Luang Prabang in north central Laos sits right next to the Mekong and the Khan river. Most parts of the city are UNESCO protected and with its 33 temples saffron-clad monks are a firm part of the cityscape. Although there has been lot of investment in the past years the city still remains a lot of its quiet atmosphere. Besides the lovely city center which has been shaped by French influences the surrounding offers a lot of opportunities to go hiking or climbing and explore the outstanding natural beauty.
How to get there?
So far there are no direct flights into Laos from Europe. But Luang Prabang International Airport can easily be reached via one of the neighbor countries. You can also enter Laos via land – there are several border crossings and bus connections available.
If you get the chance to travel to Luang Prabang towards the day of full moon in the 12th month the Thai lunar calendar (probably around October/November) you will be able to witness the Loi Krathong festival of lights. The whole city will be covered in colorful lanterns, candles and other beautiful lights which create a very fascinating atmosphere. On the peak day (full moon) there will be a big parade with huge colorful boats made of bamboo and rice paper.
How long to stay?
Luang Prabang is quite a small town. With only about 55.000 inhabitants the main tourist area stays within the city center and most of the tourist rarely explore other parts of the city. There are a couple of activities to do in town and around, but we think that you can finish them all within 3-4 days. We have met people who only stayed for one night, as well as people who already stayed for more than a month. So depending on your style of traveling you might want to shorten or extend your stay a little.
Where to stay?
There are several hotels, resorts and guest houses located around the city center. The place we stayed at is the Phanthasone Guest House. It is located quite convenient: Close to the Morning Market and to the city center. We stayed in a double room with air condition and private bathroom at around 10 EUR per night. It offers you good Laos accommodation (basic furniture, but clean and comfortable).
Wat Xieng Thong There are 33 temples located in Luang Prabang. The biggest and probably most important one is the Wat Xiang Thong. It is located more towards the end of the city center right next to the Mekong river. The temple still remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional art. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including a sim, shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees. Make sure to dress appropriate if you want to visit the temple (shorts are ok, but women should at least cover their shoulders). Entrance fee is about 1,50 EUR. Bamboo Tree Cooking Class The Bamboo Tree is considered to be one of the best restaurants within Luang Prabang. For around 25 EUR you can take a cooking class with around 6-7 people. They will teach you 6 dishes and you will be given a certificate as well as small cook book with around 25 recipes. One class runs in the morning (9 am – 2 pm) and another one in the afternoon. The morning class costs a bit more as they will take you to a big local market to try and buy the ingredients for the dishes. You will cook outside in front of the restaurant which is quite nice and a really good experience. Night Market The night market can be visited every night between 5 pm to 11 pm right in the center of town. Here you can buy food and traditional gifts, clothes and souvenirs. Morning Market This market sometimes is also called the „Fresh Produce Market“ and somehow can be considered as a Laotian “supermarket” where they come to buy their fruit, vegetables and meat. It usually starts around 5 or 6 am and lasts until 4 pm. Tat Kuang Si Falls Once you are in Luang Prabang you will notice countless TukTuks offering you trips to either a “waterfall“, a “cave“ or both of them. By waterfall they mean the famous Tat Kuang Si Falls which definitely are worth a visit. We booked a tour with a private minivan via our guest house, costing around 5 EUR per person for both ways. The TukTuks mostly charge you around 3 EUR for one way. So negotiate well or ask a local to help you book a tour. You can easily spend a whole day at the waterfall and explore the different levels, pools and even a bear sanctuary. Make sure to have enough time to enjoy everything as much as possible! You can also rent a scooter to go there. But these are quite expensive in Luang Prabang (around 10 EUR per day) and you also have to pay for the parking lot. Entrance fee at the waterfall is around 2 EUR. Mount Phou Si This mountain is about 100 m high and located within the city center of Luang Prabang (opposite of the National Museum). The hill is a local religious site, and houses several Buddhist shrines. Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, you get a good view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Here you will also find Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang. On the way down (at around 4 pm) we met some local monks which were quite keen on talking to tourists to improve their English. This was an awesome way to get to know more about how they live. Big Brother Mouse Traditionally, books have been rare in Laos. The number of children who go to school is slowly but steadily increasing, yet many children have never read a book outside of school textbooks. Few Lao people think that reading can be fun, can add to their education, or will provide information to improve their quality of life. Big Brother Mouse tries to change this by providing fun books to the Laos people. They have a shop in Luang Prabang where you can purchase small books to give them to Laos children during your stay in smaller villages. They also offer English classes and are always happy to have some fluent speakers attend them to talk to the students. Classes normally are from 9 am – 12 am and from 5 pm to 7 pm. We really enjoyed spending some time with the students and get in touch with them.