Asia is so beautiful; it will offer you mind-blowing destinations in any direction you go. Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is one of the poorest nations in South-East Asia. In Laos there is Laung Prabang, a place which is so rich with its beauty that financial conditions here don’t matters.
Luang Prabang, a place of mists and temples in the mountains of central Laos, was until recently one of the last pristine remnants of traditional culture in a region that is rapidly leaving its past behind.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. The city is also notable as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.
Attractions of Luang Prabang
Haw Kham: It is the Royal Palace (official name “Haw Kham”) in Luang Prabang and now national museum. There are also local drama or dance performances in the adjacent theatre sometimes. The architecture of the building has a mixed of traditional Lao motifs and French Beaux Arts styles, and has been laid out in a double-cruciform shape with the entrance on one side of the lower crossbar. Open 8AM-11:30AM and 1:30PM-4PM every day except Tuesday.
Phou Si: It is the main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It’s not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are the most sensible and rewarding times to go up. There is a near-panoramic view from the top. Entrance fee 20,000 kip.
Kuang Si Falls: A beautiful waterfall 29km from south of Luang Prabang. Kuangsi was a tower of champagne-glass limestone formations until the whole structure fell in on itself in 2003. You can also rent a motorbike to transport yourself there. There are tourist food stalls outside the waterfalls. It is worth putting a whole day to see this waterfall because it is a great place to relax and meet other travelers.
Pak Ou Caves: The famous “Buddha caves” are north of town on the Mekong and can be reached by road (approx 1 hr) or river boat (around 1.5 hrs). Alternatively, you can hire canoes and a guide for the day, which would allow you to view the beautiful scenery and visit the caves without throngs of other tourists. It’s also possible to finish the trip at the ‘whisky village’ where the local Laolao (Lao rice spirit) is made. There are two caves – one on the entry level and another – the upper caves – on top of the hill. A very steep climb, but worth the efforts. A candle or torch recommended seeing the upper cave, as it is dark. Simply cross the river for 3,000-5,000 kip, walk up the hill and turn to the right crossing the primary schools to find your way to the caves.
Thrills & Fun
Biking: Riding around the surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is a fantastic way to see the countryside. Hiring a biking is very easy. Fuel for the whole day will cost around 15,000 kip. As usual practice, they will keep your passport, so make sure they know when you leave and how to recover your passport.
Alms ceremony: Monks at dawn collecting alms of rice from kneeling villagers (and early-rising tourists). Ask your guesthouse host to assist you the day before in preparing if you’d like to get up and give alms in the morning. Please note that the alms giving ceremony is one which, while picturesque, is not without its detractors. Unscrupulous local merchants have used the eagerness of tourists to participate in a local tradition as a means of making easy money, and sometimes sell unsuitable, stale and even unsafe food. This has resulted in monks falling ill after having consumed the offerings, and resistance to continuing the tradition.
Tiger trail adventure: Tiger Trail offers series of tours and treks around northern Laos with the emphasis very much on sustainable and ethical community-based tourism. The project generates jobs and limits numbers of visitors. Their “Fair Trek” approach also promotes remote areas and makes these low-income areas a new and interesting destination for responsible visitors.
How to reach there?
Luang Prabang International Airport (IATA: LPQ, ICAO: VLLB) is one of the few international airports in Laos. The airport is located in Luang Prabang. Until February 2011 it was considered a risky place to land due to the mountainous terrain surrounding the airport, but since then it has been modernized, making the airport significantly safer.
Airlines and destinations from Luang Prabang International Airport:
|Lao Airlines||Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Jinghong, Siem Reap, Vientiane|
|Vietnam Airlines||Hanoi, Siem Reap|
Visa-on-Arrival is available at the airport – price is variable based upon your nationality. You need a passport picture to obtain a visa. If you don’t have one, they’ll scan your picture from your passport and charge you an additional $US1.
How to roam around?
There are very few modes of transport to get around in Luang Prabang.
Tuk-Tuk: Tuk-tuks can also be found lining up the street corners of the city. You can also hire out tuk-tuks for one day or for any short day trips. When hiring tuk-tuks, be sure you and the driver agree on the fee before you ride so as to avoid any argument when the trip is over.
Bikes: Bicycles and motorbikes are also gaining popularity, with the town being small and its attractions located not far from each other. Bikes can be rented out from guesthouses or from bike rental companies in the city.
Minibuses: Tickets for minibuses are usually available at guesthouses in the city. The journey by minibus is faster than by a bus. It takes about 5 hours from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng by minibus. If you’re prone to motion-sickness, you’re better off with a regular bus though.
When you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Not having a legitimate stamp could lead to arrest or a large fine. You must hold a valid passport to enter Laos. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Laos.
Do not get involved with drugs. There have been several deaths as a result of drug abuse among foreign nationals visiting Laos. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious offences in Laos. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty