Traversed by the Mekong River and mountainous terrain, Laos is a country that still holds much of its charm from yesteryear. Kate Webster takes you on a journey back in time to discover Luang Prabang at its best.
Affectionally known as the Kingdom of a Million Elephants, Laos is like a land lost in time, with a strong French Colonial influence meshed with a timeless quality to rural life, where stilt houses overlook paddy fields. Laos retains many of the traditions that have disappeared elsewhere in the region.
I recently flew on the new direct Scoot flight from Singapore to Luang Prabang and discovered a country untainted by mass tourism and Asia in slow motion. It was the spirituality, generous hospitality, and of course, breathtaking photo opportunities that really stood out during my time here.
Alms Giving Ceremony
Starting early in the morning, hundreds of saffron-robed monks glide through the streets in a call to alms, one of the region’s iconic images. You can take part in this tradition that began back in the 14th Century. Sat with a basket of sticky rice, I gave out handfuls to the monks that passed me, feeling very special to be a part of this beautiful tradition.
Mandalao Elephant Conservancy
Being the Land of a Million Elephants, I was off to see some for myself. Mandalao is a non-riding elephant experience focused on education and animal welfare. Here you can spend time with some of Laos’ rescued elephants who are there to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. If this is not possible, they have come to live out the rest of their days in what is dubbed the “happy elephant retirement village”. The conservation tours allow visitors to get up close and personal with elephants while learning the importance of their conservation.
Ock Pok Tok
Choosing a little gift to take home from Laos is best found at Ock Pop Tok. Founded on the principles of fair trade and sustainable business practices, visitors can take a free guided tour, stroll through the gardens (where you’ll find the natural materials for dyes) or come to the Living Crafts Centre to watch the 28 master weavers on their looms. If you have time, you can even participate in a class or two and make your very own gift.
Kuang Si Falls
Escaping the heat of the day in Luang Prabang is best done at Kuang Si Falls. The 3-tiered falls lead to a 50-metre drop into shallow pools, before flowing downstream. The pools make great swimming holes and I was happy for the relief from the humidity that clung to me in the heat of the day. There are trails leading to the top of Kuang Si Falls, where you can see the stream feeding into the falls.
Mekong River Cruise
A trip to Luang Prabang is not complete without a cruise down the Mekong for sunset. Stepping aboard the stunning wooden boat of Mekong Kingdoms. I set off into the sunset with canapes to nibble and drink in hand. For a busy waterway, the pace was slow and relaxed as the activity on the riverbanks as fisherman continued to gather their cat