We took a long bus ride from Vang Vieng up to Luang Prabang, through some great mountain scenery along a long and winding road. Luang Prabang is further north in Laos on the Mekong River, and was once the capital of Laos. The city has a great mix of Lao temples and French Indochinese villa-style architecture. There is a large street market with excellent food and handicrafts. On the first day we arrived the weather was very hot, but the remaining days were cold and rainy.
We visited many of the temples and walked the nice and mellow streets. During the day we would stop for drinks of fresh fruit shakes with grand views of the rivers that surround the old part of the city. At night we ate at the food stalls in the streets. Some of our favorite foods have been the spring rolls and some really good barbecued chicken and fish. One outdoor barbecue has really good chicken and fish, really good. Plus they have vegetarian food that is just like good potluck food we would find to go along with a barbecue back home: tangy cold potato salad, noodle and vegetable salad, pasta, good fried rice, etc.
One restaurant, called Tamarind, offers really good sample plates of Lao food. Lao food is different from many others in SE Asia in that you eat it with your hands. The sticky rice is rolled into balls and then eaten with other dishes. We had really mastered the chopsticks, but now we are eating with our hands. At Tamarind, we learned that in Lao customs it is considered bad manners to leave rice behind when you are dipping, which is fairly hard to avoid. We sampled water buffalo (sweet and dried in the sun liked jerky), a dip made of grilled eggplant, fermented bamboo, pickled greens and some other tasty sauces. The traditional Lao food here was really good.
We also climbed Mt. Phousi in the center of town for nice views of the town and rivers and went to a nearby waterfall. The night market in Luang Prabang is really nice, and has great food. The main street is open to vehicle traffic during the day, then is closed at night for pedestrians, handicraft and food vendors to take over.
Luang Prabang has many pleasant French-style buildings and is very popular with large tour groups of French people. There are many good restaurants here, serving a mix of international food. We even found a bakery that has really good pumpkin pie. Since we will spend Thanksgiving up the river in small mountain villages, we treated ourselves to a slice of pie and a nice meal at one of the many great places to eat here.
From here, we will head further north to Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi by boat on the Nam Ou River. These places won’t have any internet access, so it will be a week or so before we are back in Luang Nam Tha where there should be some internet access.
***click to enlarge photos***