The boys and I spent a beautiful and relaxing four days in Luang Prabang, Laos, and I think Lonely Planet said it best when it called Luang Prabang “the most alluring town in Southeast Asia.
Between the small town charm, night market with handmade local textiles, bamboo bridges, and nearby waterfalls- alluring really is the perfect adjective.
Luang Prabang is small and you’re never more than fifteen minutes away from anything, not even the airport. But most importantly, it’s still unspoiled.
Although it has beautiful resorts and very nice restaurants, there aren’t droves of tourist stomping through town. Let’s be real, some of you may not even know that Laos is a country (that’s okay, it’s not you, it’s the American education system but that’s a whole different post) and that’s what is keeping Luang Prabang a quiet retreat.
After weeks of non stop movement through Asia, we were finally able to unwind. We took a private boat and lazily cruised down the Mekong River, taking in the lusciously green hills surrounding us. We visited caves and temples. We swam in waterfalls and watched tourist monks in vibrant orange robes use selfies sticks. We even rode elephants for a morning in an elephant rescue sanctuary.
Riding an elephant is a strange and surreal experience. They’re massive creatures and although you feel like you’re going to fall off of them and break something you don’t want to break, they’re smart enough to keep you safe.
Personally, I wouldn’t cuddle with one and definitely wanted to shower afterwards, but being carried by a giant that gentle made for a humbling moment.
Speaking of humbling moments, I was fortunate enough to witness monks collecting morning alms through the city streets. Every morning at 5:30 monks leave their temples carrying a giant bowl to collect rice from locals and it’s quite the sight to see. The streets are quiet and grey, when suddenly streams of vibrant orange float through town, without a word. It happens quickly, and before you’ve fully taken stock of what just transpired, all the color from the city is gone again and life moves on as if nothing happened. You just have to see it.
What made our visit to Laos even more special was that we had a local guide who showed us around and educated us about the Lao people and culture. His name was Khampheng, Pheng for short, and he was a former monk who still spoke with the stoicism and wisdom of one.
Pheng taught us about Buddhist temples and beliefs, but also gave us quite a bit to think about.
He looked at the four of us inside a temple one day and said, “You are young, you have money, you are traveling. That is the right thing. You come into this world with nothing, and you leave with nothing. That is why you must travel. So that your eyes see beautiful things, your mouth tastes delicious foods, and your ears hear histories and stories.”
I spent a few moments reflecting on Pheng’s words, because I know that I’m never going to look back at my twenties and think about the dwindling numbers in my bank account. Instead, I’ll think about all the amazing places I’ve traveled and I’ll think back to Laos- riding elephants, jumping into waterfalls, and eating coconut cakes while bargaining with street vendors.
That’s the kind of stuff that’s priceless.