How much time is the right amount of time?

Why did we choose to visit Luang Prabang, Laos? For starters, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for its “unique and ‘remarkably’ well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage….”

It seems many travelers only stay a few days, which seems to be how many people travel these days. We weren’t interested in going to the effort and expense of traveling so far, and to such an amazing place, only to pack our bags and move again in a few days. The question we always ask ourselves: how many days would keep us interested?

We started by looking at online sites for “best things to do in Luang Prabang.” We consulted with Cliff and Ruth, our travel companions while we’re in Laos, and it was decided that 15 days would be perfect. That’s about 10+ more days than most people seem to stay. We crossed our fingers and hoped it was not too long.

We discovered the most important Buddha in Laos is in Haw Pra Bang, next to the National Museum. “In 1359 the Khmer king gave the Phra Bang to his son-in-law, the first Lang Xang monarch Fa Ngum (1353-1373); to provide Buddhist legitimacy both to Fa Ngum’s rule and by extension to the sovereignty of Laos. The former Lao capital Luang Prabang, where it was kept, is named after the Buddha image.”

We compiled our own list of all the appealing things others had done, knowing that when we arrived we’d discover our own activities to add to the list. No matter how much research we did, we always made discoveries that could not be found exactly as we expected from a guidebook.

Every day began and ended on the bamboo bridge that we used to cross the Nam Khan River, going from our hotel into the town center.

The temporary pedestrian bridge is only used each dry season. A toll taker collected 5,000 kip ($0.62 US) for a round trip crossing. It’s a bit rickety and a little daunting, especially at night when the bridge was lit up by a string of lights running along the bamboo railings.

As we crossed the bridge we looked out to the planted fields and the boat carrying fishing traps.

The French influence in Luang Prabang was unmistakable. Laos became a French Protectorate in 1893. After 53 years, in 1946 it was granted self-rule. Still, some of the architecture and the many French baguettes in the bakeries are a reminder.

Bamboo may be one of the most important resources in the country. It’s used in so many products, including a delicious snack we had, served with kaffir lime leaves.

This building was one-of-a-kind. We’re not sure what genre it represents.

One wonderful discovery for us was the strong emphasis on arts and crafts in Luang Prabang. Our day-long dyeing and weaving workshop at Ock Pop Tuk was just a starter.

We biked up to Ban Xien Lek and Ban Xang Kong to visit the papermaking, weaving, and handicraft villages…. and then walked back a few days later, ready to make some purchases.

We also visited the sophisticated Patta Gallery, which we thought had the most wonderful textiles we had seen.

It didn’t take long to realize that there’s a lot to see in Luang Prabang, and 15 days may not be long enough.


January 2018

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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5 Responses to How much time is the right amount of time?

  1. icelandpenny says:

    I especially like the last photo, of straw brooms through a doorway … And I share your appreciation for sinking into a place, not flying through at speed. (We spent two weeks on Cape Breton, for e.g., a relatively small area most visitors “cover” in a day or two by driving the Cabot Trail loop & moving on.)

  2. We weren’t sure about the length of stay either but our 14 days gave us the luxury to take a more relaxed approach to discovering and enjoying the town.

  3. There’s a huge difference between slow-travelers who live their lives on the road and those who go about their traveling like a “To do” list, crossing off places seen and mistakenly assuming that quantity bests quality. Having the gift of time allows a slow-traveler a chance to absorb all the things you are seeing, delve below the surface for the backstory and discover places missed by the guide books. It looks like your time in Luang Prabang is well-spent and well-savored! Anita

  4. plaidcamper says:

    It does look very interesting – you’ll have to find time to return and stay longer…

  5. We usually add a few extra days onto the recommended times because there is always something to do that you didn’t read about online. I would love to visit all these handcraft villages.

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