We kicked off a three month RTW trip in the Luang Prabang Laos. I had longed to visit Luang Prabang for the last twenty years and was overjoyed to slot in five days, flying return from Bangkok to Luang Prabang. As soon as that RTW ticket was booked I began plotting where to stay in Luang Prabang.
I’m passionate about finding the best budget accommodation wherever we go and it’s the first thing I book when planning a trip. It has to be cheap but more importantly must have friendly local service with local management. We’re not fans of arriving somewhere new without accommodation sorted.
I searched high and low on the booking sites for the best budget accommodation Luang Prabang, before finally stumbling upon Manichan Guesthouse while reading a travel blog.
Back then Guesthouse Manichan wasn’t on the booking sites. The blog in question was written by a solo female traveller who unhappy with her first choice of accommodation, hauled her backpack down the street before passing Manichan guesthouse and walking in.
She booked a room and the rest is history. I would love to tell you who that person was, but I wasn’t in the blogging world at that time and couldn’t find her blog afterward. But thanks anyway mystery lady.
The weather was very hot on arrival. It was the end of the dry season and we were super happy to not be dragging ourselves around looking for somewhere to stay in Luang Prabang in the extreme heat. We simply slipped off our shoes and went to our upstairs room to regroup in the air-conditioning before hitting the Luang Prabang night markets.
What You Will Find in This Post
April is Low Season in Luang Prabang
The Laotian sky was extremely hazy in Luang Prabang in April, a combination of dry season haze and the practice of slash and burn agriculture. The closer we flew from Bangkok to Luang Prabang, the worse the haze became, and the supposedly spectacular views on landing were non-existent.
Luang Prabang peeked out from her smoky veil. The heat waited oppressively for the first cooling rains to come but some long cold fruit drinks on a shady verandah went a long way to making it bearable.
As compensation for the impaired visibility at this time of year, was the distinct lack of tourists. We explored most Wats in Luang Prabang by ourselves, or with a handful of visiting monks.
Best Located Luang Prabang Accommodation
Manichan guesthouse in situated in the central Ban Pakam district. It is a friendly and relaxed place to stay and we looked forward to returning there each day – several times a day.
Just minutes away from the Mekong on one side and Th Sisavangvong, the Luang Prabang night market for handicrafts street, on the other, it is only seconds away from the Luang Prabang morning food market. The market is the lane next to the guesthouse.
This handy location enabled us to pop back during the day for a shower and an air-conditioned break. This shouldn’t be under-estimated as a reason to book.
Our double room upstairs in the house, shared an easily accessed bathroom with the other upstairs bedrooms. The ground-level accommodation block at the back opened onto the courtyard. I didn’t look inside the rooms but recommend the upstairs rooms. They are in the main house which is gorgeous with lots of dark polished wood and very clean. Upstairs there is a verandah with views over the street and to Mount Phousi.
Breakfasts were sensational and I could waffle on about them all day. Most of the guests chose to sit around the huge timber courtyard breakfast table and discuss travel plans for the day.
Breakfasts at Manichan: Communal timber table, individual tables, covered courtyard, flowering vines, freshly brewed coffee, baguettes fresh from the bakery, home made tropical jams, home made yoghurt, tropical fruit platters, eggs cooked however your heart desires.
Not only is Manichan Guesthouse the best budget accommodation Luang Prabang but it is also perfectly located.
Baci Ceremony Laos
The day of our arrival a Baci ceremony was taking place in the lane-way outside the guesthouse. Feeling like intruders, we had no option but to walk through the middle of it all, to enter the guesthouse, but in true Lao fashion we were invited to join in.
The baby blessing ceremony is held to welcome a baby after its first month of life.
Laotians believe there are 32 spirits in the body and that some escape during birth. The spiritual leader calls the spirits back and then ties a white string baci bracelet, symbolising purity, around the wrists of baby, mum and guests. Then (coinciding with our arrival) the party begins with plates of food, plenty of beer , local whisky and awful karaoke, which was just as bad upstairs in our room as it was in the lane-way.
Luang Prabang Morning Food Market
Manichan Guesthouse is seconds away from the morning food market which kicks off at 6 am (the earlier you arrive the better it is).
The lady butcher had an ingenious insect deterrent – a small motor operated, table mounted device, that flung plastic bags around crazily, like in a sideshow alley ride – a precursor to similar contraptions I now see for sale in Australia.
Numerous plastic washing tubs contain fish, kept alive with aerators and changes of water from the nearby hose.
I hoped that the elastic mesh top would prevent the frogs escaping from their buckets. They were not the good looking green tree frogs we were used to, but very ugly specimens, that leapt vigorously. Unlike the French, Laotians eat the entire frog, the skin of which can be quite chewy.
This bowl of dead cockroaches was headed for the cooking pot as well.
Packets of dried dark green river moss, a local delicacy.
Late afternoons are for meandering along the Mekong and finding a cafe to watch the sunset across the Mekong, accompanied by a Beerlao.
Dinner under the palms with stars and fairy lights overhead is a nightly occurrence in Luang Prabang and turns even the most jaded traveller into a romantic.
Bamboo Seasonal Bridge across the Nam Khan.
With temperatures and excitement building toward the New Year, we were handed a mini-flyer in the street offering a free New Year’s squirt of water, on entry to the Dyen Sabai restaurant. Who could resist such an enticing offer?
We crossed the Nam Khan on a bamboo footbridge to find a covered deck, amongst the bamboo, overlooking the river.
The squirt of water was the brainchild of the Canadian owner, but the delightful Lao staff could not bring themselves to squirt us as we entered!
It was cool lounging on floor cushions by candlelight anyway. They served the Luang Prabang speciality, Khai paen, river moss pounded with garlic, encrusted with sesame seeds, deep-fried and served with chilli sauce, or the best bruschetta you have ever tasted.
When the French left in 1945 their legacy of baguettes, coffee and crepes remained. Every night in Luang Prabang crepe stalls appear on footpaths and it was fun trying a different stall each night.
We enjoyed everything Luang Prabang had to offer – The Mekong, Waterfalls, Wats and Elephants.
Laos is a land locked country with Thailand and Myanmar on the west, Vietnam on the east, Cambodia to the south and China to the North.