There are sunsets. And then there are sunsets from the top of hills and mountains. Specifically, from the Phu Si Hill in Luang Prabang, Laos.
A few days in Luang Prabang and you get a little used to the slow pace of life. With its quiet streets and relaxed lifestyle, all you can think of is lazing around at your favourite restaurant with views of the Mekong river and a drink in hand. As the sun sets, so the landscape, and your mood. That is when you promise yourself that you are going to see a sunset from the hills at least once before you go back to your mundane existence, in another part of the world. Promise.
It’s a promise kept. On the last day before I left this blissful town, I ventured to go climb the hill. It doesn’t take too long to find the steps leading up to the top of the hill. It’s opposite the Royal Palace Museum. There is an entrance fee of 20,000 kip that you need to pay before you head up. If you time it well though, do so much before 5pm and you can visit the small temple at the top – Wat Chom Si. While not as impressive as some of the other temples around town, remember, you are here to see the sunset. Think of it as a bonus deal.
After huffing and puffing for about 100 meters, or 20 odd minutes, I finally made it to the top of the hill. Once there, I managed to catch my breath, weaved through the crowd of other tourists and managed to grab myself a good spot to catch the sunset.
I suggest you make it atop at least an hour or so before the sun sets. There are others too who have the same thought as you, and chances are, most of the good spots will have already been taken any way.
Before settling down at a spot to watch the sunset, I suggest you check out the surroundings from all around the temple. The views of Luang Prabang below, the mountains in the distance and the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers with barges sailing on them make for some impressive experience.
As I settled down, sipped on some water and said my hellos to other fellow travellers, I waited. And so, did everybody else. If you are carrying some serious camera equipment, either to snap photographs or record a video, now is the time to do it.
Think it is human nature, but the moment there is a bit of buzz, everybody starts to get restless. I felt it too. As the minutes raced to sunset time, people start to shuffle around, trying to figure if the spot they have had all the while is the best spot or could there be another prime spot.
As the sun turns from a bright white spot to a golden orange ball and the views in front turn into different shades of blue, the mood changes too. If you are shooting a video, about two minutes should suffice till it drops below the hills. If you are taking photographs, then I suggest you take as many as you want. You never know which is going the be the one.
And just as quickly, immediately after the sun has set, the crowd starts to disperse.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Do I want to do it again? Definitely. Sunrise? Not a chance.