The Southeast Asian country of Laos has not gained enough popularity like its neighbors in terms of tourism. Laos is pretty laid back, but for the very same reason, the country still provides a very authentic experience to those who visit.
Visiting Luang Prabang is probably one of the top things to do in Laos. The ancient capital even today has remnants of its French colonial times. The streets are lined with beautiful French colonial buildings, and many UNESCO listed sites that include temples, peculiar landscapes, and even homes. The place is very affordable, and with excellent food, it is up to you how long you want to stay to enjoy a relaxed vacation.
Luang Prabang can be your best or last stop depending on where you are coming from and where you are going to.
Flights: There is an international airport in Luang Prabang so that you can find direct flights from major cities in Asia like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, etc. Alternatively, you can also find domestic flights from the capital of Laos, Vientiane. But due to the limited number of flights, this one might be the most expensive way to reach.
The easiest and most convenient way to reach Luang Prabang would be from Thailand, so most backpackers prefer this one.
Buses/ trains: You can find both direct and connecting trains or buses from cities in Thailand. It usually takes 12 to 15 hours to reach, but if you take an overnight bus, the duration wouldn't seem that long. You could also get a bus to another place in Laos like van Chieng and get another one from there to Luang Prabang.
Boat/ Cruises: Then there are luxury cruises that come with accommodation and food from Chiang Mai. To test your patience, you could also opt for a slow boat or a speedboat.
The weather in Luang Prabang is tropical all year round. There are no extremities at any times. However, October to February tend to have much cooler nights and is considered the high season to visit. Summer is supposedly from March to June and monsoon starts by mid-June. Try to avoid the rainy season as roads tend to get muddy and blocked even accompanied with landslides and flood.
It is best to stay in and around the old town area in Luang Prabang. The major attractions are nearby, and there are plenty of shops around for food. You can find accommodations varying from budget to luxury in this area.
Now that we have covered the basics let us see how to explore the place. To give you a better idea, these are the best things to do in Luang Prabang.
Mount Phousi is the best spot in the heart of the city to get the striking views of the landscape and the dramatic sunrise and sunset. It is only a short climb of 300 steps to the top, where there is a temple too. From there the 360 degrees view of the town is just breathtaking.
There are more than 30 Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang, and those in the old town are incredible. The most popular is the Wat Xieng Thong, a part of UNESCO sites. It is one of the oldest temples in the city adorned with murals, intricate wooden carvings.
Wat Mai is located near the Royal Palace and yet another beautiful temple with great paintings and wall designs. The Golden Budha statue, Pra Bhang from which the city got its name from was initially located here. The statue has been moved, but it is still brought back to this temple for festivals.
During all times other than the monsoon months, the locals build a Bamboo bridge across the Nam river every year for the commute from the center to the other side. You get beautiful views of the mountains and town from the bridge, and the traditional construction just makes it more elegant.
One of the most remarkable monuments of Luang Prabang is the Royal Palace. The vernacular architecture is absolutely astounding with so many details. The complex also has a temple and a residence which is now a museum and used for official purposes.
If you have an appetite to learn about the culture and local practices, then witnessing the Tak Bat ritual would be a great experience. It is a ritual carried out by the Buddhist monks when they walk on the roads before sunrise to seek alms from the people. All you have to do is to wake up at 5 am and wait near the road to see it. Try to dress respectfully and disrupting the ritual using cameras.
Another way to learn about the local culture is by visiting the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre. They have showcased artifacts, clothing and other items that are unique to Laos.
The best thing about Asians countries is their vibrant markets. The Luang Prabang night market starts at the sunset when the shopkeepers start setting up shops on the street. You can find anything fro arts, souvenirs, local alcohol, clothes, food and more.
Talking about local markets, there is a lane adjacent to the night market street where you can find the best of traditional Laos food recipes. The food here is pretty affordable, and you can have either have buffets or plates.
Then there is the BBQ, homemade cakes, noodle soup where you can choose the ingredients, smoothies in different colors, flavors, and sizes. In the end, this Laos food culture might prove to be your best experience in Laos.
Laos Coffee is world renowned, and they have a strong coffee culture there. Tasting this is an eminent thing that you shouldn't miss in Laos. You can find many varieties from hot, cold or even egged coffee,
Luang Prabang is blessed with gorgeous landscapes dotted with waterfalls. These are not exactly in the town, but it will only take you a few hours to visit.
If you are short of time and want to narrow your options to one, then Kuang Si is the top choice among Luang Prabang waterfalls. It is located 45 minutes from the city; it is better to opt for a tour with the return for directions and comfort. Amidst luscious canopy of forests, the journey to the waterfalls itself is exciting. At the foot of the waterfall, there is a part which is available for swimming. You can also do a slow boat ride in the river to the falls.
The second recommended one os the Tad Sae Waterfall. It is located 16 m away from the town center and is a favorite picnic spot among tourists. The setting is similar to Kuang Si waterfall, and there are many turquoise lagoons to swim. It is much easier to reach from the town if you hire a motorbike. Booking a tour for this one alone is not worth it. There are entry fees for both the waterfalls.
The Mekong River passes through multiple countries. When in Labong Prabang, you have the option of either going on a cruise to three countries or a slow boat ride from point A to B. You can choose the duration, and it will definitely enhance your Laos trip with a mesmerizing sunset.
The Pak Ou Caves is a visit worth for the beautiful boat ride through the river that will take you to the caves. The caves are nothing unusual, but it is indeed beautiful with few statues of Buddha. The view of the Mekong River is lovely from here, and if you start early, you can combine this with one of the waterfalls or village.
Ban Phanom is a traditional weaving village a little further from Luang Prabang. It is interesting to watch the villagers keen at weaving and the working of the traditional equipment. Once you see how much effort goes into that, we realize the items are much more valuable than we pay for.
Luang Prabang has a very rich local whiskey culture. The Whiskey Village is where they are made primarily, and it is worth a visit. You can taste the various flavors, and few are quite amusing like the snake and scorpion specials which you would have come across in the market.
If you are planning to visit Laos, it is better to combine it with one of the South East Asian countries. You can start or end your trip at Laos. So if you are finding it difficult to get cheap flights to Laos, go directly to FareDepot, and you will find the perfect choice for international flights or business flights there.