Luang Prabang...Absolutely beautiful countryside! The Mekong River, Pak Ou Caves, Luang Si Waterfalls.
My favorite part of the country. A wonderful little town on the Mekong River with some nice temples and the presidential palace, plenty of lodging and markets and restaurants. But, getting out of the town to the surrounding areas is the real highlight. To the east are the Kuang Si waterfalls, to the west are the Pak Ou caves.
There are 3 ways to get into and out of Luang Prabang.
The easiest, and most expensive, is by plane. The airport is well served here with direct flights from Hanoi, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Prices can be quite affordable and sometimes under $50. With more luggage, expect to spend closer to $100
There is a new high speed train line (Laos China Rail) that goes through Luang Prabang down to the capital, Vientaine. This seems like a very good way to travel, but as of 2022, it is still quite hard to buy a ticket as a foreigner. There are 3 ways to purchase...first, there is a ticket office in town that sells tickets 1-3 days ahead, but you cannot use cash or credit.. You have to use a local payment system, so it is not used by tourists. Second, you can go directly to the station to purchase, but the station is a 15 minute drive north of town, and the lines at the station will have you waiting for hours...yes...hours! When I went, the line for same day travel was much shorter, but nearly all the tickets were already sold out, so you would be taking quite a chance. Third is you can use a ticket service. What this basically gets you is somebody else buying your ticket either at the office or station, and you pay a premium. The downside here is that you will pay them for a ticket, and they will go get whatever is available. So, you may not get the train or seating class that you wanted.
If you choose this route, and get a seat, you will save money. this option will cost $20-$30.
By boat or bus
These are the most affordable, and also the slowest options. Taking a boat down the Mekong from Luang Prabang, or taking the bus...both options will take about 11 hours from Vientiane. Certainly a great money saving option for a back packer, but the least comfortable option.
Compared to the other capital cities in SE Asia, this is small and runs at a slow pace. But, the downside is that there isn't a lot to see or do here.
If you do stop here and spend a little time, you will be comforted by the fact that there a ton of restaurants and markets. And, the restaurants run the spectrum from French, to Italian, to Swedish and German, etc.
The waterfront becomes quite a lively place after dark, but during the day, your options are limited.