Welcome fellow travelling parents and kids!
So we spent two months living in wonderful Luang Prabang with three small children whilst on our budget family gap year. If you want the details you can read all about it in our weekly travel blog (weeks 5 to 14). So to help you, we thought we would pass on a summary of our child friendly tips so you can enjoy all that this UNESCO world heritage town has to offer. Have a great holiday in Luang Prabang, treasure your family time together and if you have fun be sure to write back to us and tell us about it.
(The details and rough prices here are for use as a guide. Note: your personal experience may differ. Click on links to view the full post containing the item).
The Sabretoothed Chickens
Here’s our Top 10 things to do with kids in LP, in a random order:
Our boys really enjoyed swimming at La Pistoche Swimming Pool and Bar. Of course you need to bring your own swimmers, towels, sunscreen, hats, etc. It is the only private swimming pool in Luang Prabang. (A few hotels around town offer a pool only fee but most cost about US$10 pp). It offers grass hut change rooms, 2 swimming pools, 2 bars and one small slide. We ate lunch there but the meals are small and quite expensive. They will custom make simple food for the kids on request and don’t permit outside drinks or food. You can hire tubes there or bring your own. There are a few old children’s books there and some puzzles with pieces missing. We did all enjoy a great game using a laminated set of Uno cards, and we also had a hearty game of petanque (a.k.a bocce). There is lots of space to lounge around and there are pool attendants keeping an eye on kids – although personally we don’t leave them unsupervised, especially around water.
Cost: 20,000kip pp. Pricey but you can spend a good few hours there. Half price vouchers available at cafes around town or at Dyen Sabai Restaurant for 50% off entry for arrival at pools before noon.
Tad Sae and Kuang Si Waterfalls.
The boys also enjoyed swimming and exploring at these falls. They are fantastic well worth it day trips. We recommend going early ie 7am, as other tourists only start arriving about 10am and you will have the place to yourselves. Each excursion involves a tuk tuk ride out there and back. We had a tuk tuk take us there and wait for us for the return. We negotiated a very good price but most people pay 200-300,000 kip in total for each whole trip. If you have one day, I suggest picking one rather than doing both. Each fall also has an entry cost and Tad Sae has an added boat cost. (Tad Sae entry is free for children under 8 years). Tad Sae has an excellent shallow wading area in the middle of the first wooden bridge ideal for little ones plus you can see the elephants or even feed them for a cost/banana. We had lunch outside of the park at one of the many car park restaurants at Kuang Si, which was pretty reasonable. We ate in the upstairs restaurant at Tad Sae which had a great view of the zip liners and was also pretty reasonably priced.
Peninsula Beach is somewhere we didn’t swim but would have liked to. We watched the locals swim there. It is the sand bar/beach you can see near the bamboo bridge. The water is quite swift so you need to be careful. It is a great spot for kids to run around, dip their feet in the water and watch the sunset.
2. Old Fashioned Board Games
Just getting to Dyen Sabai restaurant is the best part. You can get there by free row boat, really fun at night, when the Nam Khan river is high and when the water level drops in the dry season, there is the famous Bamboo bridge (free after 6pm). Once there you can order a pricey drink or meal and settle down for a boardgame. The Monopoly is recommended by Lucas.
Down from the French Institute and next to the Mekong river is the Voleuz Vous cafe. They have excellent chunky wooden games there including; Connect Four, Chess, Jenga and Backgammon. A lovely place to play for the price of a fruit shake or other order. There are a few other places and galleries around town that have small boxes of books, games or toys.
3. Exercise, short treks and mixing it with the local kids
Our kids spent many a weekend morning at the Children’s Cultural Centre. They loved watching the older children learn traditional instruments and dance, whilst playing with their younger siblings. Often the children would play games and our boys would join in. Sometimes we would go there just for the open space and practice ball skills or archery.
The Park at the end of the peninsular is also great for just running around and meeting the locals. We had running races there or sat and ate ice cream.
Tad Thong Waterfall was a great day trip for us. It is seldom visited by tourists. It has a great nature trail and you can deviate down a longer trail to visit a local village. We didn’t swim there but you can and the walk trail is really fun. Again you have to pay for each way tuk tuk, the restaurant there is overpriced and there is an entry fee.
We had a few fun excursions which involved short treks. The boys loved catching the public ferry (5000kip per adult) across the Mekong and walking to the temples there. The temples charge a small fee. There are three including the one on the top of the hill. We didn’t do them all on the same day but you could if you wanted.
3. The Playground
Sadly this place was closed for most of the time we were in Luang Prabang and when we finally did catch it open they were not letting people in even though it was 3.30pm on a weekday. But looking from the outside, the kids would have loved it. We hear it has a trampoline, a zipline, a big jungle gym, a huge sandbox, swings, a huge slide, a see-saw, swings for little kids, and a baby pool! Plus a good cafe. Maybe next time…
4. Craft Workshops
Our son Lucas had a great half day workshop weaving at Ock Pop Tok. This was very pricey for us but a highlight for him it was such a great experience. OPT were kind enough to give all of us a short go at weaving. I think Lucas would have been fine to do the whole workshop on his own, although we stayed. I met a 12 year old whilst I was in LP who showed me the scarf she had made on a three day weaving workshop. It was fantastic and she was very proud. Her parents just dropped her off in the morning and picked her up in the afternoon. They also do dyeing, Hmong batik and basket weaving workshops there. It is also just a great place to visit. They provide a free tuk tuk from their OPT shops in town and a free tour when there. Our boys enjoyed the free tour and on their many visits there, watching the silkworms grow. (I volunteered with OPT for two months read about my volunteer experience in OPT Part 1 and Part 2).
5. Kids Play Gym at the Shopping Mall
We spent a great few hours playing at this basic play gym. For about 10,000kip pp kids can play for a few hours. There is a small padded style play gym, a bouncy castle, a paid ride-on machine and a sandpit with sand toys that is filled with black rice! It was a little grubby but good fun especially for real littlies. There is a shake stall next door with a few snacks.
6. Luang Prabang Bowling Alley
This bowling alley has a reputation for being a late night drinking venue past curfew but we went to go bowling in the morning and it was fun! No real food there except for instant noodles, fizzy drinks and snacks – but they seem pretty open to you bringing your own food.
7. Elephant Village
Yes, we know it is pricey and very touristic but the kids loved it. We haggled a good price for a half hour ride for all and we even got to be mahouts and sit on the elephants neck, steering the elephants by voice commands and foot control, which was pretty cool. Felix was the bravest and most fearless mahout shouting “Pai, Mai Oua”.
Although he was resting in the jungle when we went, they have a baby elephant there. You can feed them for a price. There is also a pretty pool/bar which you can swim in for a high additional fee and very pricey places to eat. Lovely river views. We enjoyed just looking around and having a short ride.
8. Reading Books
Our boys love reading with a passion. So we read books where ever we could for more than a few hours. Our favourite places were as follows.
The Luang Prabang Library which has loads of great kids books, including picture books, early language readers, and books for older kids. Our boys’ favourites which were the Goosebumps series and Geronimo Stilton. Also adult books, magazines and conversational English sessions available for the grown ups.
The French Institute which has a few good books in English including LP travel guides. There is also a DVD player there where you can watch French DVD’s on request. A beautiful building which often holds simple exhibitions and has some lovely old fashioned etched prints.
Big Brother Mouse is also good for a read and you may even become a little familiar with Lao script as all books in English are also in Lao. Also great to buy gifts for Lao kids which we did on many occasions. The kids were able to read Lao folk tales, proverbs and a little about life in Laos.
Upstairs at Books L’Estranger Cafe is a huge collection of old National Geographic magazines. Fantastic for a lazy afternoon of interesting facts or wonderful pictures and diagrams, some dating back to the late 1960s! See if you can find your birthday year and month…
9. Market Food and Sweet Treats
Who doesn’t like markets? Smelling strange smells, sloshing through muddy alleys, being part of the hustle and bustle. Stopping to stuff some strange new morsel into your mouth. Any photographers dream. We went to as many as we could and there are quite a few in LP. Our favourites were; the Pousi markets, the morning market, Dara markets, Phang Lang markets and the lesser known Na Vieng Kham Markets.
The Baguette ladies are infront of the Hmong market. You can’t go past the Baguette stall ladies for a child friendly cheap lunch and great shakes. Pricier than some sandwich stalls in town but well worth it and fantastic for people watching.
For 6000kip serves of home made ice cream or home made yogurt, it is hard to go past U Like Icecream – a local favourite, with cute decor. The bakery next store sells great cakes and pork buns for 5000kip ea. We used to plan ahead catch a tuk tuk out there for dinner and then desert at U Like Icecream, to make an evening of it. The boys love that place.
10. Cooking School
We love cooking and miss the opportunity to get into the kitchen. In honour of our resident Chef Reuben, we had a great time cooking at one of the Cooking Schools in town. Probably The Tamarind Cooking School is the best in town but we went for the less popular and more affordable Tum Tum Cheng Cooking School. Unlike the other schools in town, they actually give you a discount for young kids and Felix was free. The boys had a great time and the eating was fun too. 🙂
We hope that helps you plan something to do in Laung Prabang. Our list is by no means complete and there is so much to explore in Luang Prabang. Truthfully the simple things were often the best for kids such as singing silly songs on tuk tuk rides, eating Lao BBQ sausages and sitting on the wall by the Nam Khan is the evening, playing at home in the guesthouse, running around the rocks and playing Fussball at Utopia. Also joining in specific local events were priceless such as Halloween, the Ock Pansa festival, Hmong New Year Festival, etc…