Last Updated on November 22, 2019 by Tina
Luang Prabang is a town in Laos located in the northern part of the country. It was listed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List in 1995 due to the old city center’s successful fusion of the traditional architectural and urban structures and those of the European colonial rulers of the 19th and 20th centuries. (https://tourismluangprabang.org/about-luang-prabang/unesco-world-heritage/)
It didn’t take a day for me to fall in love with the place. I have only been walking around town for about an hour and I already knew I wanted to stay there forever. When I told this to my “Gerald” (read this post to know who Gerald is) who has been there a few months prior, he told me I might get bored after some time. I originally planned to stay there for three days because I also wanted to check out Vang Vieng and Vientianne but I ended up staying there for almost a week. Yep, I skipped Vang Vieng and Vientianne because I loved Luang Prabang so much.
In case you are planning to visit Luang Prabang, here are my recommendations for the things to do there:
Visit Kuang Si Waterfalls
A trip to Luang Prabang is not complete without a visit to Kuang Si Waterfalls. It is the town’s main tourist attraction. When my “Gerald” showed me a picture of the waterfalls, I thought it is something similar to Cambugahay Falls in Siquijor. But I was left speechless the moment I saw it. It was so beautiful. And the photos I took of the place didn’t do it justice, so better see it for yourself.
Explore the Royal Palace Museum
The museum was originally a palace that was built for King Sisavang and family in 1904 during the French colonial era. It has a visual display of the royal bedrooms, reception halls, and the king’s military uniforms and medals. Taking pictures inside the museum is prohibited. Outside the palace on the same grounds is the royal cars museum. It also has a nice garden with a large pond.
Visit some of the Wats (Temples)
There are over 30 temples in Luang Prabang and many of them are within walking distance to the Royal Palace. Temples not to be missed are Wat Xieng Thong, the most popular Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang that features tree of life mosaic and Wat Wisunarat, the oldest temple in town.
Hang Out by the Riverside
This is one of my favorite things to do while I was in Luang Prabang. I think the whole time that I was there, not a single day passed without me staying in either Mekong or Nam Khan riverside, even for just an hour. There’s just something about the river that makes me feel relaxed.
Visit the Night Market
The night market in Luang Prabang is another thing that you shouldn’t miss when in Luang Prabang. It’s one of the best night markets I have ever been to in Southeast Asia. There are just so many nice things there, from clothes to paintings to souvenir items.
Check out the Morning Market
The night market is nice, but the morning market is worth checking too. This is the place where people come to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Here you will also see so many interesting and unusual foodstuffs like worms, grasshoppers, bee’s larvae, crickets, and frogs. There are also many local dishes to try in the morning market.
Climb Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is a hill in Luang Prabang that is 100 meters high. It is a famous spot to watch the sunset, that’s why it gets overly crowded an hour before sunset. There are two stairways leading on top of the hill, each with over 300 steps. Taking the one next to the Nam Khan River is highly recommended because although it has more steps, it has more scenic spots such as a small cave temple, a footprint of Buddha, a reclining Buddha, a number of seated Buddha images, and a multi-headed serpent.
I climbed the hill twice, once in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset and I paid an entrance fee of 20,000 kips (~US$ 2.27 / PHP 118). Then at night around 9:30 PM the following day I climbed it again with my roommate and we didn’t pay anything because the ticket counter was already closed. The view of the town at night from the top of the hill is really nice.
Witness Tak Bat
Tak Bat or the Buddhist Lao monks’ morning collection of food in Luang Prabang is a daily tradition of locals paying alms to the monks. Orange-robed monks carrying bowls line up in a single file to collect offerings in front of them. The monks line up in order of age, with the eldest monk going first. This takes place from 5:30 AM onwards along the streets of Luang Prabang.
Catch the Sunset at the Intersection of the Mekong and Nam Khan River
They say the best people to ask for the best places to visit in a town or city are the locals. The lady at a paper shop I visited told me that the best place to watch the sunset is at the small tip of land where Nam Khan River flows into Mekong River. To get there you need to cross the bamboo bridge. There you can watch the sun go down behind the hills opposite the peninsula of Luang Prabang. And the place is not crowded maybe because not many people know about this place. You need to pay 10,000 kips (~US$ 1.14 / PHP 59) to cross the bridge. This is because during the rainy season the bridge gets washed out. The family who charges the tiny amount rebuild the bridge every year after the rainy season.
Go for a drink at Utopia
When I was checking online for things to do in Luang Prabang, almost all blogs included Utopia in their list so I thought this place must be something special. It is a bar and restaurant with the tagline ‘Zen by Day, Groovy by Night’. Nestled along the banks of Nam Khan River, it is a few meters away from our hostel, Chill Riverside Hostel. It has Thai style sit down cushions, natural wooden garden tables, bamboo sofas, or wicker sit-up chairs. I’m not very fond of going to bars but this place I liked a lot and I highly recommend checking this out on your trip to Luang Prabang.
Try Laotian Massage
The traditional Lao massage uses firm thumb and palm pressure on the body energy lines. It’s a full body massage without oil. It is said to help relieve aches and pains stored in the muscles, improves blood circulation and increases energy and flexibility. In my opinion, it isn’t as good as a Thai massage but it is something worth trying. We had our massage at L’ Hibiscus Massage & Spa. Our experience there was quite interesting because before we had our massage, they handed us towels and clothes to wear for the massage and we were told to take a shower first. The massage for one and a half hour costs 85,000 kips (~US$ 9.65 / PHP 502).
Cross the Bamboo Bridge
There are two bamboo bridges in Luang Prabang, one at the intersection of Mekong and Nam Khan River and the other near the entrance to Mt. Phousi. You need to pay an entrance fee to cross both bridges, the first costs 10,000 kips (~US$ 1.14 / PHP 59) while the second costs 5,000 kips (~US$ 0.57 / PHP 29.50). As mentioned earlier, the people collecting the tiny amount use it to rebuild the bridges that get washed out during the rainy season.
The bridge near the entrance to Mt. Phousi has nice light at night. If you go there around 10 in the evening, you won’t have to pay the entrance fee as the hut collecting the fee is already closed. It’s very relaxing to hang out in the middle of the bridge while listening to the sound of the flowing water and enjoying the cool wind.
Cross the Mekong River
The village on the other side of Mekong River is worth checking out too. You can do this by taking a ferry. The ferry ride costs 5,000 kips (US$ 0.57 / PHP 29.50). It takes 5 minutes to get to the other side. From the ferry station, walk 15 minutes and climb the stairs with 123 steps to get to Wat Chompet. It is a temple located on a hill. The temple is small and a bit decayed but it is a good spot to view the world heritage town, Mekong River and the surrounding hills.
Visit the Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves are caves set in a limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. It has over 4000 Buddha icons. Nearby villagers and pilgrims use these caves as a place for damaged and old Buddha statues. The boat trip to the cave takes 2 hours and has a stopover at a whiskey village.
Hope you find this list useful. If you have any questions regarding Luang Prabang, feel free to leave a comment. You can also check out my Luang Prabang travel highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.