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Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos, in the heart of a mountainous region and built on a peninsula shaped by the Mekong and Nam Khan River. Mountain ranges (especially the PhouThao and PhouNang mountains) enclose the city in a green setting.

Luang Prabang is outstanding both for its architectural and artistic wealth.  Its remarkably well-preserved urban landscape reflects the fusion of traditional Lao architecture with the colonial era influences.
The peninsula, with its ancient residences of notables and the royal family, its religious buildings, remained the administrative and religious heart of Luang Prabang. The traditional urban fabric of the ancient villages, each with its own temple, has been preserved by later constructions. Colonial urban layout, especially the street network, has been superimposed on the previous one. The limits of the city were defined by fortifications.

The wealth of Luang Prabang architecture expresses the mix of styles and materials. As is customary, the majority of buildings are wooden. Only the temples are made of stone while the one or two-storey brick houses are the colonial brand of the city.

The many pagodas or "Wat", which are among the most sophisticated Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, are richly decorated (sculptures, engravings, paintings, gilding and furniture). Many traditional Lao homes still exist, they are made of wood using ancient colonial techniques and materials, such as woven bamboo panels coated with mud. Colonial brick buildings, often with balconies and wooden decorative elements, line the main street and the Mekong River.

Top things to do in Luang Prabang:

1. Strolling through the picturesque streets

This is the most enjoyable activity in Luang Prabang, the city lends itself so well to it! Venture into the downtown streets to admire the old colonial buildings. An ideal moment to capture the atmosphere of the quiet city is just after Tak Bat (morning alms ceremony). Enjoy peace and quiet, sublimated by the soft light of the rising sun.

1. Strolling through the picturesque streets in Luang Prabang

2. Attend Tak Bat, the Morning Alms Ceremony

Theravada monks can be seen wandering through the streets of several towns and villages in Southeast Asia, but nowhere else will you be able to witness a food collection ritual as impressive as the one that takes place every morning in the alleys of Luang Prabang. You’ll have to get up at dawn but it’s absolutely worth it!  

 Tak Bat, the Morning Alms Ceremony in Luang Prabang

3. Blend into the daily Morning market life

Immediately after the procession of monks, one must head to the morning market of Luang Prabang. Smell the heady scents of tropical flowers and fruits, spices and fish. Let yourself be tempted by local delicacies. Receive the smiles the townspeople give away freely. This is the perfect opportunity to discover the sweet and modest character of the local population. 

Daily morning market in Luang Prabang

4. Shopping at the handicrafts night market 

Once upon a time there was a dream market! It is a weekly event, from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm, that runs from Wat Mai, along Sisavangvong Road to downtown Settathilat Road. The street is closed to vehicles and traders from the hill tribes gather to sell or exchange various items: clothing, ceramics, bamboo, lamps, blankets, bedspreads, crafts and silk scarves.

Night market in Luang Prabang

5. Explore Luang Prabang Temples 

Venture into temples and monasteries, you will love the architecture and sublime wall paintings. Don’t forget to meet the monks, they will be happy to practice their English by answering all your questions. A beautiful encounter not to be missed! Discover the beautiful Vat Xieng Thong, the magnificent Wat Mai or Wat Sen.

temple in luangprabang

6. Visit the National Museum of Luang Prabang

Built in 1904 for King Sisavang Vong, it symbolizes the blend of traditional Lao style and French colonial era influence. After the King’s death, Crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family were the last ones to live in the palace. After the revolution of 1975, the building was taken over by the government and opened to the public in 1995. The palace has several buildings, including the royal barge, a conference room and Haw Pha Bang (flower pavilion) that houses Prabang statue (Standing Buddha). Many other religious objects can be seen, mainly in the front wing.

National museum in Luang Prabang

7. Take a trip to the magnificent Kuang Si water falls

30 km or 1 hour-drive away, you will find one of the most impressive waterfalls. The water color and the multiple stages are fascinatingly beautiful. Do not hesitate to swim in the dry season (January-April, November-October) the water then is crystal clear.

Kuang Si waterfall

8. Cool off in Tad Sae Waterfall

Unlike Kuang Si Falls, the Tad Sae waterfall is more popular with Laotians than with tourists. An excellent opportunity to get to know the customs of the Lao people. Suspended bridges and a zipline invite the more adventurous to throw themselves into the deepest pools.

9. Discover the Mekong Delta on board

Take a few hours to embark on one of the countless sampans, traditional junks sailing the mythical Mekong. You can hop on at any time of the day, although the best one is at sunset. Enjoy cruising through a beautiful rural landscape, villages hidden from mass tourism and Lao daily life.

Discover the Mekong Delta on board

10. Discover the Pak Ou Caves

The site of the Pak Ou Caves, discovered by Francis Garnier, French explorer and naval officer, is simply beautiful. Hundreds of Buddhas were laid over time in a cheerful organised anarchy, an invitation to contemplation.
These caves, located in a steep cliff above the Mekong, became sacred by accident. Indeed, statuettes were brought here to save them from the Black Flags (Chinese looters) at the end of the 19th century. Since then, it is a place of pilgrimage and one can bring his own statue.

11. Enjoy the sunset at the top of Mount Phou Si

If you spend some time in the streets of the city center and look up, you won’t miss Mount Phou Si! The ascent is definitely worth it. Climb just in time for sunset to enjoy this almost 360° view on the valley, the Mekong river and the mountains ...

12. Diner on the banks of the Mekong River

In front of the traditional houses of Luang Prabang, there are plenty of local restaurants on the banks of the Mekong. Taste Mok Pa (grilled fish in banana leaves), Tam mak houng (green papaya salad), laap (beef mince), and Lao beer at least once in your life.


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