Luang Prabang, located in north central Laos, is a UNESCO world heritage city and truly deserving of its title; the countryside, surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers contribute to the splendour, whilst the French colonial architecture and stunning temples make the city truly superb.
The unassuming destination of Laos has largely remained under the radar for mass tourism, which means it’s the perfect place to visit! The pace is still slow, the culture and traditions still apparent, the people welcoming and the countryside beautiful. Laos only opened up its borders to tourists in the late 80’s, but since then it’s become a lot easier to visit. You can cross overland from Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia or fly in to Vientiane or Luang Prabang. Visas are purchased on arrival and you must only remember to take a spare passport photo and some US dollars to obtain one.
Luang Prabang is set at the confluence of two rivers and is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains and greenery. The town itself is a stunning mélange of traditional Laotian wooden houses and French colonial architecture, dating from the time when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. With UNESCO so closely involved in preserving this beautiful town you’ll be surprised by the cleanliness and atmosphere of this charming city.
ACTIVITIES IN LUANG PRABANG
There’s an abundance of activities for all tastes to keep you busy in Luang Prabang – from a trip to the Royal Palace museum or the Ethnology museum (if you’re interested in the unique history and customs of the population groups throughout Laos). Or you may want to explore and take a dip in the nearby turquoise coloured waterfalls, try your hand at training to be a mahout (an elephant handler), or even take a fun local cooking course!
Luang Prabang is also where you may wish to start early and witness the giving of alms (donated food) to the many saffron robed monks. It’s an important tradition for the locals to support the Pagodas (temples) and give to the monks – who are only allowed to eat food donated to them before noon. It’s a memorable experience to witness this daily act of kindness and solidarity amongst the Laotians.
A top tip for sticking to your budget is to head off the main road for dinner and stroll along the Mekong Riverside instead – there are lots of great, authentic restaurants along there that get forgotten – even though it’s only a 5 minute walk from the main hub to the riverside!
5 things not to miss in Luang Prabang:
- Shopping – For great bargains and beautiful local handicrafts head to the daily night market. Starting from about 6pm every night the main street is full of locals selling their wares – there’s something for everyone and we guarantee you won’t leave empty handed!
- Natural surroundings – You must venture out of town to take in the spectacular colours of the Kuang Si waterfalls. Hike to the top of the waterfall and get some brilliant photos standing under it, or just relax in one of the many lagoons.
- Laos Barbeque – the brilliant local cuisine is showcased at the nightly food market. You pick exactly what you wish to eat and then it’s barbequed for you so it’s always fresh and healthy.
- The views – it’s definitely worth climbing the steps up the main hill in Luang Prabang to take in the stunning views of the area.
- Buddha cave – a short boat ride down the river takes you to the fascinating Pak Ouk cave which houses thousands upon thousands of Buddha statues! You can visit the caves independently or take an inexpensive half day trip to visit surrounding local villages too.
This is a guest post from Rachel, founder of www.footprintsworldwide.com – a new budget small group tour company who’s mantra is discover. relax. contribute. explore, as on a Footprints tour you get the best of both worlds – helping and learning about the local community while also having fun, seeing the sights and meeting new people! Responsible Travel and giving back to the local community are key to Footprints Worldwide and Rachel, who has lived, worked and travelled in many countries.