Luang Prabang is a wonderful quiet city, there is a slowness to the pace of things and doesn’t have the grimy feeling of many of the larger cities in SE Asia. It sits on the Mekong river, with many boat trips you can take along it.
There is a large choice of quaint little restaurants and market stalls with some great things to do while you’re there. When I visited, I had originally planned just to stay for a few days as I didn’t expect there to be that much to do, but I ended up staying a week and enjoyed every day
Feeding the Monks
This is a truly unique and wonderful experience to see, We got up at 5.30 am and made our way through the quite streets that were dotted with other tourists that had the same plan this morning.
We reached the main street where the monks parade down, with an ever gathering hoard of tourists. We then sat down on the pavement and waited, we could see the procession of orange in the distance by about 6 am as they made there way towards us. Its a long line of saffron robes, each of them holds a basket for food to be placed into to.
It is a humbling spectacle to behold, however that is what it has become, a spectacle. It feels a bit like a tourist attraction rather than a traditional ceremony as some tourists are not so respectful of the event. Try to read up about the culture and the meaning behind the event, especially if you want to participate and actually provide food to them.
Try to keep a good distance from them and not push your camera up into their faces, and avoid using the flash also. Despite the minor shortcomings provided by a few inconsiderate tourists, it is still well worth the visit.
There is a certain awe to the event, it does feel like you have an insight into a long standing tradition, and you wont regret having to wake up so early!
There are many temples to see the Luang Prabang, but Wat Chom Si is one up on top of a hill (mount phosi) in the centre of town that is a must do.
You should go towards the end of the day to catch the sunset, you have great panoramic views across the sprawling buildings and jungle in the distance.
Its quite a magical experience and only takes 15 minutes or so to walk up the steps where you will experience the setting of the sun, but I would recommend you try to get there early and get a good spot. As there are countless others that have ventured up to witness the beautiful sunset too, so there is a bit of jostling to get a good view.
Kuang Si Falls
There is a series of waterfalls that are about 18 miles (29 km) outside the city, there are around 3 actual waterfalls and many other small ones. You can catch a bus from the city to take you there and back, and they give you plenty of time to explore the area.
You can swim under certain parts and feel the water fall onto you as you swim in the pools. There is a walkway that takes you upstream to the main large waterfall, Kang Si Falls, at the top which stands 60m tall with a great wash of powerful water falling down.
There is also a bear sanctuary that you can see on the walk up to the falls which was a bit of surprise bonus for me.
There are several different elephant riding experiences that are offered around the city, with varying degrees in price and care to the animals.
So you want to make sure that you visit one that doesn’t mistreat the elephants, I am told the elephant village one is the best in terms of care for the elephants. The prices are more expensive than alternative options in the town but at least you know that they are treated well.
Once the sun has set over the city, the main street comes to life and there is a huge night market that fills almost the entire length of the road.
There are many different stalls selling a variety of souvenirs from traditional Laos clothing to traditional tribal crafts. If you are looking for a gift to bring back home you will definitely find one here, it also gives you a chance to practice your haggling as you will need to!
Luang Prabang established a French protectorate in 1893, therefore you will see a French influence in some of the buildings and the food. The most obvious being the baguettes, which you HAVE to try. They are sold in food stalls on the main street, with a nice selection of fillings, along with a fruit smoothie if you wish.
I know it is good to try to local cuisine, but these baguettes were so good, I went there almost everyday for lunch.
Have you heard of Luang Prabang, Laos? Ever been? Have I convinced you to visit?