Agents Manager Matt Spiller recently returned from a jaunt around little-known Laos. Luang Prabang is undoubtedly the jewel in Laos’s crown, and while difficult to narrow down, here are his top ten things to do in the UNESCO World Heritage Town.
Top 10 things to do in Luang Prabang
1. Wake up early to see the monks receiving morning alms
At dawn, saffron robed monks of Luang Prabang walk quietly through the streets collecting donations of sticky rice from the town’s residents. Although it attracts a lot of tourists, some of which do not recognise the need for distance, silence and respect during this dignified and meditative ritual, it should still be at the top of any visitor’s list of things to do.
As the monks walk around the whole town, we recommend observing from a respectful distance along one of the quieter side streets away from the crowds. Anyone is able to take part and offer rice to the monks, however, out of respect we feel you should only do this if you practice Buddhism.
2. Haggle at the daily markets
Haggling is a bit of a past-time in Laos and with the Night Market offering souvenirs and the Morning Market offering fresh produce there are plenty of opportunities for you to get your haggle on!
3. Walk to the top of Mount Phousi
Although only 100m high, Mount Phousi in the centre of Luang Prabang offers fantastic views across the town, meandering Nam Kham and Mekong rivers and the surrounding hills. The gentle walk to the top also takes you to a couple of interesting temples and what is believed to be a giant Buddha footprint. Aim to coincide the climb with either sunrise or sunset.
4. Take at tuk-tuk out to Kuang Si falls
Around 50 minutes from Luang Prabang by tuk tuk, the turquoise blue waters of the Kuang Si falls is something not to miss. Whether you just bathe in the shallow waters at the bottom or hike up to the top of the 60 metre falls, a visit to Kuang Si offers a few hours of tranquillity amongst some breathtaking surroundings.
5. Take a break with a refreshing fruit juice
Sightseeing can be thirsty work and the best way to refresh and re-energise it to stop at one of the many fresh fruit juice stalls dotted around the town. Just choose the mixture of fruits you want and they will make a delicious concoction for you there on the spot.
6. Pile your plate as high as you can
Those with a healthy appetite will not be disappointed in Luang Prabang. In a small alley just off the Night Market you will find food stalls where you can pay 10,000 Kip (less than £1) for a bowl and then pile it as high as you can from an array of dishes.
There are also a number of outdoor restaurants along the Mekong River offering all you can eat traditional Lao barbecue (sin daat). 60,000 Kip per person (less than £6) will get you your own tabletop barbecue and free rein on an endless selection of meats, fish, seafood, vegetables and desserts.
7. Visit the Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary
Using elephants for tourism is somewhat a controversial matter but the Mandalao Elephant Sanctuary is committed to giving rescued elephants a better life, Located 40 minutes outside of Luang Prabang, the sanctuary takes in rescued elephants and ensures they are given proper care and kept healthy.
8. Watch the world go by with a BeerLao
The laidback pace of Luang Prabang makes it the perfect place just to sit back and watch the world go by in one of the many cafes and bars lining Sisasanvong Road (the main road through the centre of the town), or on the riverbanks of the Mekong and Nam Khan. The endless stream of tuk tuks, motorbikes, monks, locals and tourists will keep you captivated for hours whilst enjoying Laos’s favourite tipple, BeerLao, which apparently has 99% market share of beer sales in the country.
9. Go bowling
This may seem like a strange recommendation but if you still fancy a beer after all the bars close for the 11pm curfew then bowling is the only solution. Located a short tuk tuk ride out of town, the bowling alley stays open into the early hours but if you don’t want to be rubbing shoulders with teenage backpackers then it’s probably best to stay away.
10. Explore the wat temples dotted through the town
As the former royal capital, Luang Prabang is home to 32 different temples, all with their individual charm and style. As the town is fairly small, most of the temples can be visited by foot or on bike.
We could wax lyrical all day about Laos! Explore this underrated country on our Indochina Encompassed or Cambodia & Laos Revealed Small Group Tours, check out our Laos & Cambodia Entwined and World Heritage Indochina Fully Tailored Journeys, or get in touch with our Southeast Asia experts to find out more.