If you make it to one city in Laos, it should be this one. It is an old French Colony so the whole city has a French look and feel to it. The architecture and food each have an infusion which makes it a really interesting place to explore. Jeff also managed to find time to fly up from Bangkok and spend a few nights with us here.
The night food market is undoubtedly the best we came across in Laos. Even though Luang Prabang has some amazing restaurants, we couldn’t stop ourselves from going back to eat at the market each night. Everything from fried meats to coconut pancakes to dumplings were delicious. You could also just get a bowl and fill it with a plethora of items all for a buck or two. This kind of food culture is great because you can try dozens of things and in the end only spend $10 dollars or so to do it.
One of the coolest things we did while here was visit the Living Farm where we spent a day learning how rice is grown and how to farm it. While this might seem boring or simple, it really wasn’t. The tour actually had a guide walk us through each of the 14 steps of rice making from plowing the ground behind a water buffalo, to planting the rice, to sifting the rice, etc. We spent half a day walking through the various steps and truly understanding all that goes into the production of Asia’s staple food. Many Asians we’ve met always say the phrase, “rice is life” and they mean every word of it. It is a staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. People literally can’t live without it and little did I know there are 200+ varieties and locals have their favorites. I know, I know, it isn’t just white and brown rice. I tried to think of what the biggest staple food is for our country. Honestly it disgusted me to realize it is probably corn syrup or sugar as those are the only two I feel span all meals of each day.
After the tour ended, we had a great lunch at the farm with so much food it could have fed seven people. They also invited us to come back and teach English to groups of kids who the school sponsors through tour fees. This was another reason we loved the tour as we knew the money was going directly to improving the local community. The English classes were a hoot as Jeff and Katie taught two different groups at one school and they had me teach two different groups at another school down the road. The classes lasted two hours and involved us using many different methods to get things across. For me that included having them sing their favorite song lyrics and write them on the boards so I could correct the lyrics and teach correct pronunciation of real words. I also did a lot of Pictionary, drawing pictures and the kids would have to learn the names of the animals, fruits, vegetables, etc. I was drawing. I finished off my classes by teaching them the game heads-up-7-up. They loved it and just like back home, you could tell they loved picking the others they had crushes on.
The other big attraction in the area is the Kuang Si waterfalls. While we could have rented a motorcycle and drove the hour up ourselves, we decided to catch a ride up with a local truck driver as he knew the way which meant we could have a breezy ride. Once there you walk along the river and just ogle as the beautiful turquoise pools of water collecting before each waterfall. The falls range from a foot tall to 200 ft tall at the largest. We loved it because we found a few pools which were not very touristed so while pretty damn cold, we had a private pool in an amazing natural setting. Well worth seeing these if you’re in the area.