Vegan Travel In Luang Prabang
Our 2 day slow boat journey on the Mekong ended in Luang Prabang, the historical capital of Laos and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it’s outstanding culture and heritage. We had 6 nights to explore and to get to grips with being a vegan in Laos.
Luang Prabang is a really lovely place to wander; the restored French colonial buildings mingle with the Laotian houses, temples and markets; the Mekong river winds it’s way on one side of the old town and the Nam Khan river on the other; orange robed monks and novices walk about town on their way to the temples.
The winds of travel were blowing favourably during our stay and we were lucky enough to meet quite a few fabulous adventurers, all with a story to tell and a smile to share.
Two of our favourite people that we met were Zoe (awesome ukelele playing playwright, musician and storyteller and Sharon (of legendary Queercore band ‘God is Our Co-pilot), we’re definitely hoping our paths cross again in the future.
Luang Prabang was the place where we thought we’d really get a taste of good Laotian food and we were off to a cracking start with the discovery of several ‘khanom krok’ stalls right near where we were staying.
As you know, we are big fans of Khanom Krok, an accidentally vegan food that is directly descended from some heavenly place or other. We’ve eaten a lot of them on our Vegan Food Quest (they definitely are one of the best vegan foods in the world) after discovering them in Thailand, so we were particularly excited to see that they had migrated over the border into Laos too.
We also discovered a vegan stall at the night market where you could fill your bowl with as much miscellaneous noodle, rice, tofu, salad and fried foods as you could manage and all for 10,000 kip (80p). The food there was great, the communal tables meant you were always meeting a new friend but there weren’t really any standout dishes that would make you know you were in Laos.
So we ventured to a restaurant that advertised a vegan menu; a good start indeed. The food sounded great with words like ‘authentic’ and ‘traditional’ peppered throughout but when our food came our only conclusion was that it was ‘nice’ if not a bit bland.
We picked out a restaurant along the river where the Laotian owner seemed to have a good grasp of our vegan requests, sadly more bland food followed. Was it just that we’d been in Thailand recently where the food is awesome? Had our few weeks in Chaing Mai eating our way around the many vegan cafes and restaurants spoiled us?
Luang Prabang’s saving grace came in the shape of Venus, the lovely Laotian owner of our guesthouse who fed us heartily every morning and brought us little Laotian street foods to try.
We are truly grateful for the extra effort she went to, getting us fresh soya milk from the market and making us healthy and delicious food every morning.
The street food in Luang Prabang was pretty good for us plant-eaters with scrummy fried spring rolls, little gyoza style vegetable filled dumplings and fresh baguettes filled with avocado salad being our go-to options.
We even managed to find these amazing rice noodles with fresh herbs and crisped rice from a street cart, wrapped in planet friendly banana leaf. The vendor was constantly on the move and we only managed to find her once, at lunchtime, but it’s worth hanging around Sisavangvong Rd near the Royal Palace at midday, to see if you can spot her.
The rest of our time was spent wandering around taking in the sights. If you are visiting, definitely go to the beautiful Wat Xieng Thong to marvel at the sparkly architecture.
Definitely don’t go to see the sunset at the top of Phousi Mountain which, although listed as one of the ‘must do’ things in Luang Prabang in everyone’s favourite guidebook, was actually one of the worst things we’ve done in a long time.
For a start the sunset and the view was pretty average (much better to grab a drink riverside and watch the boats instead). It was packed full of people doing things like drinking beer (it is actually a temple so this is not normally the kind of thing you might think of doing?) and clambering around to get the best photo.
Even worse though, some people had bought small caged birds to release for ‘good luck’. We’d seen the lady selling these captured wild birds, crammed into tiny woven cages; the birds were caged in pairs with no room to move and we spotted some that had died.
Much better to head down to the river to watch the local life as the sun sinks into the Mekong.
After 6 days it was time to go our separate ways, both with Luang Prabang and with each other as Paul set off for Cambodia early and Caryl continued on with the Vegan Food Quest tour of Laos.