It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the editors and writers at World Words are addicted to travel. At any given time of year, you’ll find hordes of us are traversing different corners of the globe in search of new adventures. And then, we indulge our love of words with travel tales and tips to enhance the journeys of other fellow globetrotters.
The Our Travels blog series was created for just that purpose. It’s all about sharing the personal travel stories of our team, whether it’s spotting brown bear cubs in Alaska, exploring Scotland’s remote Western Isles, wandering Orccha’s historic cenotaphs, hiking the mountains around Kyoto… or relaxing at a riverside resort in The Gambia.
This month, it’s the turn of World Words writer Nicole Leigh West, who recounts a month living in Luang Prabang, Laos – amid chanting monks on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. Scroll down this page to read her story…
Why I went to Luang Prabang, Laos
As a digital nomad, I decided to spend the best part of a year in Southeast Asia, where sun-drenched beaches, exotic culture and cheap living expenses reign. Initially, UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang was a three-day stop on my itinerary, to check out the famous spiritual heart of Laos. By the end of day one – ensconced as I was in a boutique hotel with river views and jungle sounds – I’d fallen in love with the place and extended my stay.
My highlight of the trip
Culturally, time doesn’t really exist in Laos, with the ‘Sabai Sabai’ lifestyle ensuring that everybody ‘takes it easy’. Whether I was cruising the Mekong by boat, sampling spices at street markets or strolling through rice fields, the serene vibe of Luang Prabang was the highlight of my trip. With a gypsy lifestyle, it’s always nice to settle in for a bit, in the midst of friendly smiles and total safety. Luang Prabang offers this on a backdrop of gilded temples, orange-clad monks and diverse natural wonders, like Kuang Si Waterfall.
What else I love about Luang Prabang
Every morning, the streets of Luang Prabang fill with silent lines of Buddhist monks. The Tak Bat alms-giving ritual is a sight to behold and an enlightening start to the day. Over 30 temples decorate the historic town centre, many of which are working homes for monks and novices.
I managed to wake up in time to see it most days, thanks to the surreal chanting of monks before first light. Afterwards, I could barely contain my excitement over sipping Laotian coffee and devouring French pastries. The culinary scene in Luang Prabang is a multicultural delight, at trendy cafes, street stalls and fancy restaurants.
Luckily, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to combat overeating. The historic town itself is a cyclist’s dream. Trek with elephants at MandaLao Elephant Conservation, traverse rickety bridges and kayak to Pak Ou Cave. Despite its small size, a month wasn’t long enough to experience all of Luang Prabang, and I’ll certainly return.
Why you should go
If you’ve never travelled to Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang is the perfect introduction, without the chaos of nearby tourist hotspots. It’s also utterly unique, with soul-nourishing activities among a fusion of traditional Laos and colonial-era architecture. Whether you’re practising yoga by the Mekong, indulging in French cuisine or chatting to novice monks keen to practice their English, Luang Prabang enchants your senses and captures your heart.
How you can visit
Luang Prabang International Airport greets domestic and international flights from major Asian airlines including Bangkok Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Thai Airways. From outside Asia, the most common flight routes include a stopover in Bangkok (which, as this recent Our Travel piece attests, is to bad thing). It’s a short drive to town and you’ll find plenty of taxis outside the terminal. Once there you can walk, ride a bike or hail a tuk-tuk to get around.
At World Words, we often produce content about destinations in Asia. Visit our projects page to read some examples of recent work. Follow us on Twitter and we’ll keep you in the loop with all the latest travel news.
– Article and photography by Allison Reiber DiLiegro.