The history of Luang Prabang is rich and fascinating. Your experience of the temples, museums and natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage town in northern Laos is enhanced with the knowledge of an expert guide. Here are some of the best sight seeings in Luang Prabang you should not miss.
TOP MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS IN LUANG PRABANG
1. Wat Xieng Thong (Buddhist Temple)
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most elaborately adorned temples in the UNESCO World Heritage portion of Luang Prabang.
Enter one of the smaller shrines and test your strength and conviction by attempting to lift a seated buddha statue while kneeling and thinking of a wish.
The temple has been restored several times over the years and has over 20 buildings on the property.
2. Mount Phousi
Phousi means ‘sacred mountain’ and it’s located quite literally in the middle of Luang Prabang. Climb the more than 300 steps to the summit where you’ll find a temple, Buddha’s giant footprint and golden stupa. There are two sets of stairs, one across from the Royal Palace Museum and one on the road that runs along the Nam Khan. Visit Mount Phousi at dawn to avoid the crowds or at dusk if you’re willing to battle the crowds for the golden hour panoramic view.
3. Royal Temple Museum
The former Royal Palace was build in 1904 and abdicated in 1975 with the Pathet Lao took over Laos’ government. Now a museum, admission is 30,000 kip ($3.75 USD) and photography and personal belongings are not permitted inside. Make sure to check out the Phabang Buddha statute that dates back to the 14th century and gave Luang Prabang it’s name.
OPENING HOURS: 08.00am-11.30am & 1.30pm-4.00pm, last entry 3.30pm
4. Kuang Si Waterfalls
In addition to the absolutely stunning views of what is arguably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, there are tons of other activities in the town to check out. You might even stay over night in order to leisurely enjoy the nature. Make a pit stop at the Laos Buffalo Dairy on the way out for cheese, ice cream and to feed the baby buffalo. Then spend an hour or two at the Luang Prabang Butterfly Garden. Save the Bears sanctuary is just past the gates on the way to the falls. Above the falls, a man sells beer and soft drinks and takes visitors on a raft farther up stream.
5. Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens is both a teaching centre for the public and a research centre for botanists. Check out their artist-in-residence program where creators from all over the world create art and lead workshops for visitors. See endangered trees such as the Dipterocarp and Water Pine as well as their orchid collection.
The sobering UXO Laos Information Centre helps you get a grip on the devastation Laos suffered in the Second Indochina War and how nearly 40 years later death or injury from unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains an everyday reality in several provinces. If you miss it here, there's a similar centre in Phonsavan. In September 2016 the then president Barack Obama announced that the US would provide an additional US$90 million to address the problem of UXO in Laos over the next three years.
Wat Mai is one of the city's most sumptuous monasteries, its wooden sǐm (ordination hall) sporting a five-tiered roof in archetypal Luang Prabang style, while the unusually roofed front verandah features detailed golden reliefs depicting scenes from village life, the Ramayana and Buddha's penultimate birth. It was spared destruction in 1887 by the Haw gangs who reportedly found it too beautiful to harm. Since 1894 it has been home to the Sangharat, the head of Lao Buddhism.
OPENING HOURS: 08.00am-5.00pm
8. Pak Ou Caves
Pak means mouth and the two caves at the mouth of the Ou River are Tham Ting and Tham Theung. The caves have been spiritual places for centuries and were thought to be occupied by spirits by the animists in the region even before Buddhists began bringing wooden Buddha statues to the cave. Bring a headlamp and enjoy the river views on the way up and down the Mekong.
9. River Cruise
Whether you get on a boat for 10 minutes on your way from Luang Prabang to the Botanical gardens, or for 11 days travelling up the Mekong from Luang Prabang to the Golden Triangle with Mekong River Cruises, you’re bound to have a greater appreciation for Southeast Asia’s largest river. Catch the sunset and watch the fishermen casting their nets against the karst mountain backdrop.
10. Tad Sae Waterfalls
Tad Sae waterfall can make a great full or half-day trip. Visit during a weekday if you want to minimise interactions with the crowds. For those interested in hiking, Tad Sae offers many streams and trails to explore. Visit from August to November for the best views and dress modestly if you’re going swimming. You’ll notice local Lao people swim fully clothed or covered in a sarong. Pack a picnic lunch and some Beer Lao and enjoy the views.
11. Morning Market
Get up with the sun, out the door and to Luang Prabang’s morning market. As opposed to the night market that’s geared toward tourists, you’ll see many locals buying their groceries at the morning market. Vendors sell all manner of produce such as galangal, kefir leafs and lemon grass, and fruits like passion fruit, dragon fruit and the smelly-sweet durian. Perhaps the most interesting to foreigners, though, is the protein. Live fish, ox blood, insects, bats, and pigs heads are all available for purchase.
12. Night Market
The night market in Luang Prabang is open from 5 pm until around 10 pm every night of the week. Check it out to try delicious yet inexpensive street food like fried mushrooms and seaweed, spring rolls and baked goods. The stalls lining the main road are closed to cars so factor in a detour if you’re not on a bicycle or motorbike. Souvenir stalls sell t-shirts, handicrafts like textiles, paintings and trinkets, as well as tea and coffee. If you’re bold try a sample of Lao Lao whiskey or just grab a Beer Lao for your stroll.