Flight Centre's Marcus Sanburg travels to Laos and finds paradise in Luang Prabang. Marcus tours the Tad Sae Falls and the Kuang Si Falls and visits an elephant rehabilitation camp. Let's hear how Luang Prabang captured Marcus' imagination.
Laos is not a destination that comes to mind when contemplating travels to South-East Asia. Often forgotten, this charming and yet strangely enchanting country will have you coming back for more. Riddled with cities and towns up and down this landlocked country, it is home to pristine jungles and beautiful rivers. Only one town will remain in your memories. Home to just over 100,000 people, nestled on the merging rivers of the Nam Khan and Mekong is a little piece of heaven. The streets are peppered with trees, wild flowers and towering temples influenced by French architecture and a rich Loatian heritage. Welcome to Luang Prabang.
I had the absolute pleasure of tantalising my soul with the delights this city has to offer. Not for the typical backpacker, but more for those wanting to tune up their spiritual senses. As it is a UNESCO heritage site, all bars seem to shut up shop by 11pm. But don't be disheartened by the lack of booze. Luang Prabang makes up for it in so many other ways. The streets are safe, sprinkled with folk who are only too eager to assist you with your travels. The night time markets in the main street are a glittering reminder of a once forgotten Asia. They are laced with homemade arts, crafts and food, with only the odd appearance of some trashy tee shirts.
The first day saw us climbing to the top of Phu-Si, the highest point in the middle of the town, where you can watch the sun sink behind cloud covered mountains. I let out a soft sigh and I knew I was somewhere magical. I highly recommend that you do the Tiger Trail tour of the northern jungles. Before you get carried away, there are no tigers. The whole day trip takes you on a 15km mountain bike ride through the rural countryside. You pass villages and farms, but don't get put off by the physical aspect of the journey as the destination is more reward than you can imagine. After a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs over dirt tracks, the ride finishes at an elephant camp. High in the hills where one can reach out and touch the clouds, the elephants are rehabilitated back into the wild. After a wash down, the journey continues up the Nam Khan River to the Tad Sae Falls which only flow during the wet season (June-November). One can bathe and eat at the falls. Use the zip line down the hills through the trees and to take a trek on your own through the hillside. Before you can sigh and reminisce on what you have achieved, the physical part kicks in again with a kayak down the mighty Nam Khan River back to Luang Prabang.
After teasing my taste buds with local cuisine, which I found to be rich in flavour and personal touches, we did another full day trip. Just outside the town, to the south, lie the Kuang Si Falls. There are pools of crystal blue water that trickle down through the jungle from the master waterfall of the same name. While I bathed in the shimmering turquoise pools, I could not help but wonder. Had I reached enlightenment? The entire park just exudes purity, leaving you chilled and rekindled. Am I really in Asia? This was not in the brochure.
Sipping on pure fruit smoothies and taking in handmade crafts at the local village I realized that I would need the ‘jaws of life' to tear me away from what could only be described as paradise. I wiped a tear as our tuk-tuk tooted back down the road. On the way back, we were also treated to a walk through a traditional Hmong Village in the hills.
Knowing we had finished our travels in what could only be described as a slice of heaven on earth we put on our best brave faces and boarded our flight back to the concrete jungle of Bangkok. I whispered to the wind that I would be back.
Looking for more information about travelling to Laos in pursuit of paradise? Contact [email]text=Marcus Sanburg[/email], a Travel Consultant with Flight Centre in Carseldine in Queensland who can be reached at 1300 377 316 or by [email]text=email[/email].