Visiting Luang Prabang in Laos wouldn't be complete without a tour to the countryside.
There are waterfalls, biking trails and elephant shelters a few hours away from town but if you have no interest in such things, I'd recommend paying a visit to some nearby hill tribe villages.
The views are spectacular on a half-day mountain trek in Nong Khiaw, in the Luang Prabang province of northern Laos.
Three major tribes live in the hills surrounding Luang Prabang. The Hmong are descendants of the Mongolians and are able to withstand the cold, so they live in the higher hills. The Khmu on the other hand live in the mid-levels while the Lao live in the lowest levels.
House in Hmong Village, Laos
Not only will a trek be a nice change from Luang Prabang, it'll also allow you to learn more about this fascinating country and its people.
Dos and Don'ts:
1. Before you go on this hike, do seek out a nonprofit organisation based in Luang Prabang. Many Laos children have never seen a book and if they have seen one, it'll probably be a schoolbook. If you'd like to donate these books to the village children, buy a few and bring them on the hike. Remember though that the books are in English and Lao, so they might not be of much use to Hmong or Khmu children, who speak completely different languages.
Donate books for children
2. The villagers are extremely gracious and friendly, but don't take advantage of their kindness. As with all village folk, seek their permission if you'd like to take photographs of them. I didn't have to ask for permission from the children, though- kids all over the world love a camera.
Friendly Khmu women - Laos
3 Don't leave your litter behind; take it with you.
4. Do have fun and breathe in the fresh air! Enjoy the scenery- the Lao countryside is lush and beautiful.
What to bring:
Luang Prabang is in north Laos, which can get chilly if you visit during winter (December-March), more so if you venture into the highlands. If you visit Luang Prabang during that time, bring a light jacket which you can slip on when necessary and take off when you reach the low levels.
The trek isn't very demanding but I would suggest proper footwear (either walking shoes or a good pair of sandals) and not flip-flops or slippers. The ground could be slippery.
There are lots of companies along the main street in Luang Prabang, but I recommend an adventure travel company I knew, ACTIVETRAVEL LAOS
. The guides were helpful, pleasant and well-informed. ACTIVETRAVEL LAOS (ATL) is member of ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA
offers a wide selection of Laos adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, kayaking, biking, motorcycling, overland touring and family travel packages. Their packages and custom itineraries will take you through exotic destinations to really experience the culture, history and nature of Laos.
Whichever tour you choose, have fun!