We spent a total of 3 days getting from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. The first day was a 6 1/2 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai Arcade bus station direct to Chiang Khong Thailand (one of the border towns with Laos). We spent the next 2 days on the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang and found that to be the most stress-free part of our journey. Once we arrived in Luang Prabang we needed a little time to get the 3 generations (Adventure333) into rhythm. (Sleeping, Eating, Sightseeing and Writing).
Flashback to 2014:
Top priorities were accommodation and food, depending on who you are asking it may be food and then accommodation.
Sleeping – Where to Stay in Luang Prabang
We decided to book one night in Luang Prabang in advance, and then walk around and find the best location and deal to meet our needs. Booking a guest house or room in Southeast Asia, is almost always cheaper when you are in person. You can often negotiate a deal for a several night stay as well.
We first booked online with Rattana Guesthouse and it was fine. We had unfortunate circumstances, which made our stay a bit odd, but it was just okay. I am fairly certain, it is a good experience most of the time. You can read our Rattana Guest House Tripadvisor review for all of the details.
As soon as we arrived into Luang Prabang, we dropped of our bags and I was on the hunt for alternative accommodations. I walked around town and just stopped into any guesthouse I passed by. I remembered that World Travel Family stayed right on the night market street and checked out the place where they stayed. The didn’t have room for the 5 of us, but just a few steps beyond them was Thalinh Guesthouse.
It is best to book via email
I met the owner and she showed me the available rooms. There were 2 floors to the guesthouse and on the bottom floor were a total of 4 rooms. They had 3 doubles and one single, with one of the double already occupied. It was just what we needed and the price was fantastic ($10-$12 for each double room and about $6.50 for the single). This was going to be perfect. Just to be sure, I walked around a bit more to see if there was anything better. Nope! We returned later to reserve the rooms for the following day. They don’t have a website or do online bookings, only in person or via email.
The location was ideal, right off of the main night market street, at the base of the hill and across from Wat Mai. There were so many things to do and see within walking distance as well. Plenty of markets, cafes and street food within steps of where we were staying. Each river was just a couple of blocks away and the morning almsgiving was right out front.
We stayed a total of 6 nights here and it was perfect. The family was so nice and welcoming. We each had our own rooms, Gma Bev loved her own space and the kids did too. It was nice feeling like we just had a 3 bedroom apartment. This worked out well, and allowed us all a little time to figure out our travel groove together. Gma Bev sleeps little bits here and there, while the kids like to sleep in late now. They also run a coffee stand at the night market, so we would see them out and about. It was great fun getting to know them and becoming attached.
Here are some other guesthouses I checked out, but they were either full, out of our price range or didn’t have room for 5 of us. We also will list the places where some fellow travelers have stayed and while roaming around town, I stopped to be nosey and check out a few. For a family of 3 it is a bit easier as they often allow 1 child in the double rooms, but with 2 or more kids extra rooms might be needed. If you stick with a guesthouse, they often have triple or quad rooms.
Places in town:
- Phounsab Guesthouse – Old town center.
- Sayo Xieng Mouane – a block in from the Mekong River side.
- Phousi Guesthouse
- Villa Ban Lakkham – along river.
- Phone Praseuth Guesthouse – across river.
- Villa Laodeum Nam Khan View – along river.
- Riverside Guesthouse – along rive or
- Ammata Guesthouse – near French Bakery.
- Mekong Sunset Guesthouse
Wanting to swim?
We actually did look around on our walks at some with a pool, for grins. I wanted to see how expensive they were. Haaving worked in the hotel industry for year, I am always curious. There weren’t really any that were budget or right in the town center, but not too far away were a couple. They were nice places, but they are higher priced.
- Villa Maydou Boutique Hotel – 20-minute walk to town, but it can be mostly shaded if you time it right.
- Jing Land Hotel Luang Prabang – Excellent location and just around the corner from the night market, This felt very spa like and tranquil. It was expensive.
- Satri House Secret Retreats – Nice gardens and small pool. Probably a 20-minute walk to town.
What I would recommend is to go ahead and save money with a place in town and then spend a 30000 kip each ($3.75) on the public pool La Pistoche, just outside of town. It is about 2k from Wat Mai to the SW, so you could walk or hop in a tuk tuk. Even better spend the extra money on activities, like a trip to the waterfalls. There were also several kids swimming in the river.
Eating in Luang Prabang
Well if you don’t know by now Wagoners Abroad has a couple of picky eaters. Now with Gma Bev along, we added another to the mix. This is going to be the interesting part of our journey for sure. Surprisingly in Luang Prabang, our picky eaters or the non-foodies, as we like to refer to them, ate very well. We found many places to eat and the food was good. Some were more Western, but it worked. We just wanted to share a few of our favorites with you.
Street food is great for Fruit shakes (Smoothies), chicken sandwiches and crepes, all for about $1.25 each. The best was at the second stall from the end. These are set up early in the morning and are open all day and night. It was great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks in between. We were there at least once every day during our stay and just loved the lady running it.
There was also a chain cafe named Joma, that we frequented just about daily. There was one located on the main road in town and another located along the small river. We tried them both, just to be sure their cinnamon rolls were good at both locations. They were and we went often. Actually I had a salad there almost every day. They allow you to order just 1/2 a salad, which was plenty big for me. At a $1.25 it was great to get some veggies in every day. Alan and the kids also really enjoyed the chili.
I have to say our favorite find was Le Banneton Cafe French Bakery at the far end of town, not too far from the tip of the peninsula. Gma Bev also loved the baguettes here. I guess as long as we find the bread and rice, we are golden.
They had fresh baguettes and the most wonderful flaky croissants. Alan and I slipped away a couple of times without the kids and enjoyed their lemon tart too. Oh it was mouth-watering good!
We can’t forget Gma Bev’s (really picky eater) favorite hangout, Restaurant Luangprabang Bakery Guesthouse.
They treated her like royalty and served her daily steamed rice with as much flare as they could. The first night she was there, they didn’t have soy sauce. She has to have soy sauce with her rice, so she roamed the town to find her own for future use. The next night she returned and they had purchased some, just for her! Her steamed rice was served in the little bamboo steamer along with the soy sauce they purchased. Now that is service.
Sightseeing around the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang
There’s so much to do and see around this town. I think we could have stayed for weeks and wouldn’t have been able to do it all.
Of course there are the Wats (temples) and museums, but mostly I enjoyed doing a bit of people watching and roaming up and down every little side street we could find. We spent a little time with a couple we met on our 2 day slow boat as well. Alan and Jeff went and had a shave together.
We did make it to the Kuang Si Waterfalls and we will tell you more about that day soon. For now you can enjoy a brief video of Gma Bev enjoying the moment at the falls. It is great traveling with her and seeing her love life to the fullest.
We also visited many of the local markets, but we don’t really buy things except for food from the daily markets. If we buy something non-edible, that means we have to carry it, so we just don’t buy stuff. On the other hand, Gma Bev did her fair share of shopping. In all fairness to her, she did arrive with just the clothes on her back, so she could purchase the local clothing in each country. This plan seems to have worked out well and she now has a wardrobe of lightweight cool clothing.
One day, Alan and I scooted off on our own on the free shuttle to the Ock Pop Tok textiles and crafts. We were pleasantly surprised at the grounds and the tour from silkworms to a beautiful piece of fabric. They take you step by step through the process. They day we visited was a Buddhist holiday, so no one was weaving. We returned with the full clan the next day and were able to see it all in the works. I would even suggest this as a great spot to come out and enjoy breakfast or lunch along the Mekong. It was a little expensive, compared to street food, but the place has a wonderful ambiance.
We really enjoyed walking around town and just finding our travel groove. We also visited the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (UXO Visitors Center) and will share more about that with you soon as well.
It was such a quaint town and we met so many wonderful people. We kept bumping into 2 ladies traveling on their own for 7 months and it was great getting to know Margo and Carole, “Double Trouble on the Go”.
Working while in Luang Prabang
This proved to be a bit difficult at times, as the internet in Laos isn’t the best. At our guesthouse, it seemed more like dial-up access. We made due, but the above cafe’s mentioned provided decent internet, so that was also a draw to visit them (so we say). The food is what really got us there and then we would sometimes bring along the electronics to get some writing done. Joma seemed to have the best internet and more space to spread out. They also has some nice cushy chairs, for those long sits.
Overall, it took no time at all for us to fall in love with this town. Yes, it is a bit touristy, but it was the perfect dose of what we needed for these 3 generations to get into our travel groove together.
Have you been to Luang Prabang? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments.
Read more about our
Adventure333 (3 Generations, 3 Months, 3 Countries)
Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia
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