Tranquil Yet Stimulating Vacation in Laos
Many world travelers consider Luang Prabang to be one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia. My recent trip there definitely puts it on the top of my list for favorite cities. Surrounded by mountains, Luang Prabang is located where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. We stayed at the lovely Mekong Riverview Hotel in the old historic part of town facing the Mekong which provided a grand view of river life from our balcony.
This boutique hotel, combining traditional Laotian elements with subtle western modern amenities, provided us with a constant atmosphere of calm and leisure.
This trip was a refreshing change for our family since we chose to stay away from tight daily schedules and not fill every minute of our day with activities. Instead, early mornings were spent handing out sticky rice to local monks collecting their daily alms …
… or meandering down the lanes of the morning wet market absorbing the color and smells of the fresh produce and just-caught river fish.
Definitely a morning city, we captured the town’s activity by pedaling up and down the lanes of Luang Prabang, watching stores prepare for the day and children biking to school.
And, of course, we had to stop once in awhile at one of the many French/Laotian bakeries in town for cafe au laits and perfect flaky croissants.
When we wanted a change of atmosphere, we ventured Southeast of Luang Prabang to the village of Xieng Lom to visit the Elephant Village Sanctuary founded by Markus Peschke, a pioneer of eco-tourism in Laos. His rescue camp is unlike many “elephant riding” outfits in Southeast Asia where the welfare of the elephants is questioned. He contracts with the surrounding villages to grow different food crops to feed and care for the elephants. Through tourism, he educates the public with “mahout” training which includes riding an elephant bareback to the Nam Khan River and giving them a “bath.” It was thrilling for my children to spend the day with these gentle massive creatures, especially in an environment where everyone benefits.
As our trip came to an end, we hired a long boat and rode up the Mekong, admiring the natural landscape while being mesmerized by the amazing calm and quiet shores of the riverbank.
Maybe it was the time of year we chose to come to this peaceful part of the world or just the nature of the region and its people, but, either way, it was a perfect destination for a tranquil yet stimulating vacation.