Doug Goodman considers Luang Prabang in Northern Laos to be one of the most delightful places he has ever visited. With its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, vast number of temples, markets, restaurants and kind, gentle, people it made a great impression on him. But most of all it was the food!
Don’t miss the night market from 5 - 10pm where a vast array of clothes, souvenirs, ceramics, jewellery and handicrafts are sold by the locals. You have to bargain furiously and don't pay more than $3 for a T- shirt.
Adjacent to the market is the food market where locals and tourists gather to eat and drink very cheaply indeed. The smells, noise and overall atmosphere are amazing and you'll be sure of an entertaining evening. It seems that the general rule is that if it swims, walks or flies then it's edible. But not every dish will appeal, as grilled water rat, scorpions on a skewer, crunchy crickets and snake wine might not be to everyone's liking, though do give them a try.
The early morning market is for locals to buy their Mekong River fish, unidentifiable meat and fresh fruit and vegetables. It is very colourful but don't be squeamish when you see what appears to be a pet stall. It's just a display of fish, birds and animals to take home to cook.
A meal in a French Colonial-style restaurant serving traditional Thai food and French dishes will cost under £25 for two. Beer Lao is delicious but imported French wine is expensive.
Three excellent restaurants visited were Coconut Garden serving Lao and Western food; Blue Lagoon with Eastern- style dishes; and the elegant L'Elephant serving classic French cuisine in a restored colonial town house. All three are in or close to the Sakarine Road.
The temperature in February is around 30˚C so don’t forget to carry bottled water, or perhaps make frequent stops for the Lao Beer.
The Laotian currency is the Kip but dollars and Thai Baht are preferred. About 8000 Kip equal $1 and coins do not exist – not surprising when you realised that the smallest common banknote is 500 Kip and there are over 13,000 to our £1.
Accommodation ranges from basic guest houses for under $15 per night to over $150 at one of the boutique hotels like the Villa Maly. www.villa-maly.com
Cox and Kings have tours that include Luang Prabang www.coxandkings.co.uk