Luang Prabang is an undiscovered gem with 33 villages designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old town is centered on a peninsula at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. It's rich in historical sites, natural resources and diverse ethnic culture.
The Wat Xieng Thong, Royal Palace Museum and Mount Phou Si are the highlights of the old town charm. For visitors who are keen on adventure and outdoor activities, the ideal places to go are the Kuang Si Falls, Pak Ou Caves and the Elephant Village.
Observe the Almsgiving Ceremony
In the Tak Bat, Buddhist monks form a line to march through town silently at dawn carrying alms bowls and waiting for locals to put food into the bowls. This parade of vibrant orange robes taking place every morning is one of the most vivid images of Luang Prabang. Rising early and heading to the main street to see this solemn ceremony is a must-do when visiting the city.
Please observe these basic courtesies: Dress properly and keep your shoulders and legs covered; keep a respectful distance and observe the ritual in silence; do not make physical contact with the monks or talk to them.
Wander Around the Morning Market
Visit the morning market after the almsgiving ceremony to grab some well-cooked proteins and classic baguettes before you explore the area further. Located in the alleys off the Sisavangvong Road in the city centre, the morning market is where locals come to do their daily shopping.
It is liveliest in the early morning when locals stock up on fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and food wrapped in banana leaves. Take a stroll to find fresh ingredients and enjoy the delicious Lao breakfast at the eateries nearby. The experience truly provides an insight into the daily life of the locals.
Appreciate the Temple of the Golden City, the Wat Xieng Thong
As the most significant Buddhist monastery in Laos, the Wat Xieng Thong is centered on a chapel built in 1560. Located off Th Sakkarin near where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet, the holy structure is set amidst beautiful gardens with well-manicured lawns.
The chapel's sloping roofs sweep low to the ground and dotted around are several shrines and stupas for you to explore. Also, the "tree of life" mosaic on its exterior can't be missed. You may incidentally catch a glimpse of monks going about their daily routines on the grounds.
Discover Lao History in the Royal Palace Museum
Located off Sisavangvong Road, the Royal Palace was originally built in 1904, and has become today's museum. It was once the residence of King Sisavang Vong, whose statue still stands outside the conference hall. The architecture reflects the influence of traditional Lao motifs and French beaux-arts styles, and has been laid out with regal marble steps leading visitors into the main entrance hall.
Murals depicting scenes of everyday Lao life are hung along the walls of the King's reception room. A collection of the most prized art, including the Phra Bang, an 83cm-tall gilded Buddha, is displayed in the right front corner room. The museum grants visitors a close look not only at the country, but also at the Lao royal family.
The museum is open 8am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 4pm, Wednesday through Monday. Visitors must be appropriately dressed, which means no sleeveless shirts or shorts.
Enjoy the Panoramic View of Luang Prabang from Mount Phou Si
The best way to start or finish a day is to climb the hundreds of steps leading to the top of Mount Phou Si, to see spectacular panoramic sunrise and sunset views. Located in the city center, Mount Phou Si is a hill sacred to the Lao people, with several scattered Buddha shrines.
Once you reach the peak, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city streets, of other noted landmarks and of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. It takes about two hours to climb the winding path to the mountain peak, but you can stop for a rest at any shady spot.
See Diverse Lao Arts at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
Located at the foot of the Mount Pou Si, the TAEC is dedicated to preserving the arts and customs of the diverse ethnic population of Laos. Housed in a UNESCO-protected historical building, the centre displays a variety of religious artifacts, ethnic textiles, handicrafts, woven baskets and household wares.
You can catch a glimpse of the traditional life of the Lao people and gain a deeper understanding of Lao culture through the displays. Visitors can also purchase crafts and souvenirs at the museum's shop to help the ethnic minorities to preserve their artisanal heritage.
Cool Off Down at the Kuang Si Falls
Located about 29km outside Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si Falls is a three-tier turquoise waterfall set in a lush, well-manicured public park. From the top of a hill, the water rushes down in a 60-meter cascade, tumbling over limestone formations into menthol-green shallow pools.
Wander around peaceful paths and stand on quaint wooden bridges over the water to capture idyllic photos. It's an ideal place to enjoy the beauty of nature and cool off. There is also a butterfly park nearby where you can observe a wide variety of species and learn about local conservation efforts.
Board a Boat to See the Dramatic Pak Ou Caves
Located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers, the Pak Ou Caves are cut into limestone cliffs and packed with thousands of miniature wooden Buddhist figures. The caves serve as a holy site for Lao people and locals go into the caves to wash the Buddha statues ceremonially or to place their own figurines.
The only way to get into the caves is by boat and most boat trips stop at small villages along the way, especially the "Whisky Village" which is known for its strong rice whisky.
Venture into the Elephant Village
Located close to the banks of the Nam Khan River, the Elephant Village Sanctuary mainly functions as a center for conservation of elephants by providing a peaceful living environment for them to rest and recover from brutal logging work.
The sanctuary offers an adventuresome experience with basic mahout (elephant-rider) training and a one-hour elephant ride through the jungle. Visitors can learn a lot about these magnificent mammals while doing the training and exploring the jungle trail. In addition, if you take this tour some of your funds will go towards the sanctuary and benefit both the elephants and the local staff.
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