Luang Prabang has no shortage of cafe’s. Places you can sit and watch the world go by. I had four favourites during my time there and all for very different reasons but they all share very special things. Great coffee, wonderful people or Mekong watching opportunities or just hidden away when you don’t feel like running into people (it’s a small town, you meet a lot of people and occasionally you need some ‘me time’). so let’s get to it.
Not only does Saffron have the most outstanding coffee in Luang Prabang, they do it all with sustainability and Laos farmers in mind. You can read more about that here or via their website. Saffron has 2 spacious and comfortable indoor areas for those cold and rainy days and they also have a deck directly across the road where you can sit and watch life on the Mekong pass you by. Not only is the coffee fantastic but so too is the food. If you head on down for breakfast, try the breakfast wrap, for lunch the falafel wrap both of which are fresh and delicious. If you feel like a little treat with your coffee don’t go past either the carrot cake or the banana bread served with espresso butter (yes, you read that correctly, a double hit of caffeine to keep your energy up for exploring).
I cannot tell you how many times and how many hours I spent at Saffron and when you’ve had your coffee fix sufficiently fulfilled try one of their frappes or juices or just relax with the great staff who refill your water constantly and have a chat to them or the other travellers frequenting the place or the locals who know that this is THE place to buy your coffee from in Luang Prabang. I bought a bag of their Peaberry beans back to Australia with me and when it was finished I swear I was close to tears!
Now the novelty cafe is people watching paradise. Situated on the main street of Luang Prabang it is open, airy and has a fantastic menu to boot. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll also get to meet George the owners dog who is a complete sweetheart. Along one wall of the cafe are books so if you feel like sitting on the veranda or inside at one of the tables and wile away an afternoon with great food and drinks, grab a book and make yourself comfortable! Novelty has an eclectic and fresh menu (try the breakfast hash or any one of their baguettes) and a great selection of teas, juices, coffee and even cocktails. So on a hot afternoon a Pimms cup rather than a coffee may be more your pace.
Not only is L’etranger a lovely little cafe that serves some of the best ginger and honey tea in Luang Prabang, in the evenings at 7pm, they show free, recently released movies. All you have to do is order some food to enjoy, sit back, relax and enjoy the film. They have quite a western style menu but do yourself a favour and try the “Kaipen” – a local dish of crispy Mekong river weed (kind of like Kale) which is flavoured with different spices depending on where you have it. At L’etranger they serve theirs with peanuts and chilli jam, yum. Sitting out on the veranda under the trees is a great way to watch the world go by, but upstairs they also have a room filled with books that you can read, buy, swap or sell some of your own. They also sell locally made crafts and clothing and accept donations of books.
Now, I’ll be honest here. I never went to this place for the food. It was OK, but I definitely had better food elsewhere. However what is fantastic about Big Tree Cafe is their lovely big, secluded garden, which if you want some me time, is fantastic way to spend some time. What I did love about Big Tree’s menu though were their fruit teas. My go to was the Lime, Ginger and honey tea which for a small amount came out in a big pot which you could spend and hour or more just sipping, writing, reading or people watching. It also has a great indoor space and a gallery space filled with beautiful photography and art showcasing Lao talent. Well worth a visit on a hot day to sit under the big trees and umbrellas and just relax.