Posts Tagged ‘dining’

10 Things To Do In Luang Prabang

Tuesday, 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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Hout Bay Heaven

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Sentinel Peak’s distinctive shape looms over the picturesque harbour of Hout Bay in the mid distance. A gentle swell rolls in from the southern Atlantic ocean, ending its journey on the bay’s white sand beach.  Van Morrison and other like artists’ songs fill the breakfast nook’s dining space as we “tuck into” another sumptuous full cooked morning feast at the Amblewood bed and breakfast.  Trevor, our gracious host, beams with pride as we “mmmm” and “ah” after tasting the perfectly cooked and wonderfully presented meal.

Themba, Trevor and June’s beautiful golden labrador, wanders in occasionally to check on our progress.  He knows that he will get to savour any left over delights and we are sure that he is hoping we will not eat all the food on our plates.  When Trevor comes out to top up our tea and coffee he gives Themba “the look” and Themba reluctantly exits the dining room.  He knows that it is only a matter of time before the left overs are laid before him.  He is the master of the house after all.

Patiently Waiting

The views, the atmosphere, the food, the hosts and the company of my Princess make the breakfast experience at Amblewood a very pleasurable experience indeed.

Life’s very good.

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Coastal Views and Mountain Peaks

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Looking out from the window of our plushly appointed bedroom at Amblewood B&B our eyes feast on the towering mountain peaks that surround Hout Bay.  The area is a geological paradise and we are keen to explore it more.  Today we are headed for the Cape of Good Hope.

After another sumptuous breakfast we “mount” our hired steed (read Citroen car) and make our way to the beginning of Chapman’s Peak drive .  We pay our entrance fee and set off on the scenic drive.

Coastal Princess

Chapman’s Peak looms above us and the picturesque Hout Bay drops behind and below as we head south on the winding coastal road known around these parts as “Chappies”.

It’s not long before we pull over to the first of many lookout parking areas – each offering their own unique view of the Atlantic coastline.

The white blossoms of coastal trees contrast beautifully against the azure of the inlets below.  Cold, gentle breezes rise up from the ocean below and cool us down as we capture this beautiful scene on our Canon SLRs.

The construction of Chappies started almost 100 years ago – an engineering marvel in its day.  9 kilometres and 114 curves carved out of the side of mountains high above the Atlantic ocean.  Another example of the ingenuity and persistence of mankind.

We stop frequently to take in the grandeur of the mountains and the vastness of the ocean. Sitting and admiring nature without taking any photo’s or video is one of life’s pleasures and we remind ourselves today that this must be done often.

For more great information on traveling in South Africa, check out our like minded friend’s reviews here “100 Best Things To Do In South Africa”  Jen Miller is an avid traveler and writes some great articles on her blog.

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Roam’n For Ramen

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

We are sitting at the “bar” of a tiny restaurant in Ramen Alley watching the proud owner/chef prepare our chosen feast of ramen noodles.  While we wait we sip our cold, crisp Hokkaido beer and watch Japan’s favourite sport (baseball) on a tiny TV mounted in the corner. Outside, the busy alleyway is full of prospective diners and gawking tourists – this little area of Sapporo is a must see/must eat at place.

Ramen noodles are made from fresh wheat and they are usually served in a steaming bowl of broth and topped with a variety of tasty toppings.  The broth can be salt based (shio), soy based (shouyu) and even pork bone (tonkotsu).  Hokkaido’s miso-based broth is unique to the island and it can be described as hearty, garlicky and slightly nutty – perfect in the harsh Hokkaido winters.

Our smiling chef hands over the huge bowls of hot ramen and we thank him in our best Japanese (“Doumo arigatou“).  We wait a while for the temperature of the broth to drop before we start savouring this chef’s unique dish – it seems that every chef has his own secret blend.

The history of ramen in Sapporo dates back to the 1920′s.  Apparently “lo mein” noodles were served at a Chinese cafe located in front of the Hokkaido University.  After World War II more and more ramen shops opened up around Sapporo as Japanese troops familiar with Chinese cuisine returned from the war.

Ramen is now a Japanese cultural icon and many of them win international awards.  However, if you ask around town which ramen shop is the best you will get hundreds of different answers – each person has their favourite.

Tonight, we think we have picked the best ramen restaurant in town.  The noodles and Japanese dumplings are outstanding and the locally brewed ale compliments the servings perfectly.

After finishing our noodles we compliment the chef with: “totomo oishi” (very good), bow our heads in thanks and slip between the flapping linen door covers out into the mid-summer evening air.  Like two sated ducks we waddle off in the direction of our hotel, licking our lips as we go.

Thanks to Suzanne Yonesaka (Hokkai-Gakuen University) for some of content of this article.  Suzanne’s excellent article appeared in a JR Hokkaido publication we read whilst travelling around Hokkaido.

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Chilling In The Heat

Friday, September 16th, 2011
Our body clocks are definitely on Malay time because they were quite happy to stay in bed despite the alarm going off around 0800. Maybe we should trade the alarm in for a Malaysian made one – it might just not go off at all!
We made our way down to the sumptuous breakfast around 0920 and we were greeted by the attentive and friendly staff that work the morning shift. Colin, the gentleman we met the first day we arrived, was working again this morning so we took some photos with him and enjoyed learning more about Sabah and things to do.
With no particular place to be and with no agenda to follow we sat and soaked up the atmosphere in Club Magellan and had a wonderful time recalling the incredible travels that we have experienced around the world. It always brings a smile to our faces when we recall the special places we have visited and the wonderful things we have experienced. We both agreed that the meeting locals and learning about the culture is always a highlight of our trips.

Surf's Up

After prying ourselves away from the window seat of the dining room we went back up to the room and changed into our poolside attire – swimmers, hat and rash vests. This didnt’ take too long so it was not long before we were pulling up a lounge chair beside the pool – today’s chair looked out over the small beach and west toward the offshore islands.
After lazing on the lounge chairs for a while we made our way to the small sandy beach (a stone’s throw away) and fed the beautiful tropical fish that call this small cove home. The pool attendants keep a basket of bread by the pool hut and you can take some small buns into the water and feed the fish.
Fish of all colours, sizes and species are happy to take the bread from your hands. They are very gentle and despite the numbers of fish they don’t get into a feeding frenzy. It is a very special experience.
A couple more pages of the books and magazines we brought with us were read before I made my way to the nearby resort coffee shop for some refreshements. I ordered The Princess and sweet and tasty white hot chocolate and some “home made” cookies – she was one happy girl when she sipped on the warm milk chocolate back at the pool.
It was just past 1500 when we returned to the room for a late afternoon shower and change. We had decided to head back into the city tonight for another feed of local food at the busy makan stalls that line the waterfront.
A rather large storm had been brewing during the course of the afternoon and it broke just as we left the room. We were thankful for the huge covered entrance to the Magellan Resort as we boarded the 1710 bus for the short trip into town.
The rain subsided a little during the drive into the city and it was only “spitting” when we got off the bus at the last stop.
There was a Coffee Bean coffee shop on the corner next to the bus stop so we sat inside the large dining area and treated ourselves to an early evening brew and nibbly.
Our plan had been to head to a new mall called One Borneo however, after talking with the helpful staff at the Coffee Bean we changed our plans. They told us that many of the shops in One Borneo were probably not open due to it being a public holiday and they redirected us to Suria Sabah (a short walk just minutes away).
We passed some time in the mall and bought a couple of things before going in search of a makan stall. We walked along the main road of the city but didn’t find anything appealing so we made our way down to the waterfront and found the makan stalls.
After looking at the variety of dishes on offer we settled on some Mee Hoon noodles, a plate of Nasi Goreng and two huge tiger prawns. The prawns were about the size of lobsters and the stall owner grilled them to perfection. We washed the delightful dishes down with a huge mug of dragon fruit juice. The atmosphere and the food were excellent and we really enjoyed sitting and taking it all in.
The last shuttle bus back to the hotel departed the nearby stop at 2130 so settled the bill, thanked our hosts and made our way across the road to the bus stop.

Oversized Crustaceans

Fortunately the rain held off for us while we waited for the bus to arrive so we boarded the bus dry when it pulled up.
The now familiar trip back to the hotel was without delay and we arrived back at Sutera Harbour around 2145.
Tomorrow we are going to be taking in a train trip on the North Borneo Railway so we prepared our camera gear for the day’s outing before slipping under the sheets and drifting off to sleep.
Another wonderfully relaxing day in Malaysia – a great way to celebrate Malaysia’s National Day. Happy Malaysia Day!.

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Soaking Up Sabah

Thursday, September 15th, 2011
We woke a little later this morning – holiday mode was starting to kick in.
We made our way down to breakfast and enjoyed a feed of Bircher museli, some delightful croissants and fresh smoked salmon and cheese. We washed it all down with cups of local tea and coffee and beautiful fresh juices prepared to our order. Delightful.
After breakfast we did a lap of the extensive grounds that surround the Magellan resort. We booked our trip on the North Borneo Railway (for Saturday) then returned to the room to collect our cameras – we decided we wanted to take some shots of the views and gardens we had just taken in.
We spent another hour or so walking the gardens and pathways and taking quite a few photos’ and some video. The day was starting to warm up as we neared the cover of the foyer and we both agreed that an afternoon by the resort’s pool would be a great way to cool off.

Basking Toes

Fortunately we were able to get two lounge chairs alongside the pool today so we took up residence under the huge umbrella and switched off with our books and magazines. Holiday mode indeed.
We swam a few times and ate a light lunch by the pool before returning to the room and preparing for another trip into the city.
Today we decided to take in some of the traditional markets that line the harbour front in the city. A number of the guests staying at the resort had mentioned the markets so we were keen to take in the sights and sounds.
We caught the shuttle bus to “Centrepoint” once more and grabbed a Starbuck’s takeaway before heading out to the streets and negotiating our way to the waterfront. Negotiating is the right word because the town planning in these parts is a little on the light side. The streets are definitely not pedestrian friendly and one has to be rather careful not to end up down a monsoon drain or in front of a “zinger” (small motorbike). Fortunately we didn’t end up as an ornament on the front of a local’s car before we found the outdoor marketplace.
The array of produce and cooked food on offer at the markets was astounding. Fresh vegetables and fruits, fish of every species that one could imagine and locally cooked delights on offer from dozens of small stalls. The stall owners and local shoppers made the place buzz and we had a wonderful time photographing and videoing the sights and sounds of this wonderful place.

Fresh From The Grill

We tried a few of the local foods that were on offer and we both agreed that we would have to return and spend more time taking in the sumptuous foods in this place. Tonight we shared a dessert that was full of coconut jam and a chicken breast skewer that was cooked to perfection. The proud locals were happy to let us try out the delights on offer but we had not long eaten a late lunch so neither of us was particularly hungry.
Whilst down at the waterfront we checked out the handicraft markets too. The locally produced goods on offer were very colourful and eye catching however we didn’t pick up any trinkets to take home. Maybe on the next visit.
We left the market place and made our way to Wisma Merdeka (a nearby shopping mall in the city) and took a look around there before the shuttle bus arrived. Most of the outlets were closing for the night so there was not too much to see.
When the bus arrived it was full so we had to catch a taxi back to the resort. A lovely Australian couple who had been waiting for the bus shared the taxi back to the Magellan. It was nice to chat to them during the short trip back.
It was another beautiful night in Borneo so we decided to take up residence in the foyer lounge and listen to the band that we enjoyed so much on the first night. We kicked back and enjoyed some lovely Australian Shiraz and a couple of plates of tapas while the trio sang some classic songs from the past. The attentive staff spent time talking to us about the local area and kept our glasses primed throughout the evening.
We finished the evening with a lovely port before retiring to the room and calling an end to the day.
Another wonderful day of relaxing in north Borneo and the environs of Kota Kinabalu.

Market Views

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