Luang Prabang, the incredible charm of the old town on the peninsula is wrapped on three sides by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. A wonderful, relaxed and rich place to explore – here is our suggestion on how to discover this city in 48 hours.
Start the day with baguettes, pastries and good Laotian coffee to get you fuelled up and ready to explore – Luang Prabang must be enjoyed at a leisure pace, so take your time and enjoy. Head to the Royal Palace Museum which, as the name suggests, was once the home of the Laos royal family. Here, in a building that blends Laos and French architecture, you can delve a little bit deeper into Laos’ culture and history. Make sure you visit the Pha Bang Buddha, and have a quick peek at the Royal Palace Car Collection.
Stroll on down the peninsula, almost reaching the point where the land and the river meet, to find Wat Xieng Thong. This is Luang Prabang’s best known wat and one of the most important in the whole of Laos. The complex contains about 20 buildings, including the beautiful ‘sim’ (main temple) which features a delightful ‘Tree of Life’ mosaic on its outside wall and mirror mosaic elephants.
Enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the town, before embarking on a boat trip up the Mekong to visit the Pak Ou Caves. Brimming with old Buddhu that can no longer be used for veneration, this is a really fascinating place, with statues of all shapes and sizes looking down on you with that tranquil Buddha stare.
Back in the town, wander through the atmospheric night market, examining all sorts of handicrafts and textiles for sale, mostly by hill-tribe traders from the surrounding communities. Sit down in one of the many outdoor food spots and sip on a Beer Lao and enjoy the hustle and bustle. We can’t recommend the street snacks enough, so you could spend the evening grazing on these, or just sample a few before heading off to find a delicious dinner.
Rise early to witness the dawn ritual of Takbat, when hundreds of orange robed monks pad silently through the streets of the town to receive their daily alms offerings from the locals. This is an authentic religious ceremony and an essential part of the daily life in the town – it is an honour to witness it.
Grab some breakfast before travelling an hour out of town to the Kuang Si Waterfall. Spend the morning admiring the 50-metre-high falls and spectacular pools of azure that tumble through a forest setting. You can swim in these pools (it’s cold!), and climb up a steep path beside the waterfall if you’re feeling energetic. Whilst here you can also visit the beautiful sun bears who have been housed here since being rescued from poachers.
Return to the town and spend a relaxed afternoon wandering the streets, enjoying the atmosphere and simply admiring the contrasting colours of the town – the gold of the sweeping roofed temples, the orange of the monks’ robes, the lush green of the trees and red tile topped houses. These can be best enjoyed from the summit of Phousi Hill, which sits in the centre of Luang Prabang’s peninsular. If you head up for sunset, the views will be even more spectacular.
Find one of the lovely, peaceful eateries right on the river front and dine on delicious Laos cuisine.
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