Lost in: Luang Prabang

Asia, Backpacking & Trekking, Food & Wine, Laos, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Shopping & Style, Spa & Beauty — By on February 18, 2007 at 6:36 am

Luang Prabang’s idyllic reputation has long preceded it, disseminated through Southeast Asia by blissed-out backpackers who’d rave about the stunning natural setting, genteel people and, ironically, the relative lack of other backpackers. Unlike Vietnam and Thailand, where the package tour rules and it can feel like every local wants to sell you something, Laos is rumored to be a place of respite and relief, with Luang Prabang serving as its gorgeous cultural capital. Perched high above the banks of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, the city contains so many dramatic temples and significant points-of-interest, UNESCO declared the whole place a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Once Jen and I finally arrived, we quickly found our own reasons to fall for this sweet little jewel box of a city. We were immediately taken with the French colonial architecture (a remnant of occupation in the 1800s), the craft markets, the riverfront cafes, the silk clothing boutiques, the spas offering $5 aromatherapy massages. We sampled tons of street food: lettuce wrapped eggplant, do-it-yourself spring rolls, sticky rice balls, freshly steamed pork dumplings and dozens of noodle dishes available for just 50 cents a plate.

We treated ourselves to a taste of home with bagels, cream cheese and cappuccinos from the coffee shop and art gallery around the corner from our hostel.

We paid just $2 per girl for our guesthouse.

After five days spent doing nothing more taxing then putting our feet up for daily reflexology massages, we decided that it was time to slide our pampered toes back inside of our hiking boots and explore the water-colored scenery just beyond the city limits. Most of the adventure operators in the area seemed to offer a standard trek through the foothills, stopping at the exact same villages as every other company but still touting a “local” experience.

Jen and I ended up going with Same Same Tours because, comparatively, it actually offered something different-a hiking and kayaking combo that bypassed the heavily tread due-east route in favor of a more challenging north-by-northeast climb. The cost: $40 for the two day trip, which included a homestay with one of the H’mong hill-tribe families.

In anticipate of all the calories we’d need for our big adventure, Jen and I carbo-loaded with huge slices of strawberry and chocolate bread we bought at the night market (way yummier than Powerbars, we think!).

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