Luang Prabang in Laos may be one of the more laid back towns I’ve been to. There’s a lot of culture as compared to party town Vang Vieng, where most people go tubing. But that doesn’t mean it’s tacky and boring! For people who are looking to soak up in the traditional Laotian lifestyle, up north is where you need to go.
My favorite part of Luang Prabang isn’t amongst visiting monks, temples, or the night market. It was actually my experience in a cafe/bar hidden in a small neighborhood called Utopia. Not only does it face the Nam Khan river, it is also hidden amongst tall trees where you can’t see any part of the town, which gives it the perfect location for people who are looking for isolation.
You could easily waste an entire day in Utopia without realizing it. That could be a good thing, or a bad thing. Bad if you had plans to visit other places after Utopia… Chances are that you’ll wind up planting your butt there for the rest of the evening. Maybe that’s what makes it so awesome, the ability to trap people within an isolated cafe. Picture sitting on the colorful mons (triangular cushions) with a beer Lao in hand, reading your trusty travel book or the second hand novel you recently purchased. You can even join other Utopia patrons in a soccer game at the little court they have within the cafe! They even hold yoga classes at sunrise for people who are looking to get in touch with their inner peace. What better place to stretch and meditate than in an outdoor cafe with such an alluring view of the Nam Khan river as day breaks?
At night, many travelers flock to Utopia for pre-party drinks. I’ve heard there is a bowling alley / club that people go to party as that’s one of the rare places that are open late into a night. Personally I was looking for some peace and quiet so I’d prefer to visit Utopia in the day or in the evening. There are many other bars with cheaper prices, but like i said if you’re looking for a nice time with lots of people, that’ll be the place to go at night as well.
Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos
How to get there:
Utopia is a hard place to locate as it isn’t located on a main street but that is also why it’s such a gem! You will find Utopia on the other side of Phousi Temple hill. You can get around the hill from either side of the night market / main street. Do not cross the river at any point, or you are definitely going the wrong direction! I
Duration by foot: 10 minutes
Duration by bicycle: less than 5 minutes
Path #1. From the corner near the Aussie Bar, walk down the hill about 50 meters and turn left down the alleyway next to the internet cafe and follow the signs.
Path #2. Same as #1, except if you go past the internet cafe, continue 15 meters past Martins Pub, and take a left down the alleyway and turn right after the tiny bridge. If you see the gas station, you missed the alleyway.
Path #3. From Lao Lao Gardens, go across the street and down the alleyway past S-Bar. Walk across the temple grounds, down the stairs, and follow the signs to Utopia.
TIP: Note that the road in the neighborhood enroute to Utopia is a narrow path with many turns. You might have to get off your bicycle and walk at some point.
More information here: utopialuangprabang.com