Top 5: Luang Prabang, Laos

 

mekong river 2

Luang Prabang night market and street food

The night markets of Luang Prabang sprawl down Susavangvong Road in the shadows of  Phou Si Mountain and offer the ideal opportunity for some retail therapy, from locally produced food and drink to clothing and souvenirs; you’ll find a feast for the eyes with friendly, not pushy traders . At the top end of the markets are a series of food stalls to fill those empty stomachs for next to nothing. Try one of the local Laotian curries which are cooked up in front of you from scratch and come served on a banana leaf.

 

Pak Ou Caves

A place of Buddhist pilgrimage since the 16th century, the limestone cliffs open to reveal thousands of Buddha statues which worshippers have given across the years as they believe the caves are inhabited by spirits of the river.  The first small cave is easily accessible whilst the second, larger cave is up a well maintained path which is quite steep. Take a flashlight if you have one although locals to hire them for a small fee.  Getting there is relatively straight forward, a 2 hour boat journey up the Mekong or an hour journey in a very bump tuk-tuk.

caves luang prabang

Temples

You can’t write about Luang Prabang without mentioning the temples. With more than 30 beautiful Buddhist temples in this little town you won’t ever be far away from an impressive piece of architecture. The temples are generally elaborate with large sweeping roofs that reach down the ground. For breathtaking sunrises head up Mount Phousi passing many temples on the climb up to Wat Chomsi temple where you can look down upon Luang Prabang and watch the sunrise from behind the mountains.

 

Kuang Si Waterfalls

Kuang Si Waterfalls are a series of multi-tiered waterfalls and are arguably the most picturesque waterfalls in South East Asia. Take a tuk-tuk south for 30 minutes through the terraced rice fields and winding roads and you’ll reach this spectacular natural park. As you enter you pass through small turquoise blue pools where you can take a dip to cool down in the cool waters before reaching the main and largest section of the falls. From here you can take the very steep and challenging climb to the top and the source of the falls, but it is certainly worth the effort.

 

Journey down the Mekong River

If time isn’t a factor, the 2 day slow boat from Chiang Kong in Thailand across the border is as beautiful as it gets as far as boat journeys go. An old wooden slow boat takes two full days to reach the city of gold. The boat ambles through the still brown waters of the Mekong past breath taking mountains and untouched land and you’ll feel like you couldn’t be further away from normal day to day life. The journey’s broken up with an overnight stop at Pakbeng where you’ll find a few basic guesthouses and one bar, happy bar, which is worth a visit.  You’ll arrive the following day into Luang Prabang around 16:00, you’ll be dropped  10km outside of Luang Prabang but there is a well organised tuk-tuk operation as you get off the boat and plenty of locals offering guesthouses if you haven’t organised your own accommodation. If you’re short on time, the international airport in Luang Prabang links with major cities across Asia.

 

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