Luang Prabang TOP 5

Once you’ve mastered the skill of pronouncing the tongue twisting name of LUANG PRABANG, you can indulge in what this gem of a place has to offer. Deep in the north western parts of Laos, you find this stunning place which nature has adorned with not only one, but two meandering rivers.

The rivers that encompass Luang Prabang aren't just spectacularly beautiful. It's the only playground the local kids have.

However, Luang Prabang (or Luang PABANG as the Lao people say) is not at all the secluded, spiritual hideaway we expected it to be. There seems to be a Happy Hour going 24/7, a night market geared towards us – the tourists, and there’s possibly more guest houses in the little town than actual housing for the locals. Still, you don’t have to look far to find its essence.

Here’s our pick of the best ways to enjoy Luang Prabang

1. Alms

The Buddhist monks receive their alms from the people every morning. It is a beautiful ritual where the monks line up, and fill their little purpose made baskets with sticky rice offered to them by the Lao people. It’s an authentic and ethereal glimpse into the ways of Buddhism.

Get up at 5 am, and catch the magic!

2. Down by the river

Luang Prabang is a peninsula sitting right between the mighty Mekong to the East and the Mae Kok River – a tributary to the Mekong, to the West. By the river banks you can easily track the pulse that these rivers add to the place. It is still one of the town’s main arteries as far as transport is concerned, and it’s also a great place to haggle for a scenic boat ride. The owners of the commercial vessels are always eager to make an extra buck or two or ten!

A long boat full of oranges docks by the river, and it seems like the whole village is employed for a crazy few hours

3. The village people

Most of Luang Prabang’s inhabitants live off tourism. If you want to experience real Lao village life, you’ll need to rent a bike or a moped and head out of town. Any direction will do, but be warned – all tuc tuc drivers will want to take you to the Hmong village on the way to the Kuang Si waterfalls (check out the milky turquoise pool below the falls in our previous post). What awaits you there is an utterly poor village full of stunning Hmong people milking their tribal heritage for what it’s worth. There are stalls selling hand made stuff to tourists, as well as a traditional game where the Hmong throw a small ball to each other while singing. It is cute, but unspoilt it is not.

Right outside Luang Prabang you'll find life as it always has been.

4. Get chatting to at least one monk

Luang Prabang is full of Buddhist monks, and although they have a solemn look on their face, they are MORE than up for a chat and a giggle. They are happy to answer questions about their practice, and they are even happier to get the opportunity to practice their English and Geography skills.

Our son explaining the monk how to play rock, scissors and paper.

5. Take in the views

 Possibly the best thing about Luang Prabang is that the shores of the river are lined with bars. Some loud and touristy, others much more low key. Grab a front row seat to see the spectacular sunset as the sky turns golden over the Mae Kok River. Order a freshly made (and absolutely heavenly) smoothie, and allow time to stand still for a few serene moments.

A drink with a view. THAT view!

Was there anything we didn’t like?

Well yes. We were not charmed by what is meant to be a charming night market with stalls selling handmade crafts and all sorts of other touristy paraphernalia. The only Lao people in the market were the men and women selling, and although some of the stuff for sale was beautifully made, the market is so big that you end up seeing the same items everywhere.

the entrance to the night market, a place to loose yourself for hours, or simply to loose your bearings.


5 comments on “Luang Prabang TOP 5

  1. Great post, and beautiful photos! Thanks for the cultural sightseeing and activity tips. It’s always nice to read about the less touristy side of travel!

  2. Pingback: Night train from Bangkok « Photito's Blog – a travel journalist confesses

  3. Hi, I read your article about the elephants in Luang Probang, we are really keen to do that, we were just wondering if you remember the name of the company you did it with?

    Many thanks.

  4. I am planning to travel from Luang Prabang to Hanoi and these photographs really make me very excited to get on the plane and go. The night market and river pics that you posted look out of this world. I am certainly looking forward to having my drink by the river too. Thank you for sharing what must have been an unforgettable experience .
    If anyone is planning a trip to Laos as I am, you may also find this site useful. It’s full of useful tips and written by a real traveller.

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