Laos... a whistle-stop tour of Luang Prabang
For some reason, Laos has never been on my list of must-see places. I'm not sure why. Perhaps as a 20 year old backpacker it would have been more appealing with its offers of bottomless cocktail jugs and pub crawls that last long into the night. However, when the opportunity came to meet some friends I thought it was a good time to take the plunge and head over to see what all the fuss is about. And perhaps indulge in a bottomless cocktail jug or two.
Flying into Luang Prabang I was immediately stunned by the scenery. So vast, lush and green. I had no idea that Laos was so pretty or mountainous. Obviously my preconceptions were incorrect and excitement started building. Despite being organised with my passport photo and US currency for the visa, I was a dollar short so getting into the country was far more of a palaver than it needed to be but hey ho, eventually I made it.
Luang Prabang is famous for its dawn Alms Ceremony. The monks parade the streets collecting donations from locals and tourists alike. Sticky rice, biscuits and crips can be purchased for a small fee and these are donated to the monks. They all seemed to be so skinny that they couldn't possibly eat all that they received because with that unhealthy a diet, it would be impossible to keep some slimline figures!
Luang Prabang is also famous for its stunning waterfalls. There are several to visit in the local area - namely Kuang Si and Tad Thong. You can negotiate a price with the local tuk-tuk drivers or book through your accommodation. They are both definitely worth visiting was they're so different and good for a spot of swimming - especially in the warm summer temperatures.
There are also elephant rides but I'm not a fan of this so a visit to Laos's only elephant sanctuary to feed rescued and rehabilitated elephants is a much better option if you want to get up close and personal with these mighty beasts. Mandalo Elephant Sanctuary is run by three chaps from the US and they're extremely passionate about providing an ethical and sustainable experience for all of their guests. Though pricey, it's certainly worth every penny.