Destination 3/3 on the honeymoon tour… we flew into Luang Prabang from Hanoi on 11 November with 6 days and 5 nights left of holiday.
The drive from the airport to the city center is a short 15 minute ride. We were settled in before we knew it. The only thing we had booked in Laos was a hike with MandaLao Elephants in the middle of the week. So we needed some time to get our bearings and figure out exactly what we wanted to do with our last week of holiday.
The villa recommended we go to Utopia for lunch – we wandered there slowly, temple spotting on our way. Nobody rushes in Luang Prabang… it’s so chilled. And Utopia is a travelers oasis. You can go there, use the wifi and relax. They do Yoga in the morning, serve food throughout the day and at night it’s the place to be for drinks.
We got there midday, ordered some lunch, chilled out and started our research… planning our next move with a Beer Laos in hand. It was perfect.
We decided to mix it up – we’ll enjoy the relaxed vibes of Luang Prabang, become best friends with Elephants, chase some waterfalls like TLC would want us to, and then venture down to Vang Vieng (central Laos) for hikes, the famous blue lagoons and the notorious back-packer tubing experience.
Luang Prabang, which is situated next to the Mekong River in Northern Laos. It is known for it’s beautiful Buddhist temples – and the sheer number of temples in the area. There are hundreds of practicing monks and the city radiates calm and relaxed vibes. You can feel it as soon as you arrive.
The main strip in Luang Prabang has everything you need to plan your excursions. Tourism is very established – you can get a sim card easily, pop from place to place to learn about different hikes or river boat trips, you can rent a scooter – you name it. In one way the tourist store fronts might steal away some of the potential charm, but it also makes is super easy to navigate, and Luang Prabang is so charming anyway that yes – you notice it, but it’s not all you see.
Every evening they close down the main road and put on a night market. We wandered around it every night and packed our bags full of different trinkets – clothes, chop sticks, art. There was one stall a 4-year old was running – we bought my 3-year old nephew some elephant pants from her. And there’s one area of the main strip that has loads of walk in massage parlors. We got a foot massage 3 of the 4 nights we stayed in the city lol So good.
One day we rented a scooter and drove to the Kuang Si Falls. It is extremely easy to navigate – two turns but around 45 minutes on a scooter. It really is a must see – so breath taking. Only thing is, you get in the water… surrounded by the most beautiful scenery but these little fishies come at you and nibble on your feet. It is really unpredictable and freaky haha But totally harmless. I had to carry Dan to the falls so we could get this picture together…
The other massive highlight in Luang Prabang was the elephant conservatory we went to. Laos used to be called “The Land of Million Elephants”. Now, Laos only have about 700 elephants left in the wild. MandaLao is an elephant conservation that focuses on elephant welfare. You learn so much and you will fall in love with the elephants you hike with. There is strictly no elephant riding. You simply follow them along a path and watch them eat their way through the nature around them. It is beautiful. We handed them sugar cane and banana’s and got to know their different personalities. In the middle of the full day tour you also enjoy lunch in the woods – packaged up and wrapped in banana leaf. We had our tour with an American couple who were also on their honeymoon. It was an amazing day, and we didn’t want to leave.
We organised a private driver to get us to Vang Vieng in the evening after hiking with the elephants. We left at around 4pm and got there at 9:30pm. The drive was terrifying. You can understand why its more common to find travel during the day when it’s easier to see the pot holes and cliff sides. But we got there safely – it was BAU for our driver – and we saved time.
We had 2 nights and 1 full day in Vang Vieng…. it is back packer central. Loads of young tourists and late night bars. There’s not much there that seems authentic or cultural. But that’s what we expected… we went for the hikes, the lagoons and the tubing. We also debated going hot air ballooning – it’s apparently the cheapest place on earth to go on a hot air balloon.
We stayed in a bungalow at a hostel and booked everything through them. They got us a scooter so we could get to the Nam Xay Top View and Blue Lagoon 3 — still surprised we were able to find these spots. They are so remote and it feels like you are in the middle of no where. And the hostel also booked us in for tubing. We had an action packed day planned.
The Nam Xay Top View was pretty incredible. We drove there first thing in the morning. The hike up is VERY rugged. It’s not a path – it’s more of a climb. But the view was stunning. It took about 20 minutes to get to the top… 20 sweaty minutes. So heading to the Blue Lagoon next was just what we needed.
We went to Blue Lagoon 3 because we heard it was more remote and less touristy. We got there and saw an Asian family there enjoying the water. The lagoon is small but so blue and along beautiful cliff sides. There’s zip line and a rope swing and some tubes. We just started dicking around in the water really. It seemed like the family there before us hadn’t seen anything like it before. It was special for sure, but growing up in Canada you have lakes all over and places with zip lines and rope swings you’d play on as a kid. Well this family…. they did NOT know how to use a zip line. It didn’t stop them… I regret not taking a video…. they would just go for it, all the way until the stopper and then get FLUNG off. Over and over again. It was hilarious. They seemed too scared to do the rope swing because it was quite high up. Dan went off it and they literally all stopped in awe. As he jumped off the platform and swung up, you heard everyone in the background “Woooooooooooooooowwwwww” lol
We drove back to the hostel just in time to get changed and go on the tubing experience. We saw all the same couples that were at Nam Xay Top View and we formed a group. A tuk tuk came to pick us up with loads of tubes tied to the top. It drove us to the river and dropped us off with a tube and hand. Follow the tide, you’ll hear music, when you get close, someone with throw you a rope and pull you into the bar. Ok…… You basically get to this floating barge on the side of the river with speakers blaring, loads of people jumping up and down dancing, a bar at the back and a diving board off the side. It was A LOT of fun. You buy drinks, dance and the bar will eventually close. At this point you grab a tube (any tube) and you float on down to the next bar. Hundreds of people floating down the river with a beer in hand. You do this a few times until you get to the last bar which has a massive zip line and volleyball court. I recommend you bring very little with you if you do this. We stupidly brought a towel which is completely unnecessary. You just need some money, and a dry back for your phone (if you want to bring it), and if you’re smart you’ll also pack your own beer for the river.
We drove back the next day very hung over. We decided to take a shared van service back to Luang Prabang – it felt like it took ages. 10 people in a van and a 7+ hr drive.
But we were happy to get back to the relaxed vibes of Laung Prabang for our final day before flying home.