You’d be surprised how much fun you’ll have and how refreshed you’ll feel just by getting away from the city for a few days.
We’ve just entered our second quarter of the year and there’s no better way to reward our li’l achievements than by taking a short trip to a place we’ve never been to. This time, it was a solo trip to a quiet, developing city that’s rich in lush greenery.
Day 1: Finding yourself
Thanks to AirAsia, the return ticket to Luang Prabang, Laos, only cost me about RM300 while the flight took three hours. Upon arrival, I checked into one of the best new hotels in town, the Azerai, which is a short 15-minute drive from the airport and smack in the centre of town, making it easy to move from one end to another throughout my stay.
My first stop was the Kuang Si Waterfall, which is located about 40 minutes from town. Along the way, you’ll see beautiful sceneries of the mountains and how the locals lead their daily life, trying to make a living by selling their harvests for the day.
To enter Kuang Si, you pay a fee of US$2 (about RM9) and just a few metres from the entrance, there’s a bear sanctuary, where you get to see how Asiatic black bears that have been rescued from poachers have found a new home.
Kuang Si is made up of three tiers of waterfalls, where the first and second tiers are where you’re allowed to take a dip and the third is purely reserved for nature. As I love walking, my journey up to the third tier was extremely easy as it was mainly flat ground with very few steps that took me about 30 minutes (minus the time I took to stop, stare and just admire the beautiful scenery). The water was turquoise all the way and it was an extremely relaxing place to sit down and read a book.
After reaching the third tier, I made a few new friends and decided to continue my journey up (this was the hard part that took me over an hour) but it was completely worth it! At the peak were streams of water and a hidden, untouched jungle not penetrated by sunlight. My advice is that if you’re not in the mood to swim, remove your shoes and just dip your tired feet into the water and calm yourself down.
After spending a solid five hours in this jungle, I made my way back to the hotel. Despite feeling tired, it was a fruitful experience as I learnt how to trust my instincts (in deciding whom to trust as I made my way to the peak) and be more alert (as this time, I didn’t have my hiking partner to warn me of the dos and don’ts in a jungle!). The rest of the day was spent at the bar in Azerai, where I sipped on a chilli-based cocktail and enjoyed my pork knuckle served with sticky rice for dinner. Yums!
Day 2: Complete bliss
Waking up at 5am was really a challenge but I decided not to waste my limited time there. I started the day by joining other hotel guests to head to the Golden City Temple, one of the oldest temples in Luang Prabang, to give alms to the monks. It is a local tradition, whereby the monks line up every morning to receive offerings from the people. I learnt that the monks only ate until 12pm every day, and they get through the rest of the day just by drinking water.
As quite a number of us were doing the offerings, I started feeling a li’l dizzy (I need coffee in the morning, that’s how pampered I am!) and headed back to the hotel. The hotel had prepared a mat, a bowl of sticky rice and some oranges right outside, and that’s where I sat for the next hour distributing the food to the monks who lined up to receive it. Somehow, this simple act made me feel good and started my day off on a high note!
After breakfast, I headed to Joma Cafe (it’s right outside my hotel), which has a five-star rating on Trip Advisor. The cafe had a ‘raw’ interior (cement walls and filled with big drawings) that was pure bliss to behold. The pastries and coffee here are highly recommended as they are freshly baked and taste heavenly. Even the servers were extremely friendly! After that, I decided to make my way to Silk Road Cafe down the road to try some local pancakes and of course, have another cup of coffee.
I headed back to the hotel for a foot massage (click here to find out more), then decided to chill by the hotel’s beautiful pool. On the bright side, despite the blazing heat, it wasn’t humid but rather windy. So that got me to settle down with my favourite book for the next few hours before I got ready for a sunset cruise.
The cruise by long boat took about three hours (from 5pm to 8pm). The boat itself could fit a total of 20 people and as it made its way through the Mekong river, we were served tidbits. The deck of the boat offered one of the best places to take beautiful pictures from as you can literally see the sun setting with the backdrop of the trees on the river. As the sun set, we were served dinner (a four-course meal where the dishes were served one by one) while we enjoyed a Laotian cultural performance on the boat.
As much as I really wanted to do and see more, I decided to head back to the hotel as I needed to wake up early the next day to catch my flight back home (it was too short a trip!). But rest assured, I’ll go back to Luang Prabang again!