The lowlands of northern Laos have always been home to Buddhism. At their heart, there lies Luang Prabang – a small valley town stretching along the mystic Mekong River. For many years young novices have been travelled to visit Luang Prabang from the countryside to become monks.
Although Luang Prabang is a quiet, placid place inhabited by kind and friendly people who lead a devoted Buddhist lifestyle it is Laos` premier tourist destination.
1.START a day with Morning Alms (Tak Bat) – a religious ritual and a long tradition for the local people. Observing Buddhist monks streaming out of the temples just before the dawn, walking down the town and accepting offering given by the kneeling locals is quite a spectacle.
2.HIKE up to the Phou Si stupa that dominates the town and enjoy the striking views from the summit in the early morning before it gets too hot.
3.TAKE a self-guided tour around the town and pay a visit to the historical sites of Haw Kham Royal Palace and the Wat Xieng Thong Temple. It is easily walked but you can hire a bicycle, too.
4.ARRANGE a boat trip to the Ban Xang Hai, or so called “Whisky Village“. It is a unique encounter and you can learn about the peculiar Lao Whisky. ‘Lao Lao’ is made of snakes, spiders, bugs or other insects which get fermented together with whiskey, bottled in a very spectacular way and create an eye-catching souvenir. Appreciate magnificent sunset over the Mekong River on the way back.
5.SEARCH around the evening food markets and allow yourself the tasty national dish of Laos: Laap (a meat-base salad flavoured with lime, garlic and mint and ground toasted rice, served in a leaf of lettuce) Also try the famous “Lao sandwich“, which is basically a French baguette stuffed with all sorts of secret ingredients sold literally on every corner. So delicious!
6.FEAST your eyes on the bright-colored artistic night markets; one of the most beautiful street markets in South-East Asia. A great spot for souvenir hunt without any hustle!
7.ENJOY a romantic candle-lit dinner at sunset overlooking the river or just stretch out on a comfortable couch of the Utopia Bar and enjoy an ultimate chill-out ambiance of Utopia.
8.VISIT one of the Elephant Sanctuaries near Luang Prabang. Learn more about eco-tourism and its flip-side and do some jungle trekking.
9.HAVE a swim in the idyllic Kuang Xi Waterfalls. As you walk upstream the river, the falls begin with shallow, turquoise, cascading pools which will lead you to the main waterfall (60 m high). You can either swim in the shallow waters of the lower pools or climb to the very top of the main waterfall and dive into its refreshing pool. Very exciting! On the way to the falls you will pass by a small sun bear sanctuary, so don`t forget to pack a camera.
10.CATCH a slow boat to the Pak Ou Caves (2 hrs). This sacred Buddhist site is situated in a limestone cliff by Mekong River. The caves are special for their miniature Buddha sculptures in various positions (meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining, etc.). Tham Ting is the lower cave and Tham Theung the upper one and both can be accessed via stairs.
WHEN TO VISIT LUANG PRABANG
The best time to visit Luang Prabang is between November and February when it tends to be drier. However, Luang Prabang often gets heavy rains throughout a year.
Suggested time to stay in Luang Prabang is 3-5 days (this small town might seem to be quiet and boring but in fact, it offers many activities and attractions. You will definitely fall in love with this place so you might even want to extend your stay)
Remember to respect the Buddhist culture; dress appropriately and learn a little bit about the local etiquette before you arrive.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Luang Prabang (via Vientiane).
Alternatively, fly to Vientiane and catch a public bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang (6 hrs).
Otherwise, there is a good bus connection with Thailand and Vietnam if traveling overland.
For all international flights check out www.skyscanner.com or www.momondo.com
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After living here for over 6 years I think it good to “correct” some in the bottom (advise) part of this great review.
Visiting is great all year round as the sweltering heat isn’t that blistering and the downpours are few and bring that real tropical feeling.
Between November and February, bring a sweater as it gets really cold at times, down to 3-5 degrees C and hardly any accommodation has heating.
It is better to learn more than “a little bit” about local etiquette before you arrive, walking around shirtless, in bikini or catching sun rays half naked along the peninsula are not among the “things to do”.
Bus Rides up from VTE take at least 10 ours if circumstances are favorable and very unlikely to be met between November and February, fly!