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LUANG PRABANG

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Megan the Travelin Writer

Best Things to Do in Luang Prabang

I had no idea what to expect from this rural town hours into the interior of Laos, but it quickly became one of my favorite towns in the world. This quiet town is peaceful and timeless, and peace and serenity reign. There’s a quiet solitude at every corner. Spend at least three days experiencing the peace of stunning golden temples, the emerald Kuang Si Waterfalls, vibrant markets, and many more things to do in Luang Prabang.

Day 1 - Luang Prabang, where peace and serenity reign

There’s an overwhelming peace and serenity in Luang Prabang that dominates the atmosphere. It invites you to relax and be still. It’s impossible to not rest here. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so all trucks and buses are banned from the town center. Spend your first morning enjoying the quietness and peace of timeless Luang Prabang.

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1. Witness the Monks Almsgiving ceremony

Every morning at sunrise, hundreds of barefooted monks spread out across Luang Prabang, collecting offerings of sticky rice from the local Buddhists. "Tak Bat," alms-giving, is an important part of daily life in Laos.

Enjoy the stillness of the morning, as Luang Prabang wakes up together for this important ceremony.

Observe from a distance, being careful not to get in the way of the monks or the local people, make sure flash is turned off on your camera, and practice absolute silence. Participating in the ceremony is allowed, but show respect by dressing appropriately, covering your chest, shoulders, and legs.

Where to find the Almsgiving: Every day around 6am on Sakkaline Street.

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2. Explore daily life in Luang Prabang by foot

Follow the colorful sight of the monks in their monarch-orange robes to the Luang Prabang Morning Market. The walk takes around 15 minutes, down Luang Prabang's quiet, dimly-lit streets to where life and the morning begin at the local market.

Try practicing presence along the way, the practice of being nowhere except exactly where you are (physically) in that moment, paying attention to the small details. Most places feel rushed, but Luang Prabang is different. There's a meditative quality to it, as if the entire town is practicing stillness and peacefulness, and here is your chance to join them.

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3. The Luang Prabang Morning Market

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Head to the Morning Market next to the Royal Palace for a riotous display of daily life in Laos. As the name suggests, the market opens early in the morning to a bustling and colorful scene of vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and herbs.

 

Try to notice the small moments—a woman arranging flowers, a local bargaining over prices. It's those small moments that make up travel more than an itinerary. It's the moments that happen in-between what we planned. That's where the life is.

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Tip:

The chocolate croissants here are amazing! 😍

4. Coffee!

France's colonial influence can be seen not only in the architecture scattered across Luang Prabang, but in the coffee and bakery culture. Walk to Khem Kong street on the Mekong River for some of the best coffee shops in Laos. One of my favorite things to do in Luang Prabang is soak in the quiet morning with a coffee and chocolate croissant in hand.

These are some of my favorite coffee shops to try in Luang Prabang:

  • Saffron

  • Novelty

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For similiar French influences, explore Hoi An, Vietnam.

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5. Wat Xieng Thong

Luang Prabang is known for its stunning golden temples, with over 30 to explore in the town and surrounding areas. The most famous is Wat Xieng Thong, known for its sweeping rooflines, ornate gilded architecture, and intricate mosaics. Wat Xieng Thong is the oldest Wat (temple) in Luang Prabang. A visit here will not only allow you to appreciate Laos's rich culture and history, but also offer a sense of peace and serenity that is hard to find elsewhere.

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6. Wat Pa Phai

Of the many temples in Luang Prabang, Wat Pa Phai is one of the lesser known, tucked away in a quiet courtyard full of fragrant bougainvillaea blossoms. It's the perfect place to spend a few meditative moments, admiring the intricate gold details, rich artwork, and brightly-robed monks going about their duties like sweeping leaves, washing the courtyard, or reading a book. It's a real insight into local life in Laos.

Day 2 - Nature and beauty in Luang Prabang

There’s an overwhelming peace and serenity in Luang Prabang that dominates the atmosphere. It invites you to relax and be still. It’s impossible to not rest here. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so all trucks and buses are banned from the town center. Spend your first morning enjoying the quietness and peace of timeless Luang Prabang. 

so plan to start early in the morning and spend most of your day at Kuang Si Falls.

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7. Kuang Si Falls

Kuang Si Falls is a stunning three-tiered waterfall located just 30km south of Luang Prabang.

 

The hike to the top of the falls is a bit challenging, but the stunning scenery and refreshing waterfalls make it worth the effort. The main waterfall has a beautiful turquoise pool that's perfect for photography, and there are also several smaller waterfalls and pools where you can swim.

Located about 30 km south of the city, the waterfalls consist of a series of cascades and pools of blue-turquoise water.

The pools are absolutely stunning and actually turquoise. 💙

You can take a scooter to the waterfalls, passing through lush forest, rice paddies, and traditional villages along the way. (Don’t forget to wear your helmet!) You’ll want to start early in the morning to avoid the crowds, but make sure to bring a jacket because it can get chilly on the scooter.

Once in the parking lot for Kuang Si Falls, park and start the short walk up. Once you arrive, you can swim, picnic, or simply soak in the beauty of the nature around you.

🇱🇦Tip: There are more falls to see then just this one. To see the smaller falls and go for a swim, walk back towards the entrance along the path closest to the falls.

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Tip:

When renting a scooter, always take a photo or video of any existing damage.

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Getting to Kuang Si Falls

It's about a 40-minute drive from Luang Prabang to Kuang Si Falls, and you can get there by tuk-tuk, shared van, or our favorite—scooter! 

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* Photo of morning market

8. Visit the Night Market

After spending the day at Kuang Si Falls, the night market is the perfect place to unwind and take in the sights of a bustling, beautiful Laos. Every night, the main street of Luang Prabang, Sisavangvong Road, comes alive with the vibrant and colorful night market. Here, you can find a wide range of handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry, and local food. This is a great place to experience the local culture and interact with the friendly Laos people.

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Socially Responsible Travel:

As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, bargaining is expected, but make sure to remain kind and respectful by not over bargaining.

Vegetarian or vegan? There's a vegetarian buffet down a side street leading off from the main night market.

9. Try traditional Laotian food

Laotian cuisine is delicious and unique, a blend of local ingredients, French colonial influences, and Southeast Asian flavors. Luang Prabang has some of the best restaurants and street food vendors in the country. Some of the must-try dishes include laap (a spicy meat salad), tam mak hoong (a green papaya salad), and khao soi (a coconut curry noodle soup). The night market is a great place to try some of the local street food, with many vendors selling grilled meats, noodles, coconut pancakes, and fresh fruit smoothies.

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Tip:

Day 3 - Local life in Luang Prabang

There’s an overwhelming peace and serenity in Luang Prabang that dominates the atmosphere. It invites you to relax and be still. It’s impossible to not rest here. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so all trucks and buses are banned from the town center. Spend your first morning enjoying the quietness and peace of timeless Luang Prabang. 

It's about a 40-minute drive by motorbike, tuk-tuk, or shared van, so plan to start early in the morning and spend most of your day at Kuang Si Falls.

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10. Cross the Bamboo Bridge

Follow the colorful sight of the monks in their monarch-orange robes to the Luang Prabang Morning Market. The walk takes around 15 minutes, down Luang Prabang's quiet, dimly-lit streets to where life and the morning begin at the local market.

Try practicing presence along the way, the practice of being nowhere except exactly where you are (physically) in that moment, paying attention to the small details. Most places feel rushed, but Luang Prabang is different. There's a meditative quality to it, as if the entire town is practicing stillness and peacefulness, and here is your chance to join them.

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