My recent travel took me to Luang Prabang in Laos, a place I have not included on my must-see places before. It’s not that it is not popular, it was just not one of the countries in my priority list. It was a great opportunity to be invited by the Mekong Tourism for a multi-country familiarization tour. Mekong River crosses six (6) SouthEast Asian countries Laos included.
For those who are not familiar with it, Luang Prabang, Laos is one of the declared UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. It kept the honor of the title for decades they were able to preserve their original landscape. The ability of the city to blend traditional Laotian structure and the European architecture from the 19th and 20th century is commendable. Luang Prabang was colonized by France in 1895 . The European architechtural influence is very prominent in the area. Admittedly , I am smitted with the place. It is so beautiful, peaceful , clean, with no high rise buildings to block the magnificent hillside view.
Friendly reminder: Before going around Luang Prabang, visitors should know the proper decorum when in the city. Visitors are advised to wear proper clothing, no knees exposure, up to the ankle as much as possible. No chest and arms exposure as much as possible wear sleves top. It is also to be noted that politics should not be talked about. They forbid Laotian locals to have relationship with foreigners.
Now as we were, what are the things you can do that I did when I was there:
Witness the Monks Alms Giving Tradition (Tak Bat)
Everyday at sunrise (usually starts at 6am) Buddhist monks of Luang Prabang go around the city to recieve alms from townsfolks and tourist. This is a religious practice which has great for the population of Luang Prabang. However, because of fascination to the outsiders/ tourist, it has become a major tourist attraction. There are certain behaviours that on-lookers needs to follow when they decide to witness this event. According to our tourist guide the Buddhist monks do this to get the things they need for the day like food, drinks, even school supplies or money. Excess will be given to the less fortunate people.
I was a bit surprised when I saw monks giving alms to fellow monks when we were there. I learned that the monks who were giving alms were actually monks from Thailand and not Luang Prabang. So, they also come to Luang Prabang to give the excess things they have and participate in the tradition. It was also weird to see the “tourist Monks” carrying high tech gadgets (SLR cams, iPads and smartphones) and were also taking photos of their fellow Monks during the ceremony.
You may watch what I witnessed in this video:
National Museum- formerly Royal Palace
The Luang Prabang National Museum was formerly the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang, inside was all the memorabilias from the Royal Family from throne, clothes, photos , gifts they recieved from foreign visitors. Photography is not allowed inside. Visitors who are not wearing proper attire are forbiden to come inside. Exposed knees , arms is not allowed. You may rent for sarong , malong or coverup at the reception .
Wat Xieng Thong Temple
This was the first temple we visited in Luang Prabang. Tt was located within the compound of the Royal Palace now a Museum. The Wat Xieng Thong Temple is where the Luang Prabang Buddha lies. No pictures are allowed inside . You can take photos around it. The temple used to be the study room of the King of Luang Prabang.
Wat Long Khoun Temple
Resting close to the river on the banks of the Mekong, Buddhist temple Wat Long Khoun has long and historically significant connections to the Luang Prabang royal family. Also known as the ‘Monastery of the Happy’ the temple once served as a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual rejuvenation including any new king who would retreat to the Wat for three days cleansing and meditation prior to his coronation at Wat Xieng Thong.
Wat Long Khoun is typical of local Luang Prabang architecture of the 18th century . Compared I love the temples here as they are more elaborate in style and features gilded columns and intricate wood carvings. There were mosaic in the halls that look similar as the Royal Palace.
Best Temple to Visit in Luang Prabang
We had our first dinner at the 3Nagas Restaurant. It used to be the ice-cream house of the Royal Family. 3Nagas is famous for their artisanal ice-cream. I super enjoyed the dinner we had here. It was their famous set-menu that is highly recommend for visitors to try. It was absolutely delicious I tell you!
Manda de Laos
Aside from the delicious house concoction cocktails, this restaurant with its 3 lotus ponds have been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. I very much enjoyed the cocktails we had and the food is also yummy!
Day and Night Market
It’s a must to visit the Day and Night Market that happens at the center of the city everyday. The Day market is kinda different from the night market though fresh produce can be found there, some textiles and souvenirs but not as many as what can be found at the night market. At the night market you buy all sorts of things you need from food, clothing, souvenirs, the popular Beer Lao, trinkets and many more.
A Taste of the Day Market of Luang Prabang
Discover History and Culture of Laos Through Textile
Ock Pop Tok
Ock Pop Tok is more than just one place. It is a weaving center, a culture center, a training center for aspiring weavers, and a place to rest and relax at the same time. But more than all of what I mentioned the place is a social entrepreneur site where they empower Laotian women through weaving and textiles.
Where to Stay in Luang Prabang?
I was there for two days and we were lucky enough to be booked in the most luxurious hotel in Luang Prabang, Sofitel Luang Prabang. We were initally booked at 3Nagas but the Accor Hotels decided that we should get an upgrade and have the best of what the city has to offer. One drawback was Sofitel was a couple minutes away from the town proper while 3Nagas was in the heart of the town which is walking distance to all the places you want to see in the city. But I don’t mind. They have free car service to take you to the city. Going back is not a problem as there are multi-cabs you can hire to take you back and around the city.
The room I was checked in is one of the best hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in all staycations I had so far! Imagine having two tubs, one indoor and one outdoor, my super comfy queensize bed that I felt like I was sleeping on clouds. Big bathroom , toilet hidden from view! A magnificent garden view, overlooking a beautiful pool (I can hardly swim on coz it was 4.5 feet all the way! I am 5.1 the pool when I stand is exactly on my nose haha!) The breakfast was delicious, serving and plating was perfect. Mostly breakfast buffet was take all you can but you can’t eat it all, this buffet was perfect I ate everything and it was delicious!
I can tell you more but you can watch this video of Sofitel Luang Prabang I took during my stay.
How to get there?
Thai Air Asia flies ones daily to Luang Prabang Airport (LPQ) from Bangkok, Thailand Airport (DMK)
Or there is an option to do the cross-border cross-country trip we did. Flying in from Bangkok to Nan Thailand and travel by land to the border of Laos and Thailand and ride the Mekong River Cruise. For flight details and bookings visit www.airasia.com.
Do I recommend visiting Luang Prabang?
Absolutely recommended! Culture, Art, History, Architechture, Food, Nature, and everything in between is found in there. They strictly implement no highrise buildings to maintain the UNESCO World Heritage Site Title . Aside from what we did, there are other things to do there such as trekking/ hiking all the way to the top where you can overlook the city. There’s water rafting/ boating and an elephant sanctuary we were not able to visit. It means I should come back and I will!
Stay gorgeous everyone!