Luang Prabang was our favorite city in Laos. It is a French colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage Site sitting on the bank of the Mekong River. We arrived in the afternoon after our 2 day slow boat ride with enough time to wander around and find a cute guesthouse just off the main road for 160,000 Kip ($20). The city was certainly more expensive for food and accomodation than other places throughout Asia, but the quality is excellent. The town center is small, you can wander around it in a day but if you want to spend more time relaxing, enjoying the night markets and visting sites, we recommend 3-4 days.
The Best of Luang Prabang
1. Visit the nightmarket
The main road is filled with restaurants, guesthouses and shops and everynight it turns into a night market with food vendors and souvenirs to purchase. You’ll notice as you travel through Asia that most cities are filled with the same cheap Chinese souvenirs and clothes, but Luang Prabang is different. Most things are handmade in local villages and beautifully crafted. We purchased a table runner, pillow cases, art, and notebooks to send home.
2. Devour a bowl of spicy pork noodle soup
In between shopping make sure to look out for the food carts selling a local spicy pork soup. Outside of Vietnam, it’s the best soup we had in Asia. There is no shortage of nice resturants but we opted for food in the market most days because it’s cheap, local and delicious.
3. Take a break from cheap Asian beer
Luang Prabang certainly isn’t known for it’s nightlife but our two favorite bars to enjoy French wine and a stiff martini were Tangor and Icon Club.
4. Alms Giving Ceremony (Tak Bat)
The central part of town is filled with Buddhist temples and every morning at sunrise you can watch the locals give alms to the monks. We read that this might get cancelled as it’s becoming too touristy so please be respectful and stand at a distance when taking photos. This is a religious ceremony and it was incredibly frustrating to see people invading their space and crowding around them for a photo-op.
5. Kuang Si Waterfall
Taxi drivers and tour companies will ask everyday to take you to the waterfall. Our advice is to get on a motorbike and do it yourself. Motorbikes are more expensive than in Thailand and Vietnam, but we found one for 120,000 Kip for the day and made our way out to the falls. The tour companies and taxis charge 50-60,000 Kip so if you have 2 on a bike it works out to about the same price. All tours leave around 11am so if you want to beat the crowds make sure to get there by 9am. We arrived right at 9am and their wasn’t a tourist in site. It is a magical place and so much more special to have it all too yourself. Make sure you hike up to the top of the falls to see the gorgeous views and when you head back down, go for a swim in the pools. It’s cold but refreshing after the hike up.
6. Spend a day at Utopia
Utopia is a bar and restuarant tucked away on the river bank with great food and drinks. We spent all day lounging on their open deck, listening to reggae and meeting other travelers.
7. Watch sunset over the temples
Enjoy the beautiful sunsets of Laos overlooking Luang Prabang and the Mekong River. There are numerous temples scattered throughout the city, several are free to visit.
8. Take a walk along the Mekong River
The Mekong runs through Luang Prabang and it is quite lovely to take a stroll along the banks of the river. Beautiful French Colonial archetecture, nice cafes, gorgeous spas and restaurants are just some added bonuses to the beautiful views.