10 Things To Do In Luang Prabang

May 6th, 2014

Work Your Heart For Buddha

Mount Phousi is almost the geographical centre of Luang Prabang, a small mountain that rises to just over 150 metres above the surrounding landscape. It is perfect place from which to view the city or to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River and nearby mountains.

You can climb up to the top of the small mountain via two different routes and both are a great workout!  Both routes lead to Wat Chom Si (the temple located at the top of the mountain).

If you start the climb from the Kingkitsarath Road steps (south eastern side) you ascend past some beautiful statues and vantage points.

A small fee is charged for the climb to the very top – a small price to pay for the experience.

Swim in Kuang Si Falls

The Kuang Si falls are located in a beautiful rural area about 28 kilometres (a 45 minute drive) south west of Luang Prabang.  Transport options to and from the falls are dependent on one’s budget and desired travel experience.  You can ride, catch a Tuk Tuk or hire a private car.  None are expensive.

The falls themselves are a must see and a cooling off dip in the pools which the falls run into is definitely recommended.

Kuang Si (also called Tat Kuang Xi) falls is a three-tier waterfall around 200 feet high.  The water falls over ancient limestone and down into beautiful turquoise coloured pools below.

Visitors can climb to the top of the falls although, in the wet, the track is very slippery and the views from the top are not necessarily worth the effort or risk.

Time might be better spent with your feet in the pools and having your “tootises” cleaned by the local fish that inhabit them.

Café Lebelair, located near the main falls, offers some tasty treats and local coffee and tea – a nice stop off after walking alongside the pools and viewing the main falls.

Delight In A Fresh Feast

Laos was a French protectorate from 1893 through until 1946 and, in addition to some stunning French style colonial buildings, the French influence is still evident in the food on offer at many of the excellent restaurants located throughout the city.

For the “foodies” amongst you, Luang Prabang will be a delightful experience.  From the street side outlets to the more up market restaurants the food on offer is delicious.

For the not so budget conscious try L’Elephant on Vat Nong.  The food is authentic French and the décor inside is eye catching.  The Apsara on Kingkitsarath Road is another favourite amongst the expat community in LP.

For those wanting an awesome feed at a great price try L’etranger Books and Tea on Kingkitsarath Road – the soup is to die for and they have a great little gallery upstairs.

Sisavangvong Road is one of the main streets in the small city (it’s the one transformed into the wonderful night market) and your hunger can be resolved at any of the great eateries located at the north eastern end.

Get On Yer Bike

One of the refreshing things about Luang Prabang is the number of bicycles on the road.  This cheap and healthy transport option is still a big favourite amongst the locals and many visitors.

Most of the hotels, villas and hostels offer free (or very cheap) bike hire so there are no excuses for not “getting on your bike” for the day.

For those readers that are not at the peak of their fitness don’t despair – Luang Prabang’s topography, for the most part, is rather flat.

The roads are very safe to ride because the local traffic moves slowly and it is very respectful of bike riders.  You might have to negotiate the occasional slow moving chicken or a mangy dog that has taken up residence in the middle of the road but neither of these will cause a panic.

If you want to extend your workout and get really active you can join one of the adventure company rides.  These rides can be part or full day or you can even do two plus day adventures.  The rides take in some of the spectacular rural country in northern Laos – a perfect way to get a feel for this beautiful place.

Stroll The Markets

Asian marketplaces are always fun to visit.  The bargains on offer are hard to resist and the energy of the marketplaces attract locals and visitors alike.

While it can be said that some markets around Asia are “same, same” Luang Prabang’s nightly market is not in this category.  You will find beautiful (certified) local products on offer – silks and cloth covering every spectrum of the colour band, delightful (read “not pushy”) stall owners and polite fellow tourists.

Before “entering” the market proper you can grab a fresh juice (or beverage of choice) and sip on it as you meander through the neatly presented ground level stalls.

The night markets take up half of Sisavangvong Road and start just before sunset.   Allow yourself an hour or so to take in the vast array of goods on offer – it’s worth it.

Find Some Modern Masters

Art, in its many forms, plays a big part in Laotian culture and many current artists call Luang Prabang home.

Carvers, painters, potters, sculptors, weavers and writers – you will find them all in Luang Prabang.  Some have studied overseas and many are gaining the attention of galleries, fashion houses and publishers on the international stage.

Visitors can visit the tiny factories where traditional weavers and potters work their magic or search out the small shops and galleries that display the fine art and carvings of local artisans.

Hmong (local tribes people) crafts can be purchased from a craft market located on the corner of Sisavangvong and Kitsalt Roads.

A visit to the small village of Ban Tchan on the opposite side of the Mekong River to Luang Prabang is a must for fans of pottery.  The village is around 15 minutes by boat from one of the wharves located on the LP side of the river.

Get Up Close And Personal With Nature

High summer rainfalls and a temperate climate mean that the northern part of Laos is lush and alive.

Nature lovers will enjoy the abundance of birds and insects that call Laos home.  They will also enjoy the stunning native trees and high canopies.

For those that enjoy the sound and feel of water Luang Prabang’s rivers (large and small) and waterfalls will keep you happy.  In addition to the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, water lovers can immerse themselves, literally, in beautiful rural streams and waterfalls that flow from the surrounding mountains.

Figure Out Wat

One of Asia’s attractions is its love for Buddha and all things Buddhism.  Laos is not exception.

Wats (temples) big and small can be found scattered throughout Luang Prabang and each of them is beautiful.

Whilst Mt Phousi’s Wat Chom Si’s mountain location is unique, those that can’t make the long climb to the top can take in the stunning Wat Mai – located right in the heart of the city.

Several other large temples are located at various points in and around the city.  If you are not too “watted out” you would do well to enjoy the sights on offer at Wat Phol Phao on Highway 13, Wat Xieng Dong at the north eastern end of Khem Kong and Wat Wisunalat near Kingkitsarath Road.

Work Out The Breeds

You may have seen some scruffy dogs on your travels but probably never as many as you are likely to see in Luang Prabang.  These “bitzer” (bits of this and bits of that) breeds come in all shapes, colours and sizes and most of them are adorable.

The bitches amongst the breeds don’t seem to spend too much time between litters with many of them having teats that are so long that they almost drag on the ground.

With low basic wages that barely allow a family to just survive, one can’t imagine that much money gets spent on animals in Laos.  This doesn’t mean that the locals don’t love their pets but it is survival of the fittest in these parts.

The dogs are friendly and happy and they make for great pictures.

Bear It For All To See

Free The Bears is a not for profit organisation started by Australian woman Mary Hutton in 1995.  Mary and her team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to “protect and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.”

Visitors to Luang Prabang can get up close and personal with some of the bears that “Free The Bears” (FTB) have saved from a life of misery.

FTB’s bear rescue centre is located at the Tat Kuang Si falls and the entrance fee for the falls allows visitors to see the bears and to donate to the cause.

The FTB workers have been building elevated walkways and enclosures and this gives visitors great exposure to the 30 plus bears.  The bears are quite active (particularly during feeding time) and it is evident that the home they have now is a wonderful existence compared to the caged life that many of them experienced in the past.

Don’t forget to donate some monies (or purchase some of the gifts for sale) to this worthy cause before you head off to the nearby waterfalls.

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Brad Pitt’s Putting On Weight

December 27th, 2013

Our little Honda “zinger” motorbike zooms along the blacktop road at “a clip”. The wind is in our eyes and our senses are soaking up the sights and sounds of this clear, warm Phuket afternoon. “Was that a little elephant?” Indeed it was. I pull over to the side of the road and let the traffic go by before negotiating a U turn. My Princess holds on tightly as I make sure we don’t get “T-boned” by local traffic.
We ride the short distance back to the car park where we saw the baby elephant and dismount our Japanese steed.
The “little” guy is swinging from side to side while munching on some fresh leaves from a banana tree. He is not chained up and seems content to stand his ground as we approach him. His trainer is nearby reclining in the shade and, like a lot of Thai people, he is not in any hurry to let our initial experience be affected by getting involved. It’s one of those “things” about Thailand that makes you want to come back again and again.
A “handyman” sign nailed above the shack that the trainer sits in advertises that food for feeding the elephant can be purchased for 100 Thai Baht (around $3). What a bargain!
The trainer senses that we are keen to feed the elephant so he extracts himself from his “office” and approaches us with a basket full of fresh cucumbers. We hand him 100 TBH and “Brad Pitt” (apparently this is what the owner has christened the baby elephant) approaches us eager to get a feed of cucumbers.
We learn that this “little” guy eats around 50kg of food per day and that cucumbers rate high on his list of “Brad Pitt” approved foods. His trainer speaks to Brad in Thai elephant language and Brad politely accepts our offerings. Despite his obvious desire to consume the whole basket in one mouthful his strict upbringing means that hand feeding Brad is rather stress free. In fact, it’s a lot of fun.
We are able to capture some nice close up photos of Brad and his fuzzy hairdo and depart the car park feeling rather pleased with our interaction with this “famous” pachyderm actor.
If you’re in Thailand take a trip to the southern end of Phuket and visit the Phucada Safari car park. Brad Pitt may have grown up and moved on into elephant trekking but, hey, he might be replaced by George Clooney!

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Nature’s Walmart

December 21st, 2013

Christmas is only two days away and there is probably not a lot under the tree (if there is a tree). However, on a beach that was devastated by the world’s most destructive tsunami just 9 years ago, a small girl has already received a gift.
In a quiet area where a local river flows out to the sea she has Mother Nature has gifted her an early present – a small seed nut that has started to sprout. With nothing more than a child’s beautiful imagination she has graciously accepted this gift and started her own garden.
She knows that her garden will be will be consumed by the incoming tide but she is smart enough to know that another gift will be waiting for her tomorrow. In the meantime she gets to create.
Whilst this small child may not be opening a fancy present on Christmas day she has been given one of the most beautiful gifts of all – a gift from “Nature’s Walmart”. It’s a free gift, one that comes wrapped in millions of different ways and one that can be passed on – just as it was on this day.
Thank you for the gift of being present to this small child that asked for nothing and received the world.

Nature's Walmart

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Europe On Video

October 8th, 2013

“Lights, camera, action”.

It’s not all about still photo’s when we travel.  Oh, no.  Go Pro, HDR Video camera, iPhones and DSLR camera are all used to capture some of the action on our holidays.  We have lots of fun editing and creating short movies after our trips and this “trailer” has been put together from some of the footage we took during our trip to Europe in September 2013.

Move over Angelina and Brad.  Roey and The Princess are ready to walk the red carpet.

Click Image For Video

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Capture The Colour

October 5th, 2013

We recently learned that the TravelSupermarket host an annual photographic competition called “Capture The Colour”.  We were very kindly nominated to by Lydian at Shoutography.  Being keen photographers we decided to put some shots forward and enter the competition.  Capture the colour asks us to post photos that represent Green, Yellow, Blue, White and Red.  Here are our entries:

Green

Sticking My Neck Out

This beautiful lizard was very interested in something because he posed like this for a long time.  Maybe he had his eye on a tasty insect.  He (or it may have been a she) was on display at a butterfly farm in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands

Blue

Pura Vida Baby

We found this dilapidated old bar on the beachfront in Costa Rica.  The sun was low in the sky and it cast some nice light on the area.  Despite having reservations about the state of the chair (as weathered as the bar), The Princess took up residence on her “throne” and proceeded to slow down to the pace of Costa Rica.  Pura Vida baby.

White

Touching Tips

On an early morning safari in the middle of Botswana’s Okavango Delta this beautiful white bird took flight right in front of our boat.  We were skimming along the surface along a waterway as wide as a one lane road and lined with tall reeds.  The bird life in Botswana is amazing and we were lucky enough to catch this guy before he got to far ahead of the boat.

Red

The Real Forth Bridge

“They did it right in my days”.  We are sure that a bridge engineer of 1880′s would be muttering something like this from his grave if he laid eyes on the Forth Bridge in Scotland.  Known for its unique cantilever design and stunning red coating this beautiful railway bridge is a photographer’s delight – we were certainly taken by it.

Yellow

Sucking It Up

Butterflies are such beautiful insects and when you are able to get up close to them without them moving…… well, let’s just say it is a wonderful experience.  This stunning chap was to busy sucking up the nectar from the equally beautiful flower and she didn’t seem too fazed about having a camera lens intruding on her midday dining experience.

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Thanks to Capture The Colour and Lydian for causing us to review some of our photos from the colour perspective.  We hope you like the shots we have chosen for this year’s competition.

Our nominations for Capture The Colour 2013 are:

Lydian @ Shoutography

Jarmo @ The Arctic Nomad

Ardun @ Ardun Ward

Dave and Carmen @ Double Barrelled Travel

Mittie @ Girl Wander

The competition closes on 9th October 2013 so if you are keen to showcase your talents to the world post a blog and support this great initiative.  Deciding upon an entry based on colour is a great way of reviewing your photo’s from a different angle.

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BIG WHEEL KEEPS ON TURNING

September 22nd, 2013

Staring up in awe at the blazing red, 72’ diameter wooden water wheel the lyrics of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” come to mind:

“Big wheel keeps on turning.  Proud Mary keeps on burning………”

We are on the Isle of Man and today our proud Manx friend and tour guide, Ally, has bought us to see the “world’s largest operating water wheel” – The Laxey Wheel.

Thankfully I mounted my wide-angle lens onto my Canon because trying to capture the sheer size of the wheel when you are up close is almost impossible.

The Laxey Wheel, located on the north-eastern side of the small Irish Sea island, was built in 1854.  The wheel’s job was to pump water out of the “Great Laxey Mines” complex in the nearby hills – a lot of water.  Indeed this massive wheel is capable of extracting over 1000 litres per minute from mine shafts the extend to  1500’ below the earth’s surface.

The water that feeds the wheel runs along a beautifully designed viaduct. Towering above the landscape the white washed stone arches of the viaduct provide avid photographers with some wonderful “perspective” shots.

Visitors to the Laxey Wheel complex can visit one of the old mine shafts that leads into the Glen Mooar part of the Laxey Mines.  A short track leads from the wheel up to the shaft’s entrance and, after donning a hardhat, you can walk 100’ into the mine. Be warned though.  Even if you are not claustrophobic, the short trip into the mine will get your attention.

Immediately on entering the shaft the temperature begins to drop and the water logged walls and low roof drip all around you.   The narrow gauge rail lines disappear into the darkness and the shaft seems to close in around you. The shaft is fenced off around 100’ into the mine but by this point you are in far enough to gain a sense of how brave and tough the Laxey miners were.

Exiting the mine into the bright, cool day is like being born again.

If, after a visit to the mineshaft, you are up for another challenge you can climb up to the top of the beautiful tower in which the Laxey Wheel is mounted.  A narrow, “one-person-at-a-time”, spiral staircase allows visitors to get to the top of the tower and view the surrounding hills and the Laxey Valley.   The climb also means that you get to see the very top of the 6’ wide wheel as it rotates gracefully – a very calming experience after the steep climb to the top.

After all the exercise and a lot of photos we walked down the hill to the small café located near the wheel.   Visitors can take in some of the café’s delightful offerings while listening to the water flowing from the wheel and into the nearby stream. We settled on the obligatory tea and scones.

The Laxey Wheel is open from 10am – 4pm in winter and 9.30am to 5pm in summer. The very reasonable entry fee of £5 goes toward keeping the “Lady Isabella” (as the wheel is called) turning for the generations to follow.

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