Luang Prabang is a pretty small town in Laos, but no less charming for that. It is in fact a very touristy place with many western looking restaurants, coffee shops, tour operators, and fancy shops selling the most diverse types of crafts. The city center is very clean, with good streets, but once you get a bit out, you will see the real Luang Prabang, where people live, where things get more chaotic and the streets turn bumpy. For this reason, I can say that being in Luang Prabang city center is not having the real feeling of what is Laos. It is definitely very touristy…
I have been to Luang Prabang volunteering for one month so I had the chance to visit many things. I can state that the place you cannot miss, at all is the Phousi mountain. I visited it with Cobie, my fella volunteer and we went there by bicycle. Basically we have been together too many places by bicycle. I mean 1 bicycle for the two of us. Yeah, that was the fun part! I was cycling and Cobie was sitting on the back and it was extremely funny to see people staring at us like: WTF are these foreigners doing?! haha
I’m aware that I could have visited many more places being so long in Luang Prabang, but I took the chance to update my writing and blogging instead… here are some of the places I have visited:
Phousi mountain has the best view of Luang Prabang. It is the highest point in the city so the view is pretty wide and also beautiful. I was actually not expecting it to be so beautiful and besides not staying for sunset, I’m sure this is a great spot for sunset watching, as well as sunrise watching as you have a 360º view. There is a very small cave inside the complex, not impressive, some temples too, but the view is truly the highlight!
Forget about the night market. That is a market made for tourists, therefore high prices might be expectable. On the other hand, Phosy market is the real thing. The market where locals come to make their shopping. No other foreigners were seen here during my visit. I also came here together with Cobie on our bicycle as besides not being that close from the city center, the streets in Luang Prabang are pretty flat. The market is huge and you can find some good deals here.
Wat Chua Phat Tich
I bit further from the city center is this temple that is close to President Kaysone Phomvihane’s monument. I decided to visit it for its view. The temple isn’t that big or impressive, but the view here is very peaceful and beautiful. There was absolutely no one else here and I had a beautiful view for myself. There were some tables just next to the river view so this is actually a great spot to bring some food and enjoy the Mekong River.
Wat That Luang Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang has many, many temples to be visited, but some of them have entrance fees. I came across this temple when going to Wat Chua Phat Tich and decided to stop to have a look. It is a beautiful temple!
That Luang night bazaar
I also came here with Cobie on another adventurous ride on our bicycle to check the night market as we know the one in town is not the genuine thing. I was actually expecting it to be bigger with many things for sale, but this night market is actually not that big, It has some inflatables for kids, a place where you can paint some pottery and other amusements. There was a stage so we suppose that concerts are happening here. There are a few food stalls and diverse things for sale at incredibly low prices!! We were expecting to have dinner here, but the food offer wasn’t that interesting or wide.
Wat Xieng Thong
This was the only temple with an entrance fee that I visited, but it was totally worthy. This temple is very beautiful and unlike many others that I have already seen it in Southeast Asia. The architecture is different with impressive details. There are many structures inside the complex and you can spend significant time visiting it. It is peaceful and wonderful. Can’t miss this one!
This might be the best park in town. It is not that big but it provides some shade and a nice view. Here you will find one of the two bamboo seasonal bridges that exist in Luang Prabang. To cross the bridge to the other side of the river you need to pay a fee. I didn’t cross it. The park is a nice place to refresh from the heat and relax, plus, the view is pretty cool.
This is the most popular bamboo bridge in Luang Prabang. It is built every year by locals, and for being a private bridge you need to pay 7000 kips to cross it (both way ticket). I was volunteering at the first shop after the bridge so I had a view of it daily. At first, I thought that only foreigners were charged to cross it, but that is not true. Even locals need to pay to use this bridge. The bridge can only be seen when the water level is low during the dry season. When the rainy season comes and the water level gets higher, this bridge is no longer seen. The view here is very beautiful!
Luang Prabang is full of shops with very interesting and beautiful crafts. In fact, I was amazed by the quality and diversity of souvenirs in town. Garden of Eden is a jewelry shop where I have volunteered. They sell articles designed by them and handmade by the couple that runs the store either. They sell very beautiful jewelry items and besides that, you can also have a class and make your own jewelry piece too. You can choose the design and materials and with the help of the owner, you can leave the store with a totally customized jewelry piece. Many people were coming to the shop to do this workshop and I found it very interesting as at the same time you are having a conversation with the owner and learning more about Laos and ist culture. It is a good experience to have in Luang Prabang!
This is a very very popular restaurant in Luang Prabang. Majorly frequented by foreigners, but the atmosphere here is so great. The decoration, the view, and peace of mind felt here make of Utopia a wonderful place to visit in Luang Prabang.
This is a temple with a different architecture from what I am used to seeing, so I decided to go. To enter the temple itself you need to pay a fee, so I just wandered around the complex that has these huge beautiful Buddha trees!
Amazingly, I have been in town for 1 month and have never been inside this temple besides willing to! I saw this temple every day while in Luang Prabang as it is part of the view of the bungalow where I was sleeping. My biggest interest was to go there at 4 pm on a Saturday when monks perform some gongs playing. I only saw it from the other side of the river tho… But it is a good idea to go there at 4 pm to see what is going on and take some nice pictures!
And, of course, while in Luang Prabang you can’t miss a visit to Kuang Si Falls. They are pure beauty!