You’re going where? That’s what everyone asked when I told them I was going to Luang Prabang with the kids.
Where is that?
It’s in Laos.
As a family, we are pretty adventurous when it comes to travel. But this was more off the beaten track that we had ever done before.
And I am so glad we did.
Luang Prabang is one of Scoot’s new routes from Australia. The town was the capital of Laos until 1545 when King Setthathirath moved the capital to Vientiane. It has a curious mix of Lao, French and Chinese and Tai architecture.
We stayed at the Pullman, a gorgeous five-star hotel with landscaped wooden pathways, semi-detached villas and three incredible pools set on 16 hectares of rice paddies. When we arrived the rice had just been harvested and given to the local school and orphanage. The staff had planted sunflower seeds in the rice paddies for the next growing season.
The kids couldn’t get enough of the pool at the Pullman. It had a yellow waterslide, an infinity edge and a wonderful pink doughnut floaty we took turns fighting over. The kids’ pool has an infinity edge overlooking the rice paddies and the jungle-clad mountains. You can easily spend an afternoon chilling out here, letting all the stress wash away.
The main pool overlooks the rice paddies on the other side of the resort as well as the main lobby and restaurant. It’s larger and a deeper blue and great fun to play “tip” in with the kids. In between these two pools, you will find the gold pool. The stunning gold tiles reflect the sunlight in the afternoon. Expect the kids to climb on the elephant statue to play with the water fountain.
Each of the rooms at the Pullman has a terrace or balcony. The bathrooms have deep relaxing baths with a tray that can hold a wine glass. For families, you can book interconnecting rooms with a double bed in one room and two singles in the other. The kids were delighted with this arrangement and immediately started strutting around the room in their bathrobe and slippers.
The best time to visit is in April when the city celebrates New Year (Boun Pi Mai) with a huge water fight. Kids haul buckets of water to the side of the road and throw them at passing cars. Or shoot them with water pistols. If there is one festival in the world the kids will love – it’s this one. We managed to arrive in Luang Prabang for the start of the festival and the kids were delighted.
Once you’re ready to leave the resort and explore, you will find loads to do in Luang Prabang with kids.
An absolute must-do is the Kwang Si Waterfall. The drive here takes about 20-30 minutes and you can book a van to take you from the Pullman. Kwang Si, we were told, is one of the top five waterfalls in the world. Crystal clear cold mountain water cascades down the smooth limestone rocks and gathers in azure pools. The colour is truly remarkable.
My two kids were desperate to jump in. Kwang Si does have changerooms. They are rustic. If you have squeamish kids, you’re probably better wearing your swimmers there.
Kwang Si has three main pools to swim in. They are all stunning. We were told there’s a secret pool at the top. But with kids, that’s too hard. It’s really a case of picking the least crowded pool and going for it. The pools are deep and the bottom can drop away suddenly – so kids will need to be confident in the water. My two kids rushed to the edge, then sucked in a breath as the felt the chill of the water. They dipped a toe in slowly as they squatted on the limestone rocks. But once I rushed past them and dived into the water, they were in and swimming.
Teenagers will find one tree branch that sticks out over the pools is perfect for Instagram photos. Loads of older kids were climbing up the waterfall and posing for pictures with friends.
On the way back from the falls (or on the way there) you should stop at the Laos Buffalo Dairy. You could just have ice-cream. But you would be missing out. We did a tour here and the kids loved every minute of it.
The Laos Buffalo Dairy opened three years ago. Laos has no dairy industry as it is too hot for cows. Owner Rachel …. came to Laos to live. And wondered why no-one was milking the buffalos. From there, the idea for a sustainable food business that gives back to the community was born.
Laos Buffalo Daily rents buffalos from local farmers to milk, providing all the vaccinations and nutrition. The dairy also shows Laos farmers how to farm sustainably and to care for their animals. Rice bran husks are used for the pig’s bedding which keeps the pen clean and stops it from smelling. Many farmers burn the husks as they don’t know how else to use them.
On a tour, you will learn about sustainable farming. You can meet and feed the rabbits and the two resident cats – Lilly and Cracker. Watch out – Cracker likes ice cream and does jump onto the table.
The best part is the buffalos. I milked the buffalo (the kids were too chicken). We all fed them grass. We washed and scrubbed them and we fed the babies their milk bottles. At the end of the tour, you can try buffalo milk ice cream, coffees or cheese. They now milk blue cheese, feta and mozzarella from the creamy buffalo milk. On a deluxe tour, you can even try making your own cheese.
Laos was once known as the land of a million elephants. The elephants no longer live wild in North Laos, but a few remain at the Luang Prabang elephant sanctuary. You may see them taking a walk along the roadside during your stay.
If jetlag has you waking up early, you can make the most of it in Luang Prabang by going to see the daily alms-giving. Every day from sunrise about 200 local Buddhist monks dressed in orange robes walk in single file down the main street collecting rice from local villagers. The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century. It is quite humbling to watch.
After the alms-giving, you can explore the morning market. Locals sell everything from fresh fish to chillis, coconut pancakes and clothing.
The night market on the main street is packed full of Laos souveniers including tiny elephants, wallets and fabrics and food. It’s great to wander through and admire all the craftwork.
What’s different about these markets in Laos is that you won’t be hassled by touts. It’s far calmer an experience than we have had anywhere else in South East Asia.
In the middle of the market, you’ll see a huge stairway. We took off climbing it as far as the kids could go. At the top, you will find a temple with an incredible view.
The only thing we didn’t love about Luang Prabang Laos was leaving. We were told on the plane we would fall in love with Laos. This country really is the hidden gem of South East Asia.
Scoot flies three times a week to Luang Prabang via Singapore. The service started on April 1 2019.
The Pullman Luang Prabang has family resort-style accommodation and a free shuttle bus into town