The highlight of my trip was meant to be visiting the temple complex of Angkor Wat. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. After an absolutely terrible three days in Cambodia, I fled. The less said about my time there, the better. The temples were everything I had hoped, and I am glad I got to see them. I am never going back to Siem Reap, though.
Happily, I chose to flee to Luang Prabang, a city I’d read about in Liz Gilbert’s Committed and The Lost Girls, just a couple of months ago. Knowing nothing at all about Laos I arrived on Thursday evening to a lovely private room a few minutes’ walk from the night market. When I found the vegetarian buffet, $1.25 a plate, I nearly cried. I’ve been compromising so much along the way in meat-centric countries, it was absolutely luxury to have fully veggie fare. I was already deeply enamoured with Luang Prabang.
How to have the best day of your goddamn life in Luang Prabang
Start your day the local way, with a breakfast of khao piak along with a cup of strong Lao coffee. This is the first country I have visited in Asia that knows how to brew a cup of coffee. Even the weird thick custard-milk is amazing and enhances the experience.
After a long nap, you are ready to run. It is a balmy 27 degrees Celsius and your route takes you along the riversides, past glittery temples, and over dust roads.
Have a hot shower and pop on a nice dress. You’re in Luang Prabang, baby, where people dress up. Not like in Siem Reap, where if your ripped t-shirt and dirty hippy trousers aren’t paired with bare feet, you’re embarrassing yourself.
Laos sandwiches are not to be messed with. Find a stall, order a crusty baguette with all the trimmings and take your time chowing down on that massive doorstopper. You’ve missed avocado, you’ve missed cheese: savour that bad boy. This sandwich will take around twenty minutes to eat and you won’t be hungry again until breakfast.
A massage will set you back $6, so you’re not exactly breaking the bank. Don the baggy cotton pyjamas, lay back with your audiobook gently engaging your attention and allow that tiny Lao woman to get right in about it. She’s going to squish muscles that have never been squished, she’s going to crack toes previously thought un-crackable, and she’s going to karate chop bits of your thigh you expected only your husband would ever touch. After she’s hammered you senseless, you’ll feel brand new. You will wander downstairs to the street in a daze.
It’s nearing sunset by this time and it’s a clear evening. Head on down to one of the leafy restaurants along the Mekong and watch the sun set. Sip a cold Beer Lao, you’ve earned it.
Wander along the market street with a mango and Lao whiskey smoothie, treat yourself to a new dress from one of the Hmong stalls, and head up to Lao Lao Garden. Take a seat in the magical surroundings and have yourself a Pink Gay. Have another; they’re 2 for 1 afterall.
Head home when you’re good and ready and lay yourself back down to sleep in your soft bed. You’ve got to get that beauty sleep and rest up so you can do it all again tomorrow.