Stretch your stay in this UNESCO World Heritage city out over five days if you can, mama. Our founder shares her top tips for Luang Prabang with kids, including a resort that’s “perfection”!
If you’ve checked out Part One of our Luang Prabang with Kids guide, you’ll know that in total we spent five days in Luang Prabang, splitting our stay between its two best hotels (lucky us!). While you can cover the main sites in a long weekend, a five day stay allows you to set a more relaxed pace, perfect for including pool time for the kids! For the second part of our trip, we were staying at Amantaka, which is located right in the heart of the town…
Arriving at Amantaka is a truly stunning experience: located in a traditional French colonial building behind white-washed walls, the first impression is of stark, almost monastic beauty, with low-slung, white-painted buildings, plumeria trees, lush green lawns and shutters painted the most perfect shade of olive green.
Staff dressed in white linen outfits and bearing cold towels are unobtrusive, yet somehow appear every time you need them. We were shown to our “room,” which doesn’t quite do justice to describe where we stayed: with high ceilings, enormous windows, cool, tiled floors and minimalist decor, we were beyond spoiled with a private pool and courtyard.
Our kids were initially set up with trundle beds in the living area of the suite, but we decided to bring them into our actual bedroom so they could benefit from the shutters which thankfully stopped them getting up with the sun (the sun rises a lot earlier in Laos than Singapore!). The main swimming pool is located in the central courtyard and is wonderfully big and just the perfect temperature. Surrounded by lots of pristine white sun-loungers, fluffy white towels heaped in wicker baskets, and enormous sun-umbrellas, this is pretty much heaven on earth for adults and kids.
Amantaka is absolute aesthetic perfection, and it’s easy to see why Aman Hotels elicit such fandom that they’ve spawned their own unique following of “Aman Junkies”. We kept marvelling at the way every little detail was just so on-point. We were a little concerned about how it would be to bring little (sometimes noisy!) kids into this serene environment, but we never felt as though they were unwelcome, and guests have so much space to spread out that we felt we didn’t have to shush them for worry of disturbing others.
One of the most fun parts about staying at Amantaka was riding around in their beautiful house tuk-tuks, which you can call to pick you up at any time of day or night from around town, and which come with a uniformed driver and bottles of cold water. Is it obnoxious to say it’s fun that on the streets people turn their heads to see who is riding in the “fancy” tuk-tuk, and that it’s kind of fun when it’s you?! Yes? Sorry then. Just keeping it real!
Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary
One of the absolute highlights of our visit to Luang Prabang was our adventure at Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary. This is a very special place indeed, and as we all try to be responsible tourists, it’s worth thinking carefully before visiting any other elephant sanctuary or attraction around Luang Prabang. As they told us at Mandalao, if they are letting you ride the elephants it is NOT a sanctuary.
Mandalao is about a 20-minute drive from Amantaka, and I highly recommend making sure you and your kids are wearing practical clothes which you’re happy to get dirty. I wore a white dress, which was filthy in about ten minutes! You will get amazingly up close and personal with the elephants – feeding, washing them and walking with them through the jungle. I was amazed that our kids walked for nearly two hours without complaining because they were so into the experience – do NOT miss this, and ask to chat to Prasop if he is there because this Thai gentleman has a passion for elephants like no one else!
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens
The Luang Prabang Botanical Gardens are a peaceful 15-minute boat ride downriver from Luang Prabang, and are quite new as they only opened in 2016. A couple of the areas were not finished, but you can tell it will be lovely, and it makes for a pleasant and easy excursion. You can buy tickets for the boat ride and the entrance at their shop-front in town.
The Night Market
In the evening, one of the main streets of Luang Prabang is taken over with this handicrafts market. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs or gifts and has a pleasant vibe that is more chilled and less filled with tacky stuff than the usual Asian night market experience.
Living Land Organic Farm
We sadly didn’t make it here on our trip, but George from the Sassy Mama team took her family here when she visited Luang Prabang last year and found it such a highlight that we wanted to include it in this guide. You and your kids will learn about traditional farming techniques for growing rice (to help instill from appreciation and gratitude in our little city slickers!) and can then enjoy the fruits of your labours with lunch in their café.
Psssst! We have more suggestions for activities and places to eat in Part 1 of our Luang Prabang with Kids guide!
Places to Eat
A super-hip little restaurant serving delicious French classics with a Laos twist (think Mekong Perch Ceviche), with a cool soundtrack and a great selection of TinTin books. We loved this place!
If you’re looking for an easy breakfast or lunch spot, Le Banneton serves up unpretentious French café-style food and the best butter croissants in Luang Prabang.
Amantaka’s restaurant is unbeatable for sumptuous breakfasts, lovely lunches and elegant dinners, and offers a selection of both local classics and healthy, vegetarian Western options. In the evening, the setting for eating al fresco pool-side, surrounded by candlelit lanterns is extremely special. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to eat at the restaurant.
General tips for Luang Prabang
- Bring mosquito repellant and apply regularly – this is the jungle, and while my hairy husband escaped unscathed, I got eaten alive despite being diligent!
- Bring hats and/or sun umbrellas – it can be scorching and a lot of the best activities are outdoors.
- For visa on arrival, you will need to bring a passport photo for each member of your group, and US dollars to pay for the visa. You can get US dollars out of an ATM just through passport control, but it’s less stressful to carry with you.
- You will need Lao currency (Kep) for tuk-tuks and small expenses, but most restaurants and shops accept credit cards.
- There is an English-speaking pharmacy in the main part of town or your hotel can arrange medical treatment or a doctor if you need.
Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of our Luang Prabang with Kids guide!