Our one day tour included the visit to the elephant camp for riding the elephants, after that we drove to Ban Ann where we started our kayak expedition. This river is a great place for kayaking, and is also a good oportunity to visit the Taat sae waterfalls. Highly recommended.
The mountains surrounding Luang Prabang provide excellent opportunities to trek through some of the finest scenery in Laos. The outdoor adventure companies in town have your ticket to visit welcoming hilltribes subsiting in the rugged jungles.
Possibilities range from day trips to multi-day hikes with overnights in villages. I did my trekking through White Elephant Adventures. I went on a three-day tour; the first day was mountain biking, the second was nearly nine hours of trekking from one village in a valley to another up in the mountains, and the third day we trekked for about four hours down to the Nam Seung River, where we transferred to kayaks and rafts for a few more hours before riding back to town in trucks.
The cost of the tour was $90 and it included all meals, water, use of equipment, two overnights in villages, and motorized transfers.
The day of hiking was the most physically taxing thing I've ever done. The mountains of Northern Laos are incredibly steep and the heat and humidity were, even in mid-October, unrelenting. We bushwacked through vertical cornfields and pumpkin patches, and crawled through thick brush tunnels. Our reward was an overnight in a bucolic Khmu village that was having only its second contact with Western people. For more details, please see my Luang Prabang travelogue.
Equipment: I wore my Tevas throughout the three days. They held up well for each portion of the excursion. I would recommend that you wear convertible pants (the ones that zip away to become shorts) and a moisture-wicking shirt. Bring socks and a light jacket for the evening as it can get cool in the mountains. Insect repellent, sunblock, and hand sanitizer are also recommended.
One of the best ways to get some exercise, but stay cool at the same time, is to go rafting or kayaking. There are three rivers around Luang Prabang: the Mekong, the Nam Khan, and the Nam Seung. I kayaked for a few hours on the Nam Khan with Green Discovery and the third day of my trip with White Elephant Adventures included rafting and kayaking. I was on the rivers at the end of the rainy season, so the rapids were moderate. I imagine there's not much activity in the height of dry season.
The kayaking I did on the Nam Seung was more exciting than the Nam Khan. The section of the Nam Khan I kayaked was lower flow and more of a relaxed float in an inflatable kayak. The Nam Seung proved a bit more perilous as my partner and I were each tossed from our sit on top hard shell kayaks on numerous occasions. It made the outing a lot more fun though. The large raft was much more stable, taking some of the adventure out of it, though we didn't have to paddle as much in it.
Equipment: If you wear sunglasses, make sure you have a leash for them. You probably already figured that out, but I didn't.
Mountain biking is a prime activity in Luang Prabang due to the... well due to the steep jungle mountains surrounding town. There are many ways you can go about arranging a mountain bike excursion from Luang Prabang. You could rent the bike yourself and try to navigate the homogeneous dirt roads passing through practically identical villages without getting lost. It's really not the ideal place to stop and ask for directions.
The other option is to choose from a plethora of adventure tour companies in Luang Prabang. I opted for a daylong excursion with Green Discovery. I paid $24 and the itinerary included about 3 hours of cross country biking in the morning with stops at a silk and cotton weaving village and the grave of Henri Mouhot (the Frenchman who red-discovered Angkor Wat) before transferring to inflatable kayaks. We kayaked to the Tad Sae waterfall, where we swam and ate lunch for over an hour, and then proceeded to kayak for another two hours to meet up with the truck that transferred us back to town.
The following day I left on a three day tour with White Elephant Adventures. The first day comprised of about 6 hours of cross country biking, with numerous stops in local villages.
I'm usually averse to bikes and the discomfort they cause me in my nether region, but I really enjoyed these trips. The pitches weren't too steep, though the uphills could be strenuous at times, especially in the heat. The scenery of Northern Laos is fantastic, with sharp mountains everywhere and villagers yelling encouragement (at least that what the guides said) along the way.
I road on 9 speed bikes (Gary Fisher and Trek, respectively) on each trip. Everyone got helmets and plenty of water and the guides spoke English well in addition to acting responsibly towards their groups. There were plenty of other non-bikers on both outings and no one had any problems meeting the physical demands.
Equipment: Bring some sunscreen, sunglasses, preferably some kind of wicking material clothing, and a camera. I rode in Tevas, so sneakers aren't necessary.
I highly recommend doing some kayaking on the Mekong. We took a large tuk tuk (our kayaks strapped to it's roof) to the Nam Ou (near the Pak Ou Caves), which then flows into the Mekong. We had a great experience and we stopped at some villages along the way. Some of the local kids took our kayaks and used them for a few minutes while we rested in a nearby village. If you aren't familiar with kayaking it's recommended to do so on the Mekong in the dry season, when the water level drops considerably. Also there are less hidden or visible rocks to deal with.
We booked this trip through an outlet in downtown Luang Prabang. They took care of a guide, the kayaks and transporation back and forth.
I am no kidding when I put this tip in this category. The big bottle BeerLao will cost between 7.000Kips - 10.000Kips (depending where you drink from) and it's smooth to you throat and also to you pocket.
One thing for sure is it cost only 1/3 of Malaysia bottled beers and taste better than Tiger Beer**.
Don't understand why Kiasu loves Tiger Beer?
If you have one of these Africa Twin or some BMW Touring bikes, Laos and Thailand will definitely one biking heaven for you.
If you do not have one of those super-cool bikes or do not know how to bring your bike into Indochina, you can rent one Honda 250cc Baja or CB400 to enjoy the same fun. Of course nothing compare to riding your own bike which you are familiar with.
More details in www.gt-rider.com and you may get some biking insights from David Unkovich (father of Mike Doohan, formerly 5-times World 500cc Motorcycle GP Champion) who is based in Chiang Mai.
After climbing the entire Khuang Si waterfall, many will not resist to have a swim or dip at the Khuang Si Falls. The highest tier of Khuang Si will be ideal because the pool is deep enough for you to dive from the high place & you also have the vantage view from the top & making everyone from the lower tiers envy of you.
Jumping from higher point into water at Khuang Si Falls is almost a must do for all the naughty boys & girls.
I heard certain point have rope for swinging from top and finally splash into water and that could be great fun too.
Sorry for the blur picture taken, but basically you can jump from point "x" and finally splash into pool down there.
As in many developing countries, football (known as soccer in the US) is the number one sport for good reason. It is an inexpensive one for kids in these poor countries to play. All they need is a ball and they will invent something to kick it through as goal posts.
Equipment: I needed a 300mm zoom lens to catch this action shot.
When in Luang Prabang, I highly recommend doing some kayaking on the Mekong and its tributaries. We started by hiking thru some rural villages to a point on the Ou river north of the city. From there, we kayaked down the Ou until it met the Mekong, and from there down to the village of Ban Xiang Hai. It was the dry season, so the river was quite low and calm, although there were many rocks to navigate around. The landscapes around the river are scenic and tranquil.
Equipment: The only things we brought were a camera, drinking water, and sunscreen. The agent that we arranged the tour with provided everything else, including waterproof bags to put our stuff in.
In many travel agencies in LP you will be offered several days trips into the jungles to see lost tribes, hike, rafting, canoeing...
Wildlife and jungles are still virgin in Laos and you will find here incredible landscapes and a great time if you love adventure travel!
If you like whitewater rafting, kayaking & other eco tourism, you may want to check out www.lao-wildside.com that offers great outdoor packages.