For us, one of the must visit sites around Luang Prabang is Tat Kuang Si, Kuang Si Waterfall, located about 20 miles South of Luang Prabang. Why? Well, because of this:
It's pretty easy to get to...you hire a "Jumbo", who drops by a "ticket office" and get admission to falls for you.
The Jumbo will park in a parking-shopping-eating area, and you can take one of either two routes. One is a well paved asphalt road, and the other is a pretty easy forest trail that meanders it's way up to the falls.
Some of it was mildly reminiscent of Kbal Spean in Cambodia.
You could hear the water rushing down alongside the forest trail. There were a few areas where folks can swim in the crystal clear water. Also along the trail is the Luang Prabang Bear Rescue Center.
All the bears here have been confiscated from poachers, and they all looked to be in good shape. Adriactic Black Bears (Moon Bears) are endangered, mostly due to Habitat Fragmentation, and the market for bear parts and bile.
You can find more info here.
Funny, there are two things that I've never, ever done on our international vacations...... one of them is buy a t-shirt. But Laos finally broke me, I ended up buying a "Free the Bears" t-shirt, as well as a BeerLao t-shirt. I also broke the other rule, more about that later......
As we walked up the trail, we passed a few "mini-falls".
And to tell you the truth, I had not expected much. I've seen more than my fair share of waterfalls. But I already thought this excursion was well worth the time. There were the bears, and I was enchanted by the pristine looking water.
But as we walked in the clearing and took a look at the falls.....
The falls are 180 feet of crystal clear water. There are no liability issues here, you can walk pretty much right up to the falls. And cross on wooden bridges in various states of maintenance.
Lunch on that day was at a restaurant we passed on our way back from Somchan Restaurant. Just like the afore mentioned restaurant, Boungnasouk(the restaurant is owned by the guest house across the street) was located with a view over the Mekong.
We had looked over the menu, and thought it would be a decent alternative.
Not being very hungry we ordered just a few items. Very predictable items.....
Of course I got the Khai Pene:
This version of the dried, pressed, and fried river moss was thinner than the version at Kheam Kong Restaurant, and had more "stuff" going on.
The Jeow Bong came on the side, and was by far the best version we had on the trip.
Nice garlic flavor, with a mild spiciness. The water buffalo skin pieces were a bit big, but not too tough.
Of course the Missus got the Luang Prabang Salad:
The Salat Nyam was not very good, the dressing lacked any great egg flavor, though the watercress was nice and tender. Boiled Egg slices were also omitted, and while the cucumbers were decent, the tomatoes (strange for Luang Prabang) were under-ripe, and lacked the "flavor of sushine".
To finish things off, we had the Cucumber Salad:
This cucumber version, of the more well known papaya salad, was nicely pungent, but the heat had been gringo-ized, and the seeds were not removed before shredding.
Over all, mediocre......
The Night Handicraft Market:
Around 4pm there is Luang Prabang's version of evening "traffic". Sisavangvong, from the National Museum until the intersection of Kitsalat becomes a bustling beehive of activity.
Part of it is due to folks heading home, but most of it is because the street is undergoing the transformation to the Night Handicraft Market.
The sandwich and fruit drinks booths, move from the area on the corner of Kitsalat, across the main street.
Electricity is set-up via a tangle of extension cords on the street.
Food stalls are set-up along the side streets. This woman specialized in pig parts, especially heads. Over several days I spotted her method of keeping herself "nourished". For every three or four pieces she chopped, she ate one!
At sundown, the main street is closed, and Sisavangvong becomes a huge market.....of handcrafts of infinite variety.
And while the parents sell and socialize, the children study under the glow of the lightbulbs.
And the food stalls do a bang up business.
Usually having our meals fairly early, we didn't eat much at the stalls. But one night, the Missus saw a vendor making the Lao version of Kanom Krok.
And couldn't resist. But these weren't very good, the flavor was off, as was the overall texture.
I'm sure if we spent enough time in these alleyways, we'd have found some pretty good, and cheap eats.
One of the most entertaining little encounters happened at the Night Market. On our first night in Luang Prabang, walking through the night market, we noticed that many of the women vendors, had branches in their hands. On top of these branches were a nut like fruit. They were cracking away, just going at it. The Missus, who has loves sunflower seeds, was determined to find out what this was. And so we were off on a mission!
The Missus finally cornered a woman who was munching (cracking) away.
Not being able to find these.....the Missus was determined to buy them off the woman. Now the Missus fancies Herself as being quite the bargainer, and when the woman said 8,000 Kip, the Missus responded with; "no-no, 4,000 Kip." And so the great deal was made.
The Missus felt proud and quite smug....She had been "Queen of the Deal...Baroness of the Bargain." Of course we turned the corner and found out that a bunch of this stuff went for 2,000 Kip! We also noticed that the woman had already eaten half the bunch!
So what was this? I was told it's hops! As in beer hops!
And so, every evening, under the heat of the lightbulbs, the Missus became a "hop-popping" machine. "Oh (crack) this is (crack-crunch) sooo (crack - pop) good! I'll (crack-pop-crunch) really miss (crack) it!"