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Traveling in Luang Prabang, Laos

Bangkok shopping
Hunt for fresh produce at the
Luang Prabang market.

With its slow pace, gorgeous scenery and abundance of cute restaurants and boutiques, Luang Prabang is the perfect place to kick up your feet and take a load off.

Nestled in a valley in northern Laos, the small town of 100,000 is quickly becoming a hub for both well-off European travelers and bohemian backpacker types.

Luang Prabang has long been an important cultural center and was the seat of the first Lao kingdom, Lane Xang, from the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. The town continued to be an important religious center, but in the nineteenth century, it came under attack by Black Flag bandits who destroyed many sacred works of art.

Restoration and beautification projects launched shortly thereafter, adding charming French colonial buildings to the mix of traditional architectural forms.

Today, Luang Prabang is a bustling regional center, but not overwhelmingly so. You can easily spend several days (or weeks!) meandering through town and embracing the peaceful Lao way of life. Try some of our favorite things to do:

Go wat-hopping

The best way to explore Luang Prabang's many scenic wats is on two wheels. Rent a bicycle in town or from your guesthouse, and spend an afternoon checking out Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Visounarath and Wat Chomphet. Try engaging the young monks in conversation; many are open to discussing their way of life. Be sure to save That Chomsi for last; it's situated at the top of Mount Phou Si, which has spectacular sunset views.

Siam Center shopping, Bangkok
Kuang Si waterfall is only one of
the scenic wonders on day trips
around Luang Prabang.

Explore the surrounding natural beauty

There is no shortage of outdoor activities available in Luang Prabang. Several tour outfits offer trekking excursions to nearby mountain villages and day trips to nearby natural wonders like Tad Sae Waterfall, Kuang Si Waterfall and Pak Ou Cave. I strongly advise using one of the smaller tour operators, like White Elephant Adventures, that promote sustainable tourism.

Pick up souvenirs in the Night Market

Luang Prabang's night market is unlike any other market I've experienced in Asia. Quiet and serene, the market is lit up with paper lanterns and runs along Luang Prabang's main street. Vendors sell unique souvenirs like hand-woven scarves, silver jewelry, and packets of traditional tea.

Check out the Stay Another Day exhibition

Located at the Kopnoi Exhibition Gallery, the Stay Another Day Exhibition showcases Luang Prabang's efforts to promote sustainable tourism, with a focus on Laos' environment, culture and community. Spin the activity wheel to find more things to do, but beware: like many in Luang Prabang's close-knit ex-pat community, you may find yourself staying forever!

About the Author... Jessica Arriola Marati


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