Luang Prabang was once the capital of the kingdom Lan Xang – Land of The Million Elephants, beautifully located in a green valley at the riverside, where the Nam Khan river flows into the Mekong. Coming from China it was a huge contrast in terms of culture, tourism and friendliness of the locals. The first thing we did when we arrived in Luang Prabang was getting a little snack from a street vendor, sticky coconut rice wrapped in a banana leaf – absolutely delicious. The first days we were drifting along and explored the town, it’s colorful and lively markets, tried different dishes and delicious fruits and shakes, visited temples, monastery complexes and climbed Mount Phousi. On our itinerary was also the visit of the UXO – Unexploded Ordnance Information Centre, where we learned lots about why tons of ordnance where dropped on Laos by the United States in an attempt to block the flow of North Vietnamese military. About one third of that ordnance failed to detonate and threaten lives until today.
We also did a small trip to the other side of the Mekong and visited Wat Comphet, a small temple on a hill, where you can enjoy a stunning panorama of the surrounding hills, Luang Prabang town and the Mekong river. From there we continued walking and met a group of locals enjoying a gathering with friends and family outside. We were invited to drink some beer with them and one of the guys took us back to Luang Prabang on his small wooden boat. It was quite adventurous cause the current was quite strong and the guy seems already a bit tipsy. But well, we arrived safely at the banks.
One day we rented a scooter to make a little trip to the Kuang Si Falls. It was a pretty good call to go by ourselves to escape the flood of young backpackers who arrived in busses when we were already on our way to leave the amazing scenery of the waterfall. We climbed to the top of the waterfall where we ended up taking a swim in the pool above the waterfall – absolutely refreshing and fun. On the way back we stopped at a little farm with a restaurant where I ate the most hot papaya salad ever, my gums were tingly for quite some time. But it was yum, haha…
We did a bit of a research about the elephant population in Laos and were pretty shocked finding out that the population diminished to only a few hundred, whereas the country was formerly known as the land of the million elephants. Most of them live in captivity and are used as work and pack animals or as riding animals for tourists. The number of wild elephants is already too small to be a viable population. We learned a lot about elephants during our tour we booked through MandaLao, an elephant conservation center which offers a non-riding elephant experience focused on education and animal welfare. At MandaLao they try to save working animals from the logging industry and protect the small population of wild elephants in the Nam Poui National Protected Area, where about 50 to 60 wild Asian elephants remain, the largest wild population left in Laos.