With the rapid growth and development of much of South East Asia, sleepy Luang Prabang is a welcome departure. Life here is slow and thoughtful, perhaps owing to the heavy influence of Buddhism on this beautiful town – the entire town is UNESCO World Heritage listed on account of the many beautiful pagodas scattered around it.
While Luang Prabang is not in a rush, that is not to say that it does not offer plenty to visitors. Here are our 5 unmissable sites in Luang Prabang.
1. Giving of the Alms (Tak Bat)
Surely one of the most beautiful sites occurs at dawn in Luang Prabang, as a constant stream of Buddhis monks adorned in orange robes collect alms from the local population who have lovingly prepared their offerings. This act of charity occurs every morning at about 5am, and gives a humbling insight into life in Luang Prabang. Be sure to research how to be respectful at the ceremony before you go, so that this tradition is not lost or shielded from tourists’ views.
2. Pak Ou Caves
Another place that gives insight into the spirituality and beliefs of the residents of Luang Prabang is a visit to the Pak Ou Caves. Over hundreds of years, thousands of Laotians have ventured into the imposing caves alongside the Mekong river, to leave Buddhist statues and other offerings. It is a beautiful show of devotion which is also set amongst a lovely natural landscape. On the way, you may get the chance to stop in at some small villages and learn about local life.
3. Kuang Si Falls
One of the natural highlights of Luang Prabang is the gorgeous Kuang Si Falls, which is truly a hidden paradise. Here, a large waterfall cascades down into a system of pools which are startling blue in color. It is a wonderful place for swimming and relaxing, and is just 45 minutes from Luang Prabang town centre. Even better, this is also the home of the ‘Free the Bears‘ sanctuary, where you can see some very happy bears who have been rescued from the awful bile trade.
4. Climb Mt Phousi
There is an almost endless array of temples in Luang Prabang, and the Wat at the top of Mt Phousi is not necessarily the most impressive on its own. However, it does enjoy probably the most spectacular view of Luang Prabang in the entire town. After a relatively short hike, the view from the top enables you to see the many golden-topped rooftops as well as the many trees and mountains. You are also likely to have the opportunity to converse with one of the Monks in the Wat, many of whom are studying English and savor the opportunity to chat with tourists.
5. Visit Utopia
No, it’s not quite literal utopia, but nearly every visitor to Luang Prabang finds themselves at this bar/cafe/hangout spot. A visit to Luang Prabang feels like rewinding the clock thirty years, and many long-time travelers say Utopia is no different – a place to connect with fellow travelers, swap stories and share friendship, just like in the days of old. Surely the walls have heard some great stories – why not add yours?