Lhai Heua Fai Festival In Luang Prabang
After 3 days travelling by land and boat from Chiang Mai, we finally arrived in Luang Prabang, the beautiful and captivating town located in north central Laos. The very first thing that struck me the minute that we arrived in Luang Prabang was the fantastic architecture. The Main Street through the town is lined with European colonial style buildings which home stylish cafés and restaurants. The beauty of the town of Luang Prabang was officially protected when the town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.
I have got to say Luang Prabang was definitely up there with my favourite towns/cities which I visited throughout South East Asia and it was definitely my #1 location in Laos. There was a certain charm about Luang Prabang which invoked my sincere fondness of the peaceful town.
Accommodation in Luang Prabang
While we were in Luang Prabang, we stayed at Central Backpackers Hostel. A bed in a dorm cost us in total 31,0000 Kip ($3.80) per night, per person. To be honest, for the price the hostel wasn’t too bad at all. We stayed in a 4-bed dorm so it was quiet enough. Breakfast is also included in the price, I’d definitely recommend the banana pancakes, there are not many better ways to start your morning! The hostel was a 5-minute walk from the centre as well, so, all in all, I would recommend this hostel to stay in while you’re in Luang Prabang.
There are also plenty of other hostel or guesthouse choices throughout the town. A basic room in a guesthouse will more than likely set you back around 100,000 Kip-200,000 Kip ($12.30-$24.60) Where a bed within a dorm in a hostel will roughly cost around 30,000 Kip-65,000 Kip ($4-8).
Places to eat/drink in Luang Prabang
One thing you have to try when you’re in Luang Prabang is the baguettes. You might be tempted to give them a miss, after all, Luang Prabang is a town in the middle of South East Asia, as far as France as you could get. However, trust me when I say you won’t regret trying them. At the foot of the main street, there is a group of pop-up stalls which sell the delicious baguettes and refreshing fruit shakes. You can grab a quick lunch of, for example, a chicken and avocado baguette for the bargain price of around 15,000 Kip ($1.85).
Even though Luang Prabang may seem a relaxed and a slightly sleepy town at first glance, there are still a few decent places for a few drinks and a night out. There’s an 11 pm curfew ‘in force’ in Luang Prabang. I use in force very loosely. Some of the bars do close at 11 pm, but there’s definitely still places where you can go until the early hours of the morning. One of the bars which plenty go and you will probably find yourself ending up in is Utopia. Like the sound of drunk volleyball? Then this is your kind of place. Utopia is home to a full-size volleyball court!
Come 11 pm, when the majority of bars in Luang Prabang close due to the curfew, people pour out of Utopia and jump on one of the many awaiting tuk-tuks outside and head, wait for it… To a bowling alley. Yep, not a typo, I definitely didn’t expect to end up in a bowling alley on a night out in South East Asia. It’s a good laugh though! The alley is open until the early hours of the morning and they serve alcohol all night long. The bowling was certainly questionable, with most of mine ending up in the gutter, but the vibe definitely wasn’t, it’s a great place to end the night.
Lhai Heua Fai Festival
During our third day in Luang Prabang, we noticed there was a slight change in the atmosphere and there was a lot more commotion in the streets. Walking through the main street, there were local families building some sort of boats out of banana leaves, outside their shops/houses, ‘that’s a little bit strange’ I thought.
We later found out that everyone was preparing for the eagerly anticipated Lhai Heua Fai Festival, which was to take place that night. All the locals seemed excited about it and there was a bit of a buzz amongst the backpackers in our hostel. We definitely had to check this out.
Lhai Heua Fai roughly translates to ‘floating boats of light downstream’ in English. The name sort of gives the finale of the festival away. It all made sense now. The boats that the locals had been making out of the banana leaves were filled with flowers, incense sticks, candles and odd bits of food and money. Before reaching the river, there is a parade through the town. Each local family who had prepared their boats was joined by boats which had been handmade by temples around the town and other nearby villages. This really was by far the busiest I’d ever seen this quaint town.
Once they reach the river, the boats were delicately laid down, so they could slowly float down the river. The banana leaf boats are accompanied by individual banana leafs with fairy lights placed on top, all making for a breathtaking river of lights. Along with the river of lights, there are literally hundreds of Chinese lanterns which are released throughout the night, covering the sky as far as the eye can see, creating outstanding sights all around. The night was a totally new experience. I loved it and it seemed like it was the biggest night of the year for the locals. The festival is held when there is a full moon from the end of October to the beginning of November. I’d definitely recommend making the trip to Luang Prabang around this time if you can!
Other Things To Do/See in Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Waterfall
We decided to take a day trip to Kuang Si Waterfall whilst we were still in Luang Prabang. Kuang Si Falls is around 18 miles south of Luang Prabang, so they are best reached by a tuk-tuk or motorbike. If you’re on your own, or there is only a couple of you, if you go into the centre where all the tuk-tuks are, there’s usually a few other backpackers that are wanting to share a tuk-tuk as well to keep the costs down. A round trip to the falls should cost around 200,000 Kip ($24.60) between everyone. There is also an entrance fee when you get to the falls of 20,000 Kip ($2.40).
Kuang Si Waterfall was definitely one of the highlights of our time in Laos. There’s a number of small pools, some you can jump in, some you can’t. Be warned, the water is absolutely freezing! The small pools flow from the main event, a magnificent, but daunting 50-metre high waterfall.
Either side of the waterfall you will notice trails which both lead 50 metres up, to the top of the waterfall. You will more than likely see most people walking the trails to the left of the waterfall (if you were facing the waterfall), this is mainly down the reason that the left trail is a lot easier to manoeuvre. The views once you reach the top are absolutely stunning! Well worth the walk, even with a few heart-stopping moments when we got to the top, thinking we might slip and fall 50 metres down the waterfall to our death.
Rent a Bike
For a measly 20,000 Kip ($2.40), you can rent a bicycle for the day and explore the town. The quiet streets are perfect for even novice cyclists. We had a great day cycling all over the town and along the Mekong. We ended up being just a tad sweaty after a few hours riding around in 30 degree Celsius heat. A perfect excuse for us to stop off for a drink at one of Luang Prabang’s many cafes or bars.