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Luang Prabang in Laos

Luang Prabang Laos
Luang Prabang in Laos was voted the number one destination to visit by the New York Times in 2008, and coincidentally, I was there in February that year. I booked my trip to visit Vientiane and Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This old charm town which was once the capital of Laos, is located 425 kilometres north of Vientiane and is only 300 meters wide by one kilometre long and is currently my most favourite place that I have visited in years.

Photo of Luang PrabangNao's Place, Sports Bar, Grill, Bakery and Restaurant.

Luang Prabang was built by the European colonials in the 19th and 20th-century era and houses one of the best collections of French provincial style homes that many have been converted into cafes, restaurants, or even boutique hotels.

Due to the UNESCO status (which was awarded in 1995), the beauty of this place is there are absolutely no modern buildings here, making it a perfect place to enjoy the natural culture and heritage of Laos.

Luang Prabang in Laos

Luang Prabang HotelOne of the beautiful boutique hotels.

When I was walking around the main town, I could not help notice the pure French Indochinese architectural marvels of that era.

Some of them stand out in the night as they are beautifully lit. Most of the beautiful bungalow homes you see have been converted to high-end boutique hotels.

Entering one of them, a Lao doorman dressed in the 40s concierge attire welcomed me in perfect English, a site rarely seen nowadays.

Streets in Luang PrabangLuang Prabang Main street in the day.

Back to Luang Prabang town. The town is tiny, with one main street called Sisavangvong Road, where everything happens.

All the main restaurants, cafes, travel agents, Internet cafes, spas, money exchange, antique shops and boutiques are here. So in the mornings, the town will be very busy with tourist.

I noticed when I arrived in Luang Prabang that the majority of the tourists were all Caucasians. Lilian and I were probably the only Southeast Asians there throughout our stay of 4 full nights.

Night Photo of Luang PrabangSisavangvong Street at night.

In the night, the restaurants, cafes and Internet cafes come alive. Travellers catch up with one another, asking for information on Laos's other places while having dinner and drinks in town.

People are generally friendly, from travellers to the locals. On occasion, you see orange-robed monks checking emails or surfing the web in Internet cafes.

Luang Prabang GuesthouseSayo Guesthouse in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang's town is actually fascinating when you start to explore the other little roads and lanes (you can actually walk the entire town in a couple of hours).

Here is where you will find many guest houses catering to the budget travellers of backpackers.

Like the one in the picture above, some of the guesthouses, called Sayo Guest House, are remarkably maintained. There are various temples and homegrown businesses that you will come across.

Luang Prabang Bakery Guest HouseLuang Prabang Bakery Guesthouse.

Another popular place from my observation is the Bakery Guest House right smack in town. This cafe serves some great food and doubles as a nice little cosy hotel.

The menu is fantastic as they serve wine, cocktails, pizzas, steaks, pasta, burger, sandwich, soup, and spicy Lao food.

Lao restaurant Luang Prabang Local Lao restaurant in town.

Generally, we tried most of the restaurants on Sisavangvong Road as we were daily visiting the main street for our tours to Pak Ou Caves, Whisky Village and other places of interest. To be very honest, I think Lao food is so much tastier than Cambodian or Thai food.

Something about the fresh herbs they use here makes it so much nicer. We even tried Indian food for a change. So, there is a variety if you must know.

Tour Packages in Luang PrabangTour packages in town.

Tour companies or travel agents are all found along Sisavangvong (Main) Road. You can book sightseeing tours or book your tickets to other places in Laos or the neighbouring countries.

Prices for the tours are surprisingly cheap too. The most popular tours would be the Kuang Si Waterfall Tours, Elephant Ride tours, Pak Ou Caves and Rural Village visits.

Massage in Luang PrabangMassage services (proper ones too).

In general, there are many things to do in Luang Prabang, so please do not try to book a 48-hour trip there as you will be missing out on a lot of things.

I would recommend a minimum of 4 nights to enjoy your stay and experience the traditional Lao Spa.

Well, ladies, this would be a shocker as it costs a fraction of what you pay back home. Anyway, 10,000 KIP = US$1.00, so from the picture above, a Lao Massage costs only US$4.00 and hour.

Hmong Market Luang PrabangHmong Day Market.

You can walk around the day market called Hmong Market at Sisavangvong Road and Setthathilat Road. At this morning market, the Hmong Hill Tribe people of Luang Prabang will be selling their wares.

You can find quilted bags, silver jewellery, t-shirts, fabrics, and cushion covers in Lao designs. These Hmong tribe people belong to the Lau Soung ethnolinguistic group known for their silver ornaments and textiles skills.

Night Market in Luang PrabangLuang Prabang Handicraft Market at night.

There is also the most popular Luang Prabang Night Market, which is starts at the corner of Sisavangvong Road and Kitsarat Road, and this market is open daily from 5.00 pm right till about 11.00 pm at night.

Hundreds of traders from all over Luang Prabang will sell their wares here, ranging from catchy T-Shirts, Silver Jewelry, Lamps, Silk Scarves, Traditional shoes and headgear, original paintings, antiques, blankets, pillowcases and many other souvenir items.

Seriously, this is probably one of the best markets I have ever been to, which remains true to the actual word handicraft market.

Luang Prabang Night Market Video

I think I must have visited this handicraft market four nights in a row. It was rather large with so many unique things to see. Unlike what you get in the Bangkok markets, the items here were exciting and, most importantly, cheap.

And you could also bargain with the locals. Not to worry, as they speak some English, if not a calculator will be whipped out by them.

I bought over 20 paintings, and Lilian bought about $100.00 worth of silver earrings and bracelets, not forgetting the beautiful Lao design cushion covers.

Antiques in Luang PrabangChinese antiques being passed off as Lao antiques, so be careful.

In other parts of Luang Prabang, you would also see some shops selling antiques like the picture above. But do not be easily fooled, as most of these are brought in via China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Even if you ask the shopkeeper, they will insist that these are authentic Lao antiques, so those who can tell the difference, keep an eye out as you would not want to be taken for a ride. 

Places of interest around Luang Prabang
  • Kuang Si Waterfall Tours
  • Elephant Ride tours
  • Pak Ou Caves
  • Rural Village visits
  • Phousi Hill
  • National Museum
  • Vat Xiengthong
Markets and Shopping in Luang Prabang
  • Hmong Day Market
  • Dara Market
  • Handicraft Night Market
  • Shops along Sisavangvong Road
Best time to visit Luang Prabang
  • Between October and March - Highly recommended.
  • May till October - Rainy Season
  • March till May - Temperature of 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit 
When I travelled around Luang Prabang Town, there were many activities for me to do, but the one that captured my attention was the river tours.

I ended up taking a longboat tour along the beautiful river. I visited a local and traditional place called Whisky Village in Luang Prabang, which was rather interesting, especially if you were a first-timer.

After the village, the boat will continue on its journey to the amazing Pak Ou Buddha Caves. This is an easy visit as there is a proper jetty here and walking up the caves is only a short walk. But inside the caves, that is what totally captivated me.

If you are exploring the main town area, don't forget to visit Phu Si Hill in Luang Prabang for an amazing Lao sunset.

Be prepared for a decent hike uphill via stairs here, and for those who are not that fit, I recommend you make a few stops to catch your breath. Tip: Go early to get a good spot. 

Map of Luang Prabang

View Larger Map

If you have not visited Luang Prabang, I would highly recommend that you do it as it is one of Indochina's most beautiful places and the least visited places.

Here is a list of things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos, for anyone planning a journey or trip here.

For me, and the fact that this was my first time here, I absolutely enjoyed my visit here and no doubt that I have also made plans to re-visit this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Town called Luang Prabang Laos one day.

Post a Comment


Nicholas Leong said…
Looks like an awesome place to go! :) Adding it to my list. Its getting a bit too long :P
CathJ said…
Thanks for sharing... nice pic.. waiting for nxt coming part.. ^_^
wmw said…
Looks good...haven't been here...yet!
Anonymous said…
Is the vintage car part of the boutique hotel? I like old buildings converted into boutique hotels. I also like vintage cars.
Malaysia Asia said…
Nic, even my list is still long but go now while it is still non-commercialised.

Cath - Thank you, next part maybe tomorrow as I am super tired today. I will try though.

Wmw - Thanks for dropping by.

Mei - Yes it was, hotel transport from what one of the locals told me. If you like old buildings, Laos IS one of the places to visit. Tons of them there.

Anonymous said…
Hey Jr! It's me...Joslynn here!:D Been visiting your blog once a while and enjoyed reading your posts. I haven't heard of that many ppl I know who have visited Luang Prabang at all. Nice post! I like the 2nd photo with the 2 motorcylces outside. So retro. I got a travel blog too but I don't update it like everyweek lah. Most are my past travels. Continue blogging & enjoy!
yoon see said…
I really enjoy the handicraft market video:)
Thanks David!
Borneo Falcon said…
I been planning to go to Luang Prabang since last year. Your photos gave me an insight of what to expect there
Jessen said…
lol... Laos, nice but not a place I will go. I prefer country like Japan. :p
Malaysia Asia said…
Hello Joslynn, thank you for the support and email me your blog site please?

Yoon See, thank you. I tell ya, I must have bought 10% of the market there.

Ben, best time to go is actually Nov till Feb. So book it!

Jessen, sounds like you like the city life!

Steinar said…
I love the detail you go into David. Your blog is a really useful resource these days.

Keep on Blogging!
David said…
"French provincial style homes" - it brings to mind the French colonial history and all that ensued, so I wonder what the attitude of the people of Laos to Western visitors is today? I think it is a natural question that must be in the back of the mind of people. Perhaps people are just people and respond to one another on that level, but I wonder whether the hangover from the wars is still palpable?

I was in India earlier this year, and though British Rule ended over 60 years ago, the complex feelings that some people there have to Britain are evident. Like many people, I try to bridge the gap by being sensitive to people and cultures. Still, history is a fact.
Jason said…

What a cool town! It is now on my list of "must-sees"

Thanks David, great post!

Indian Bazaars said…
The heritage houses look so good. Enjoyed reading your post!
Malaysia Asia said…
Thank you very much for the comments.

Steiner, David, Jason and Indian Bazaars.

I hope that some of you make it to Laos before it comes a Tourist Spot like Siem Reap.