Exploring Luang Prabang
Located in northern Laos next to the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is the most interesting town in the country. It is a small and friendly place to be, with spectacular architecture and beautiful surrounding lush green countryside and mountains. A great way to arrive into the town is by our private san pan boat along the Mekong from northern Thailand and once in Luang Probang we always recommend staying between 3 to 5 nights – it is many visitors’ favourite place in south east Asia.
Unlike many historically important monuments and buildings in Asia, those in Luang Prabang have been immaculately preserved over the last few hundred years, and the town unsurprisingly was named a UNESCO world heritage site in the 1990s. The traditional Laotian wooden buildings have interesting French colonial influences – influences which are also present in the food and other areas of the culture – and there are some outstanding temples and monasteries including Wat Xieng Thong (the Golden Temple), Wat Mai and Wat Visoun.
The respect that the locals have for their surroundings is also present in the relationships between the inhabitants, and it is a refreshing experience being amongst them. This said, Laotian people can be quite shy when it comes to visitors, so it is essential to have a guide who knows the town inside-out and can introduce you to some interesting people. We love our guides in Luang Prabang as they are so proud of their town and eager to show it off, making it all the more fascinating for our clients. We also have some specialist contacts there who we like to introduce to our clients so they can show them a little of their area of expertise. For example a visit to the local textile design centre Ock Pop Tok with Joanna Smith is one of Luang Prabang’s highlights. It is a unique experience and a great way to get to know some locals – just be prepared for them to have a laugh at your expense when you try your hand at a little silk-dying – it is much harder than it looks.
The centre of the town is relatively small and we think the best way to get around is by bicycle. Usually we suggest starting early so that you don’t miss the monks collecting their morning Alms which is a daily tradition throughout this part of Asia. Bicycling is also an excellent way to get to some of the interesting sites out of the town centre – of which there are many – including the local and less visited waterfalls which make a very refreshing pit-stop.
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