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VANG VIENG

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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, where peace and serenity reign. You'll leave fulfilled and inspired. There’s a quiet solitude at every corner. Spend 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.

Participating in the ceremony is allowed, but show respect by dressing appropriately, covering your chest, shoulders, and legs. 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.

 

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

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 bright 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 of 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 Laung Prabang was soaking in the quiet morning with a coffee and chocolate croissant in hand.

These are some of our 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 temples to explore in the city and the 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 to these temples 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.

Luang Prabang has been a Buddhist spiritual center for centuries. At the heart of the city, you will find several magnificent temples, each with its unique history, architecture, and cultural significance. One of the most iconic is Wat Xieng Thong, known for its intricate gilded carvings, sweeping rooflines, and serene garden. Another must-visit is Wat Mai, with its striking five-tiered roof, ornate facade, and vibrant painting. The most sacred temple is Wat Phu Si, located at the top of a hill that provides sweeping views of the city and the Mekong River.

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2. Kuang Si Falls

Kuang Si Falls is a stunning three-tiered waterfall located just outside Luang Prabang. The hike to 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 where you can swim, and there are also several smaller waterfalls and pools that are perfect for a relaxing swim. Don't forget to bring your camera, as the Kuang Si Falls offer some of the most stunning natural landscapes in Laos.

Located about 30 km south of the city, the waterfalls consist of a series of cascades and pools of blue-turquoise water. You can take a trek to the waterfalls, passing through lush forests, rice paddies, and traditional villages along the way. Once you arrive, you can swim, picnic, or simply soak in the beauty of the nature around you.

Tickets

Tickets:

$5 per adult and $3 for the audio guide

Make sure to buy the audio guide.

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Of the 12,000 to 20,000 prisoners of S-21 prison, only 12 survived. Some of those survivors sell their autobiographies at the museum. These books provide firsthand accounts of the horrors of what life was like for prisoners at S-21. By sharing their stories, these brave survivors have helped shed light on darkest period in Cambodia's history and keep the memories of the victims alive.

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4. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

Every night, the main street of Luang Prabang 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 locals. The night market is a must-visit for all tourists, and you will not be disappointed by the unique and beautiful items on offer.

Tickets

Tickets:

10 USD for entrance

Hire a guide at The Royal Palace to provide context.

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5. National Museum of Cambodia

Laotian cuisine is delicious and unique, and 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 local night market is also a great place to try some of the local street food, with many vendors selling grilled meats, noodles, and fresh fruit smoothies.

Laotian cuisine is a fascinating and delicious blend of local ingredients, French influences, and Southeast Asian flavors. Luang Prabang is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, offering a range of traditional and fusion dishes. You must try specialties such as laap (minced meat salad), sticky rice, and spicy papaya salad. You can also visit a local cooking class, where you can learn how to prepare authentic Laotian dishes and take home some new recipes.

Tickets

Tickets:

10 USD for entrance

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6. Rent a scooter to Kuang Si Falls

Renting a scooter is easy in Laos, offering stunning views of the countryside and is an unforgettable experience.

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7.  Try hand-pulled noodles

If you want to experience the authentic local life in Luang Prabang, you must visit the Morning Market. As the name suggests, the market opens early in the morning and offers a bustling and colorful scene of vendors selling fresh produce, meat, fish, spices, and handicrafts. You can join the locals in tasting exotic fruits, trying your bargaining skills, or simply enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. One of my favorite things to do was soaking in the quiet morning with a coffee and chocolate croissant in hand.'

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8.  Visit the Night Market

You'll never want to leave the street home to F3, David's Restaurant, and Tatie's Bakery. Tatie's Bakery is the go-to spot for expats and travelers looking for a taste of home. From sourdough bread to croissants, macarons to tarts, everything here is made from scratch with high-quality ingredients. The bakery is cozy and inviting, with a small seating area to enjoy your treats with a cup of coffee or tea just like a local.

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Tip:

Their bakery items are buy one get one after 5 PM! 😍

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9.  Independence Monument

The Independence Monument commemorates Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. It was built to resemble traditional Khmer architecture and the shape represents a lotus flower. At the top of the monument, a statue of a woman holds the flame of independence. The park surrounding the monument is the perfect places to join locals and tourists alike for a walk and to see a different side to Phnom Penh.

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