If you want to get away from beautiful but touristy Luang Prabang, get on a ferry and cross the Mekong to visit Chompet district. It won’t be as spectacular as Luang Prabang, but you will experience rustic Lao life, some Wats, a cave and a beautiful view of Luang Prabang. Of the WHOLE Luang Prabang, not only part of it because you are standing right in the middle on Mount Phousi)
How to get across the river: Maybe you’ve been at the stairs next to the Mekong before, if not, you should grab a beer and enjoy the sunset from there. If you’ve already been there – that is the place where the long boats can take you not even 5 minutes across the river. We hired a private boat and paid 10.000 kip per person. The boat was a miniature version of the long boats that bring passengers to and from Thailand. There is another jetty on the other side but it is located more on the left and you have to walk a little bit to the village. Our skipper just let us off more to the right in the middle of nowhere. You basically just jump off the boat into the gras. There are stairs that will lead you straight up to the village.
Once there, we just headed right and enjoyed the quiet of Chompet district. We bought some water at a local shop and simply wandered around.
What to do: There are some Wats that are worth a visit. Our first Wat was Wat Chompet that is the only Wat that can be seen from Luang Prabang. It is right on top of a hill and it reminded us of a little Christian Church. The wat itself is not that spectacular but the view is amazing. We were the only people there and sat there for a while, looking at Luang Prabang with Mount Phousi, the Mekong and the mountains far away.
The entrance fee is 10.000 kip per person. An old lady has her stand at the bottom of the hill.
We continued our way and came to another Wat complex where a Lao family hat their booth. We paid 10.000 kip each and got access to a cave that is nearby. The daugter gave us some flashlights and lead us to the cafe (the entrance is normally locked). We were the only ones in the cafe and although it is not that big as the caves around Vang Vieng, it was a great experience being in a cave all alone.
The stalaktites and stalakmites were shining in the light of our torches. Once back at the Wat, we were invited to share the familie’s meal with them! There was rice, some rice crackers and (we thought) fish with minced pork? Anyway, it was delicious and although they could not speak English, we had a nice time together. We gave some Western crackers to the little daughter. Not sure if she opened them 🙂 She was looking at them as if they were some weird things.
After that lunch, we headed back to where we started our way. A young Laotian brought us back to Luang Prabang.
Conclusion: we really enjoyed our little trip across the river. It was a whole different world there. It is an inexpensive trip and you can walk there as long or as short as you like. We can recommend the Hobo Map of the Chompet district. It contains some useful information on where the wats are located. Enjoy your day away from the big city and dive into rural Laos!