Luang Prabang Laos
Luang Prabang Laos: After 2 wonderful days on the Nagii of Mekong we docked at the Luang Prabang Laos slow boat port and caught a tuk tuk to our guest house Lao Wooden House Guest House.
Laos Wooden House
We planned to spend 5 days and ended up spending 10 days in Luang Pra Bang Laos – it is such a wonderful laid back town. The afternoons would usually find us enjoying a cold Beerlao down by the river and evenings see us enjoying the great restaurants to be found in the town. We even found a delightful wine bar that served some excellent wines where we took our evening aperitif. The guest house was a delight set right in the heart of the old town on a quiet street between the Mekong River and the main street of the historic centre. Our room was large and very comfortable with a lovely balcony that ran along the front of the building which was the perfect place eat breakfast or to just to hang out.
In the restaurants of Luang Prabang you will find a great deal of Thai food masquerading as Lao food and a large number of French restaurants however we were in search on real Lao food and did discover some great dishes and some excellent restaurants.
Our favourites were;
We liked this restaurant so much we ate here twice and spent a day at their cooking school. Tamarind has a great story and does beautiful authentic Lao food. On our second visit we ordered the set menu which was a taste sensation that I highly recommend as it gives you a really good example of Lao food.
Our first course was a soup dish called Gaeng Nor Mai or Bamboo Shoot Soup which is a delicious soup chocked full of vegetables, mushrooms and herbs cooked in a both with a slightly bitter taste – wonderful.
The next dish consisted of dried buffalo which was quite sweet and a little chewy, I actually really like it, Khái pâen River Weed which is collected from the banks of the Mekong during the dry season, dried and then pounded into a flat square it is then fried with poppy seeds and garlic and is snacked on like a crisp, Luang Prabang Sausage a specialty of the region, and Jeow Mak which is a salsa and truly delicious. Jeow Mak comes in several forms we had Joew Mak Len (Tomato) and Jeow Mak Keua (smoked eggplant) it is served with sticky rice, the trick is to make a small ball of sticky rice with 3 fingers and then push the salsa onto the rice ball with your thumb without leaving any rice in the salsa….it takes a little practice but is well worth the effort.
Then it was onto the main course –3 dishes – Mok Pa Fish Steamed in Banana Leaf – pieces of river fish mixed with a paste of chilli and herbs steamed in a banana leaf, this was the spiciest thing I had in Laos and again was brilliant. Oua Si Khai Stuffed Lemongrass – minced chicken mixed with herbs and stuffed into lemongrass then deep fried and a pumpkin dish of finely sliced pumpkin cooked in herbs and fish sauce.
Dessert was Khao Gam purple sticky rice cooked in coconut sauce with Tamarind paste…very sweet but amazing!
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Tamarind also serves a fairly descent red wine by the glass.
Tum Tum Cheng
This little restaurant is run by a local chef who has worked around the world in some prestigious eateries and has returned to Laosto open her own restaurant; it is a little out of the way but well worth searching out.
At Tum Tum Cheng we ate suburb Pan Gai Yoh pork spring rolls (fried), fish steamed with lemon grass which was a very different version of what we ate at Tamarind but equally delicious, áw lám, (Oram or Luang Prabang Stew) with beef which is a thick stew full of eggplant, mushrooms and herbs, a bitter spicy wood chip is added during the cooking process (not to be eaten) which gives it a slightly bitter taste similar to that of the soup at Tamarind.
NB. We later discovered that the bitter vegetables (and wood chips) that are added to the foods are added as they apparently have anti malarial properties.
Mekong Fish Café
And our favourite local was a little place down by the Mekong called Mekong Fish Café. They have terraces at different levels down the bank of the Mekong which is the perfect place to sit and watch the river go by with a beerLao. The food here was good honest food although more Thai than Lao and they did you a pretty good job of western food. (they do a really good toasted cheese and tomato baguette) The staff at this restaurant are just delightful and greeted us every time with huge smiles.
I love a glass of wine and although I have developed quite a taste for the rice base Beerlao I was very excited to discover a decent wine bar close to our guesthouse. You see it is very hard to find decent wine that doesn’t take your entire day’s budget to buy in Asia. I never did discover its name but it is opposite the well known French restaurant l’Elephant and serves wines from around the world.
We discovered great pho at Tables by Jasmin which is on the main street of the old town.
We did actually do more in LPB than eat one day we hired bikes and cycled around the old town and another day we did a day at the Tamarind cooking school.
One day we went out to Tat Kuang Si Waterfall which is stunningly beautiful. In the dry season it is a favourite spot to swim but as we were there in the wet it was a raging torrent. Near the waterfall there is Bear Lao bear sanctuary that rescues bears from the bile farms and poachers. We met the girl who runs the sanctuary and she talked us about the horrific bile trade that goes on along with the poaching that still occurs even though there are now herbs and synthetic drugs that replace bear products. It was a sobering conversation and one that just enforces what evil man still inflicts on harmless animals.
Tat Kuang Si Waterfall
Another day we hired bikes and cycled around the town – a great way to see the town.
Other days we just wandered around the town visiting one of the many Wats dotted around town and generally enjoyed the quieter pace and beauty of the town.
But as much as we loved Luang Prabang it eventually came time to move on…..next stop Vang Vieng.