Time to leave Vietnam although thankfully not time to go home yet! Our next country to visit was Laos and first impressions…WOW! If we thought we had stepped back in time in Hoi An then we’d gone even further back in Luang Prabang! This is the one of the most delightful places I have ever stayed and most unlike anywhere else. It is hard to believe this sleepy little town was once the capital of the country. With one main street with little shops and restaurants scattered either side with stunning temples in between it really is somewhere very special. The people are unbelievably friendly and the night markets are a real must – you can actually look at everything on sale without being hassled in the slightest or pressured to buy anything…and because of this we ended up with some of our best souvenirs from our trip!
We stayed at Le Maison Souvanaphoum which was again had a great location. It was ideal for us and we really enjoyed wandering around and exploring the local area. Plus there was a pool which we made good use of after a day walking around in the 40 degree heat. We managed a couple more very early starts – one morning to see the monks at the Alms giving which is a must do when staying here. Each morning at dawn in Luang Prabang the local Buddhist monks form a procession around the streets of this charming town, collecting alms of rice and vegetables from the local population. It doesn’t last for very long and does require a 5:30am start but is a real highlight.
We also visited the Pak Ou Caves which is a great day out along the Mekong and very picturesque. In town we went to the Royal Palace Museum as well as a few of the local temples. Another must do is the climb up Phu Si Hill which is in the centre of town and offers amazing views over the entire city. However, midday in 40 degree heat is not the best time to do this…we found out the hard way! After we climbed down we found for a tuk tuk to take us to La Residence where we relaxed in their open plan bar overlooking the lush country side and city, whilst enjoying a well deserved mojito!
The final stop of our journey, and one I was very excited about; Siem Reap in Cambodia. Our flight was delayed leaving Laos due to a spectacular thunderstorm and lightning show (so actually I was very relieved we were delayed). All other flights had run like clockwork which was great as it made getting from place to place so easy. We arrived in Siem Reap late afternoon and were taken to Hotel de la Paix for the last part of our holiday.
The hotel was amazing! Again it had the best location in town and was truly a 5 star experience with a cold towel every time you walked through the door and a friendly welcome asking you how your day was. The real highlight of our time in Siem Reap was our trip to the temples. I had such high expectations I wondered whether I might be disappointed…however this was absolutely not the case – they truly were phenomenal! Our guide was brilliant and although it was another 4:30am start it was worth it to watch the sun rising over the vast Angkor Wat Complex. The size of the temple complexes is difficult to grasp until you actually drive around them, and the intricate detail carved into the building was fascinating. Each carving told a different story and luckily our guide was able to explain each of these otherwise we would have had no idea. We then spend a good couple of hours exploring all the different areas before heading back to the hotel for breakfast – just as the rest of the crowds were arriving!
After breakfast we visited the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and last but by no means least Ta Phohm. They were all fascinating and completely different from one another and I would definitely recommend visiting them all. If we have had more time we could easily have spend an additional day exploring some of the less well known temples. This was a real highlight of my holiday!
We spent the next morning at the floating villages of the Tonle Sap lake which again was very interesting. The time of year we went meant the levels were very low but there are different villages you can visit and it is definitely worth a half day trip. The villages move around depending on the tides.
For our last day we thought we deserved a treat from all our sightseeing and so we spent the day relaxing around the hotel pool. Later in the afternoon we had booked ourselves in for the spa’s signature massage…it was probably one of the best I’ve ever had! We then had an delicious dinner at the hotel’s restaurant on one of their really cool swinging day beds and over a few glasses of wine we reminisced over our amazing holiday…and started to plan our return trip!