Luang Prabang, the best place to be in Southeast Asia. That’s a pretty immense title to live up to. I was surprised when guidebooks and other bloggers described the town as one of the best place to travel. Exotic temples, unique yet simple museums, vibrant night markets and friendly local made this little town a charming one. It just feels like you’re back in time – somewhere around 1960s.
Last March, I set off to see the sights of Luang Prabang while bringing my curiosity in exchange for lifetime memories – that is what backpackers always wish for! Here are the places or sights you could expect while you’re in Luang Prabang.
EXOTIC TEMPLE – WAT XIENG THONG
Luang Prabang’s most renown and visited monastery – Wat Xieng Thong (Admission – 20k kip = USD 2.50). This is one of the sights you shouldn’t be missing in Luang Prabang. Located on the peninsula of Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong is the oldest temple of the town of Luang Prabang. It is also one of the most important one in Laotian history. Not only that, it’s a great example to show the world on Laotian architecture.
It was built in around mid 16th century as a royal temple and today it has been a famous tourist attraction in Luang Prabang. Around the temple compound, there are also many statues and buildings. You can wander around and if you’re lucky enough, you will get to talk with monks.
DISCOVER THE OLD TOWN OF LUANG PRABANG
One of the main highlights in Luang Prabang is the old town itself. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the well-preserved old French colonial buildings. Although it has nothing much to offer other than sights (unlike typical Bangkok scene), but it definitely worth the time spent to stroll around and discover the uniqueness of Luang Prabang.
Nevertheless, you can sit down at one of the beautiful coffee shops while enjoying the view and life of locals.
SOUVENIRS AND LAO CUISINE IN NIGHT MARKET
Situated in Luang Prabang’s old town along the Royal Palace, the night market always open daily after 5.30 p.m. I supposed this is the only night market in Luang Prabang that draws thousands of tourists every night. At here, you can find hundreds of stalls selling souvenirs and handicrafts from Laos.
Do not forget to have your dinner as well! Try the Laotian cuisine. One of the famous Laotian food would be Larb Moo, a spicy pork salad. Besides that, near the night market of Luang Prabang is a small alley where you can find a selection of buffets. It is very cheap and usually price at 15k kip (USD 2) for a big bowl!
(Warning: Hygiene is another issue here. I got diarrhea 1 hour after the buffet! Sadly, I have to eat Spaghetti – food that I’m familiar with for the next 3 days)
RIDE A BOAT AND EXPLORE PAK OU CAVES
Pak Ou Caves or simply known as Buddha Caves is part of the main highlights of the Mekong River cruise when you’re visiting Luang Prabang. This is one of the special caves where thousands of Buddha statues were placed inside the caves here. This interesting boat ride + cave trip is sold at most of the travel agents around town and nevertheless, I took it as well. Most of the tours offer the same itinerary; the difference is the group size and pricing. No matter what the price says, you shouldn’t be missing Pak Ou Caves.
Getting to Pak Ou Caves is no easy task from Luang Prabang. It takes an hour time cruising along the Mekong River including one stop at a Local Lao Whiskey Village (Nah, it is just a simple Lao Wine thou).
The best part of the Pak Ou Caves is not the cruising part but the thousands of Buddha statue being placed here. According to legend, the Buddha statues being moved to Pak Ou Caves as people fear the war could damage the statues. Some even said that, throwing away Buddha statue can be a bad luck thing to do. Therefore, instead of throwing it away, they placed it in Pak Ou Caves.
CLIMB UP MOUNT PHOUSI
Standing 100 metres tall, Mount Phousi is Luang Prabang’s most prominent landmark. In order to reach on top of the Mount Phousi, you need to take at least hundreds steps and admission fee of 20k kip (USD 2.50) plus a bit of exhausting climb. Once you reached on top of the Mount Phousi, you will not be amaze by the stupa on top of it but the views around it which stretch from the town, mountains and Mekong river.
Luang Prabang is definitely a place worth a visit. Unlike Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City with big scenery, this old town is a perfect place to walk around and relaxation while enjoying the beauty of the town. It is unquestionably Luang Prabang is the most beautiful, peaceful town I’ve visited second to Pai, Thailand and third to Dalat, Vietnam. Nevertheless, you should give yourself a chance and visit Luang Prabang!
Great News! There is direct flight to Luang Prabang from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur! Or you can do it in a backpacker way – 20 hours bus ride from Chiang Mai (I’d done it) or 10 hours bus ride from Vientiane!