Known for its gorgeous architecture, colonial charms, and enchanting dreamy atmosphere, Luang Prabang is often said to be one of the prettiest cities in all of Southeast Asia. A former capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang is located towards the north of the country.
A UNESCO World Heritage city, Luang Prabang is also sometimes called the Jewel of the Mekong … you’ll discover why!
Here are some ideas of how to spend your time in this delightful Laotian city:
1. Discover numerous glittering temples
With more than 30 beautiful Buddhist temples scattered around Luang Prabang, you certainly won’t find the city lacking in cultural and spiritual sights! Monks wander the grounds in their bright orange robes, many walking around bare-footed, and locals visit the shrines and sacred statues to pay their respects and make merit.
The temples are noted for their gleaming décor and ornate designs, many boasting shining tiled roofs and an abundance of statues of the Lord Buddha as well as statues of a variety of some of the more famous Hindu deities.
Many of the larger temples charge a small entrance fee of 20,000 LAK (approximately 2.50 USD) for non-Laotian visitors and donations are also gratefully received.
Remember to dress conservatively when exploring the temples, with your shoulders and knees covered. And, if you see a pile of shoes outside a hall or shrine, this is a key indication that you should slip yours off too!
Some of the most well-known temples include Wat Mai with its gorgeous golden details underneath the multi-tiered roof, Wat That Luang with its large golden Buddha, tall stupa that is believed to house sacred relics, and the remains of a former king, and the spectacular Wat Xieng Thong.
2. Visit beautiful waterfalls near the city centre
There are several gorgeous waterfalls within close proximity of the city centre, with one of the most spectacular being the multi-tiered Kuang Si Falls. As you walk up to the start of the waterfall trail, you will pass by a small rescue centre for Asiatic black bears. It is called the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre and is operated by Free the Bears. The cuddly-looking animals amble through their large enclosures, playfully roll around on the ground, chill out in pools of water, and lounge on their wooden climbing equipment. Rescued from bile farms and poachers, it is nice to see them being well-cared for now.
At the first level of the falls, there is a large pool that is suitable for swimming. Rope swings offer heaps of water fun and it is amusing watching others hurl themselves into the refreshingly cool greeny-blue waters.
As you continue up the trail, you will come to a wooden platform with terrific views of the largest cascade as it tumbles over the rocks into the turquoise pool below. If you are feeling energetic, you can continue climbing, although the track does become more challenging at this point. Watch out for leeches!
Admission to Kuang Si Falls is 20,000 LAK (approximately 2.50 USD).
Other pretty waterfalls in the vicinity include Tad Sae Waterfall and Tad Thong Waterfall.
3. Browse and shop in the lively evening market
A fabulous place to load up on local souvenirs and handicrafts, head to Sisavangvong Road each evening for a wide array of tempting goods. Vendors set up their stalls around 5pm, packing up for the night at around 10pm. Five hours of shopping extravaganza every single evening! The road is closed to traffic during this time.
With around 300 stalls selling an impressive selection of items, almost everyone is sure to find something that grabs their attention and makes them want to spend their Kip! There are T-shirts, printed pants, sun dresses, bags of all shapes and sizes, bedding, cushions, table runners, paintings, bamboo lamps, paper lanterns, carved wooden ornaments, ceramics, books, photo frames, beaded jewellery, decorative tableware, shoes … and more! Get ready to be dazzled! You’ll even notice opium pipes amongst the trinkets and knick-knacks.
If you’re feeling peckish, you can grab something from one of the food carts, dishes freshly prepared on the spot. For an eye-popping selection of local food, however, you should check out the adjacent Night Food Market. The noodles are particularly recommended.
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Other highlights of Luang Prabang that will entice you to linger
Unwind and take it easy with a peaceful stroll along the banks of the river, or immerse yourself into the local food scene with a fun cookery class. Climb Pou Si Hill for incredible sweeping views and sunset vistas and visit nearby ethnic villages, pottery villages, and villages that make the potent rice whiskies known as lao Lao and lao hai.
Take some time to just meander the streets and soak up the different architectural styles, and see where Buddhist statues go upon retirement at the Pak Ou Caves.
Visit Laos’s Luang Prabang and see why so many people fall in love with this atmospheric and attractive city.
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