fear that UXO is hidden beneath the surface and will explode when the farmers are tilling the fields. Thus families cannot earn a living and many live in extreme poverty. Children discover the small, brightly colored cluster bombs and think they are toys. When they pick them up, they explode. The Lao UXO Programme's mission is to locate and remove as much UXO as possible before the bombs explode in the literal hands of someone else. At their current rate, it will take 100 years before the country is completely clear of UXO. It's terrible to know that these people, generations that had nothing to do with the war, are still suffering from those events. The museum is small, but quite informational. I'm glad that we went and learned a bit about this devastating aspect to life in Laos.
SO, WHERE TO NEXT?
With Vietnam next on our itinerary, we needed to get our visas! Luckily, there is a Vietnamese Consulate in Luang Prabang, and we could apply for visas in person and receive them in a few days rather than go through a seemingly confusing (and potentially scam ridden) process of getting a "pre-approval letter" and then getting the visa at the airport, assuming we would be "pre-approved". Anyway, four days before we were scheduled to fly to Vietnam, we set out to get our visas in order.
After breakfast at Pilgrim Café, we made the 20 minute walk to the consulate. I had tried to find out the office hours of the place, but unfortunately they weren't listed on the website. As we walked in the hot sun (and I meant HOT), we joked, "Watch, it'll be closed for a two hour lunch or something when we get there." Well, the joke was on us, because we arrived at 11:30am on the dot, right when they were closing for a two hour lunch!! They handed us the applications and told us to come back at 1:30 with $70. We asked for clarification, "$35 each, right? $70 total?". "Yes," the guy at the window told us.
To pass the time we checked out the UXO Museum (discussed above), and relaxed all the way back in our air conditioned room. At 2pm we were ready to head back out, only this time we decided that, if we could negotiate a good price, we'd take a tuk tuk there and back. After much back and forth with a driver, Jake successfully bargained a decent price for a ride and off we went, happy to not be walking all the way back. We handed over our passports, applications, and prepared to pay in cash. Just then I noticed a paper on the counter showing the different cost for the visa depending on how quickly you need it - 1 day = $70 per person, 2 days = $65 per person, 3 days = $60 per person. Wait, "per person"?? The guy told us $35 per person! Well shoot. We didn't bring enough cash for that! And of course the closest ATM is a 5 minute walk away. Our tuk tuk driver, who was waiting for us outside, was already not super pleased with us because he wanted us to pay more, was even less thrilled when we asked him to drive us to the nearest ATM. As a peace offering, we told him we'd give him more money. He agreed and off we went. Only when we got there, the ATM was broken. The only other ATM that was close by was back by our guesthouse, were we started our trip with him! He was growing more annoyed with us, and we offered him more money to take us to the other ATM, back to the consulate, and home again. This whole situation was growing more and more annoying by the minute - we tried our best to be prepared for the visa transaction, we did everything we could to avoid any problems, and despite those efforts we now look like a jerk to this tuk tuk driver, asking him to drive us all over the place when that was not the original agreement. Ugh. After all was said and done, though, we got the funds we needed, retrieved our passports and new Vietnam visas, and heavily tipped our driver who gave us a nice smile when he counted his money. We were ready to go to Vietnam!
We caught a few hours in the capital city, Vientiane, on our way to Vietnam. I'm particularly glad we chose to skip an overnight stay here - it's really just another big city and didn't charm us the way LP did. We snapped a few pictures and then holed up at a coffee shop until our flight. Soooo that was exciting.
Off to Vietnam!!
Highlights: meeting James and Charlotte, Aek's coconut cakes, Nang Noy noodles, sindad BBQ, Kuang Si Waterfall
Lowlights: hot hot hot, Indigo Café breakfast
Worst place for a tall person to walk: through the night market
Bottom Line: We had a wonderful time exploring the sleepy town of Luang Prabang! While we hope to, someday, make it down to 4000 Islands, I'm glad that we took our time here. We loved getting to spend so much time with James and Charlotte and can't wait for more adventures with them in Vietnam and Cambodia!