A Slice of Heaven and History in Luang Prabang

A Slice of Heaven and History in Luang Prabang | Always A Foreigner

Caren and Cazzie

Hi, We're Caren and Cazzie and we're Always A Foreigner. Welcome to our travel blog! We hope you find it useful. We love waterfalls, street eats, and anything to do with travel and adventure. We met while volunteering in India, and since then have made it our goal to travel to as many places as we can. Join us on our journey!

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A Slice of Heaven and History in Luang Prabang

It’s rare for me to love a place so instantly, as it usually takes me a day or so to adjust to my surroundings completely. This wasn’t true for the tropical and alluring Luang Prabang. I instantly fell for the charming French inspired city in the heart of the jungle of Laos, and as the days passed I only came to love it more. Luang Prabang culture, history and food are why we travel.

There’s something intangible about Luang Prabang that drew me in. In the recent history of the world, Laos has taken some harsh knocks from more powerful kingdoms and governments in the area. As the Mekong delta is known as one of the cradles of civilization, there is a long history that spans farther back than most areas on the planet. There have been ancient dynasty’s that have risen and fallen, with many of them being seated in the central city of Luang Prabang.

However, more recently after an attack in 1887 from China, the country decided to accept French protection. The French colonized Laos, and in the middle of the jungle, an unthinkable French city popped up.

When Laos gained independence from the French in 1953, their journey as a country was far from over. A civil war broke out between the Communist party in Vientiane and the Royal ruling party in Luang Prabang. Proxy wars were springing up around the world, and this took no exception. Alarmed at the spread of communism, the United States and the allied forces were quietly involved with the Royal party, with Russia silently backing the Vientiane leaders from afar.

As the war ended and the Communists were proved victorious, it was no surprise that poverty and desolation were left in its wake of conflict. Many Laos people were forced to flee into neighboring Thailand due to revenue opportunities now being limited by the new government.

The government, while still in control, have since updated their policies to be kinder to their citizens. However, Laos is still one of the most impoverished regions in Southeast Asia. Most of their people rely on the agriculture sector or the new found tourism sector, but in the rural areas tourism revenue is almost non-existent.

For all their hardship and poverty, the Lao people were some of the kindest and most gentle hearted people we have met while traveling. We spent two weeks in the country, and yet could have spent a lifetime surrounded by the tranquility of their daily life.

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The majority of Lao people are Buddhist, and the beautiful ancient temples and Vat’s that are a part of daily life are dotted frequently about downtown Luang Prabang. Buddhist monks roam the city streets going from one place to the next just as much as regular people, and small shrines line the streets and alleyways. The once Royal Palace lies in the middle of the downtown, which truly is a stunning display of the ornate Buddhist architecture of the early centuries.

 

The temples and pagodas intermixed with the French colonial architecture is stunning. Walking around the cobblestone streets and gazing into two clashing worlds is an experience of a lifetime. Architecturally preserved historical houses have since been converted into boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts. The main street in town is now full of trendy cafes and bistros, along with a mix of Laos food and tourist shops. During the day, the downtown is filled with sidewalk tables full of tourists cooling off with a cold drink or a meal.

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Luang Prabang itself is on a peninsula of land between the Nam Khan River and the Mekong River, and the downtown is on the strip of land between the two. There’s a wonderful road that runs alongside one river until the two rivers converge, and then runs alongside the other river in the opposite direction. These river roads are also lined with wonderful restaurants with a little more authenticity than the tourist populated downtown, and are a wonderful option to sit and watch the boats come in for the night.

While we are spoiled as a group of people to be able to travel to these beautiful places, it’s important to note that many people living in Luang Prabang are still suffering from lack of the basic necessities for themselves and their families. Take mind of this fact, and be kind to those that you meet. Their home has turned into a major tourism destination, so consider supporting Lao owned restaurants and shops, or there are numerous ways to give back through charitable foundations located throughout the city.

Luang Prabang is truly a magical place, and ever since we have left, it has captivated our hearts and imaginations. The city is unparalleled in its charm, historical and cultural relevance, and friendliness of its people. Anyone who is in Southeast Asia who is not visiting Laos,and more specifically Luang Prabang, is sorely missing out.

 

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  • Almost the weekend! ☀️😍 What's everyone's plans? You can find us nestled somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains....hoping the cooler temperatures has made the leaves a little more colorful.
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  • Lazy days don't need to be spent inside ☀️
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We recently received our @soloeyewear sunglasses and absolutely love them! This is a stellar company that uses recycled plastic or sustainability sourced bamboo to make their sunglasses, and are also committed to restoring vision around the world through their profits. They've restored vision to 15,000+ people in need already! If you're in need of new sunglasses, I highly recommend looking at Solo Eyewear...I'm glad we did 😊
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  • We were in full leaf chasing mode this weekend, and I had all my spots planned where I wanted to go. I was pretty bummed because a road closure on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday forced us to head to lower elevations where the leaves weren't as vibrant. We found an awesome campsite though, completely secluded in the woods by ourselves. We spent the day slack lining, laying in the hammock, and trying and surprisingly succeeding to light a fire with damp wood. As we packed up in the morning aiming to head back up to my original planned spots...we realized we would run out of gas 😑😑😑 Long story short, we had to head back from where we came from and to be honest, I was really upset. We came around the curve though and were greeted with these blankets of clouds over the mountains, and I instantly forgot I was ever upset at all. Sometimes, things really do turn out just fine. .
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  • When I first met Cazzie, it was in the middle of a crowded and hot room outside of Delhi, India. If you told me five years ago I was going to meet my future husband in India of all places, I would have most likely laughed and called you crazy. And yet here we are....chasing waterfalls, traveling across the world, and craziest of all, planning a wedding. I wish we could just gather up our closest loved ones, hike up a mountain, promise forever and toast the night away. Because what else do we really need? . .
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  • Cazzie always used to brag about North Carolina...always telling me it was the best state with beaches, mountains, and everything in between. I never really believed him. When I thought of North Carolina, I didn't know about the parkway, or Appalachia, or horses running wild near the ocean...I didn't know about pimento cheese, or grits, or North Carolina BBQ sauce. Now I do though. And I can't say it's the best state because I haven't been to all 50, but I can say it's pretty up there. Especially in the changing season. @visitnc .
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  • Foggy days spent exploring 🍂. .
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This last weekend we spent our time in the picturesque high country town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We chose to hike Grandfather Mountain on Saturday, only to find the further we hiked, the more foggy and ominous the weather became. About a 1/2 mile from the top, we realized that we had hiked smack dab into the middle of a cloud. But even with the dampness, we wouldn't have spent our day any other way. .
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