One of my most memorable moments in Laos was my encounter with monks. We met monks who asked us to teach them English and in return allowed us to come to their temple to mediate the next day at 3 a.m. Without hesitation, we agreed. This was a unique experience, away from all the touristic spots and spiritually appealing. High illiteracy rates and low access to education are having a catastrophic effect on Laos’ youngest generation and clearly even on respected monks. While teaching the monks, we could see how polite they were: they barely made eye contact and exuded calmness. The next morning, we meditated in their monastery in the corner of the town. We arrived with smiles on our faces, ready to experience an enchanting moment out of our comfort zone. It was definitely pleasing to connect culturally with these young monks.
At 5am, after praying and meditating for almost two hours, these monks go into town to receive food from their town’s citizens. Since monks are not allowed to cook anything themselves, they rely on the kindness of their people. The food is usually rice or bananas and, if they are lucky, some sweets. That’s how they collect their food for that day, and it’s truly amazing to see everyone participate and start their day at that hour.
By around 7am, we were famished and decided to go to the now-thriving street market. In this market there is an abundance of foods: every fruit you can think of and even things you would have never thought about. We got a huge yogurt topped with fresh fruits and, at another stand, ordered the sweetest hot cocoa we have ever tasted. The street food in Southeast Asia is simply the best.
After wandering around town, we went to a bar, café and restaurant called Utopia. This place is heaven. During the day, you find people doing yoga and reading books with hot cups of coffee and ginger tea and by night, everyone meets at this beautiful place. It has an indescribable ease about it, and it was the most beautiful place I visited in all of Laos. The serenity was beyond special, and they also have incredible spring rolls and an unbeatable view of the Mekong River.
After going back to our hostel and resting for a few hours, we woke up and went to find dinner on the street (where else?). Before eating, we went to see the sunset on one of the hills near our hostel, and after feeling the calm of the sunset, we were ready to dine! The most spice-infused meals, rich with vegetables and Asian tradition, are at the night markets. Go, explore, eat something that looks pleasing to you and then bargain for anything from bags to house goods to bracelets at their colorful night market just around the corner. After eating, we went back to Utopia. There, everyone took off their shoes, sat on the ethnic pillows laid out and hung out in a calm, fun environment. In Laos, all the bars close by 11pm and everyone goes bowling. Yes, you read right, bowling. Everyone goes in ‘tuk tuks’ (a form of taxi in Southeast Asia) and stay there until about 3 in the morning.
All in all, Luang Prabang, Laos comes highly recommended. It is a special place full of fun people, spiritual experiences and exotic views. While experiencing Laos, you should let yourself go where the flow takes you and be open to anything. Whether it’s a monk who asks you for English lessons or invites you to going bowling at midnight, be prepared to try something new. Be sure to put this place on your travel bucket list!
By Doriel Mizrachi
Doriel is a 22-year-old currently studying Interactive Communications & Entrepreneurship at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. She grew up in South Padre Island, Texas and is currently living in Ra’anana, Israel, 15 minutes outside of Tel-Aviv. She is fascinated with an interesting philosophical conversation and traveling. Share a good book, an adventure or a sweet treat and she’s yours. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.