Luang Prabang was built by the European colonials in the 19th and 20th century era and houses one of the best collection of French provincial style homes which many have been converted into cafes, restaurants or even boutique hotels. The beauty about this place is due to the UNESCO status (which was awarded in 1995), is there are absolutely no modern buildings here making it a perfect place to enjoy the natural culture and heritage of Laos.
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 who was dressed in the 40s concierge attire, welcomed me in perfect English, a site rarely seen nowadays.
Back to Luang Prabang town. The town is very small 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. One thing I noticed when I arrived in Luang Prabang was the majority of the tourist were all Caucasians. Lilian and me were probably the only South East Asians there throughout our stay of 4 full nights there.
In the night, the restaurants, cafes and Internet cafes come alive. Travelers catch up with one another asking information on other places of Laos while having dinner and drinks in town. People are generally friendly, from the travelers to the locals. On occasion, you see orange robed monks checking emails or surfing the web in Internet cafes.
The town of Luang Prabang is actually very interesting when you start to explore the other little roads and lanes, (you can actually walk the entire town in a couple of hours) and here is where you will find many guest houses catering to the budget travelers of backpackers. Some of the guest houses like the one in the picture above called Sayo Guest House are remarkably maintained. There are various temples and home grown businesses that you will come across.
Another popular place from my observation is the Bakery Guest House right smack in town. This cafe serves some great food and doubles as nice little cozy hotel. The menu is fantastic as they serve wine,cocktails, pizzas, steaks, pasta, burger, sandwich, soup, and spicy Lao food.
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 that makes it so much nicer. We even tried Indian food for a change. So, there is variety if you must know.
Tour companies or travel agents are all found along Sisavangvong (Main) Road. You can book sight seeing tours or book your tickets to other places in Laos or the neighboring 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.
In general, there are a ton of 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 easily recommend a minimum of 4 nights there to enjoy your stay and also 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.
You can walk around the day market which is called Hmong Market at the junction of Sisavangvong Road and Setthathilat Road. At this morning market, the Hmong Hill Tribe people of Luang Prabang will be selling their wares and you can find quilted bags, silver jewelery, t-shirts, some fabrics and cushion covers in Lao designs. These Hmong tribe people belong to the Lau Soung ethnolinguistic group which are known for their skills in silver ornaments and textiles.
There is also the most popular Handicraft 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 Jewelery, Lamps, Silk Scarves, Traditional shoes and head gear, original paintings, antiques, blankets, pillow cases and many other souvenir items. Seriously, this is probably the best market I have ever been to which remains true to the actual word handicraft market.
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. Not like what you get in the Bangkok markets, the items here were really interesting 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.
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 also Thailand. Even if you ask the shop keeper, they will insist that these are authentic Lao antiques so for those of you who can tell the difference, keep an eye out.
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
- Hmong Day Market
- Dara Market
- Handicraft Night Market
- Shops along Sisavangvong Road
- Between October and March
- May till October - Rainy Season
- March till May - Tempreture of 90 to 100 degrees F
View Larger Map