Luang Prabang guide
Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in north central Laos, about 300km north of Vientiane. The town is an outstanding example of well-preserved architectures, religion and cultural heritages. Its charm also comes from the fusion of rural and urban developments over centuries with the French colonial influences in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Originally known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, it is the capital of Lan Xang - the first Lao kingdom from the 14th to 16th centuries. Luang Prabang takes its name from a statue of Buddha, the Prabang, offered by Cambodia. After the French occupation in 1893, it continued to be the royal and religious capital during the reign of King Sisavang Vong until 1946 when Vientiane officially became the capital of the country.
Considered by many travelers and writers as the center of Laotian culture, Luang Prabang lies on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, amidst lush greenery of mountain ranges. One cannot leave Laos without visiting Luang Prabang. It is the royal palace, over 33 temples, beautiful cascading waterfalls nearby and a slow-pace of life that draw visitors come here. The image of hundreds of monks from various monasteries walking through the streets to collect alms in every morning has become a world-famous symbol of Luang Prabang. The lovely town received 'Best City' in the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2015.
When to go
The city features a tropical wet and dry climate. Generally, it is warm year-round, but especially become cooler during December and January. The town’s weather is divided into two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season is from April to October and the dry season fills the rest of the year. Temperatures range between 15°C and 38°C.
How to get there
Luang Prabang International Airport is located just 5km northeast of the town and has regular scheduled flights from Bangkok Airways, Laos Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.
Visitors can come to the city by following route 13 which links with Vang Vieng and Vientiane or by Route 1 links with Muang Xay. Route 13 also connects Luang Prabang to Cambodia. In 2014, a new road connects Kasi (close to Vang Vieng) to the town in 3 hours. Daily busses from Vientiane takes about 11-13 hours.
A slow boat trip from Huay Xai, across Thailand, downstream to Luang Prabang takes two days with a typical stop at Pakbeng. If traveling to Luang Prabang from Vietnam, you can catch sleeper buses departing from Hanoi.
Temple of Wat Xieng Thong: Luang Prabang's or the “monastery of the golden city” is Lao best-known and most visited monastery. This magnificent masterpiece was designed of the Luang Prabang style and features an elaborate tree of life mosaic, carved walls, rare Buddhist deities and a 12-metre high funeral carriage. Wat Xieng Thong is located close to where the Mekong meets the Nam Khan River, acting as a gateway to Luang Prabang. One of the most interesting features is the rare reclining Buddha that dates from the year 1560 when the building of the temple started.
Royal Palace Museum
Built in the 20th century, it features exhibits dating back several centuries including the Lane Xang kingdom, the colonial era and also pieces from present day. This was originally the home of King Sisabang Vong and was designed in the French Beaux-Arts style with traditional Lao culture accents. Built in 1904 during the French colonial period and during the communist period, it was turned into a museum after a renovation. At the entrance of the museum you will find a statue of King Sisabang Vong.
Temple Wat Aham
The Wat Aham is a small temple consisting of a sim and two ancient stupas. It has a history of both Buddhism and spirit worship. The temple was built in 1818 on the site of a much older temple dating back to 1527.
It was originally the residence of the Sangharat (Supreme Patriarch of Lao Buddhism) until superseded by Wat Mai two hundred years ago. Murals of Buddhist history cover the interior walls. Visitors should not miss the elaborate gateway just between the street and the temple connecting two very large and old banyan trees that harbour the Devata Luang, the guardian spirits of Luang Prabang.
Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves are the most revered holy sites in Laos. Located on the Mekong River, this famous attraction is near Luang Prabang and is a great river trip that offers a pleasant excursion through the riverside landscapes and local villages.
Kuang Si Waterfall
The Kuang Si Falls, sometimes spelled Kuang Xi or known as Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls, is a three tier waterfall about 29 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. They begin in a shallow pool atop a steep hillside that leads to the main fall with a 60 meters cascade.
Stupa of Wat Visoun (Wat Visoun)
Luang Prabang’s most captivating temple is the Wat Visoun,with its huge stupa called That Makmo. The stupa’s odd shape is commonly referred to as the watermelon (Makmo). Originally, this was home to an abundance of ancient Buddha images, including the Luang Prabang sacred Emerald Buddha that are now housed in the in the Royal Palace Museum
Located across the Mekong from Luang Prabang Town in Chomphet District, Ban Xieng Mene is part of the World Heritage Site and offers a glimpse into Lao village life. There are several temples worth visiting in the village, including Vat Chomphet (visible up on the hill) which offers a spectacular view of Luang Prabang Town and the Mekong.
Ban Chan is famous for its traditional pottery-making. This village is located in the south of Luang Prabang in the Mekong River a short 15 minute boat ride.
Typical local dishes in Luang Prabang include O-lam, sausage, mokpa (steamed fish), Mekong River moss, with its chili sauce.
This is the most popular dish in Luang Prabang. Or Lam is a mildly spicy and thick Laotian stew cooked with dried buffalo meat, beef, game meat or chicken, lemongrass, Sa Khan, chilies, mashed eggplants, wood ear mushrooms and yard long bean.
Ping Kai (grilled chicken)
Chicken is marinated with black pepper, garlic, coriander root, fish sauce, salt, and then cooked over hot coals. This dish is served with sticky rice and sometimes with fresh vegetables.
Sticky rice or Khao Niaw is the main diet of people of Luang Prabang in particular and the Laotian people in general. They eat it all day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cooked rice is rolled by hand into small pieces then put in woven basket. The dish goes well with other food and sauces.
This is a popular Lao sausage in the town. It is made from chopped pork, seasoned with ginger, lime leaves, garlic, fish sauce and salt.
Khao Piak Sen (Sticky rice noodles)
Noodle soups is popular everywhere in Luang Prabang. It is common breakfast dish but can also be enjoyed at any time of the day. The dish has rice flour noodles in beef or chicken broth and is flavored with various tasty herbs. It is similar to banh canh from Vietnam, and the Japanese dish, udon.
This soup is made with pounded fish, chicken or pork and filled with the common ingredients such as lime leaves, fish sauce, ginger and garlic.
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