A very upmarket market.
Anyone who has read some of my VT pages knows that I love markets. I hate shopping and rarely buy anything in them but I absolutely adore pottering about markets, especially those of Southeast Asia. There is something about the vibrancy, noise and sheer life of the places that really appeals to me. However, in it's apparent attempt to "sanitise" Luang Prabang for the supposed benefit of tourists, the local authorities have constructed Dara Market. It is certainly very clean, very ordered and full of rather upmarket outlets, mostly of the clothing and jewellery variety, in short exactly what I left home not to see. I honestly might as well have gone to a shopping centre (mall) on the outskirts of London or any othe Western city.
I do not wish to decry the Lao peoples wish to modernise their country at all but it all just appeared rather soulless to me. In a country where social interaction is so much a part of the fabric of life, the place was almost silent and nearly deserted if truth be told. It contrasted so starkly with the bustling, noisy morning Phousi Market that I also visited with it's noise, clutter and yes, smells.
I don't see it myself.
In the grounds of Wat Visounarath, is ths stupa of That Makmo which, in the way of transliteration can be rendered Tad Mak Mo, That Mak Mo etc. It dates from 1504 and was constructed on the orders of Queen Visounalat (again various spellings), and is in the Sinhalese style.
Apparently, it is called the melon stupa because the local people think it resembles the shape of that fruit, but I am not entirely convinced myself.
It is open from 0800-1700 daily, and the joint admission ticket to it and the wat is 20,000 kip for foreigners.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Mount Phousi is the highest spot in Luang Prabang between the Mekong River and the Nam Khan River. You cannot miss it, it is in the center of town and every time you drive or walk you will have to go around it :) If you walk up the many stairs of this site you will get to see the few Buddhist shrines on the hill.
Nam Khan River
Nam Khan River is a smaller river that ends in Luang Prabang where it joins the Mekong River.
The river is in between the Luang Prabang airport and the small peninsula of the old part of Luang Prabang, you will surely walk by the river banks when you walk the north east side of the town by the kingkitsarath road. Many restaurants, café's, some bars and street food vendors available there, they are also slightly cheaper than the food places in the center of town.
The Mekong River listed the world's 12th-longest river, it is coming from Tibetan area and runs thru China and pass thru here in Luang Prabang on its way south. The River is the historical central means of transportation and economics of Luang Prabang. Today it is the main tourism area where many hotels, restaurants and cafes are on the river banks offering romantic river view and sun set for excited tourists. In my restaurants tips I will try to add some information on good river view places by the river. (Coming up during October 2014)
Visit the Royal Palace
This is the original Royal Palace of Luang Prabang, it was occupy by royalty till the end of the monarchy in the 70’s and since then kept as the national museum. It is located in the center of Luang Prabang so you cannot miss it while visiting here.
Visit the Wat Xieng temple
The Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist temple and monastery, it is not in the main street of Luang Prabang but a bit on the tip side of the peninsula closer to the Mekong River not far from where the Nam Khan River joins into the Mekong River.
The Buddhist monks
The monks, including the novices, is something not to be miss and to talk to them is great. They are very chatty and ask many questions, and liked to shake hands. When I said that I was from Spain they were very surprised, although I guess that if I had been from Argentina, for instance, would also had been a surprise for them.
They were funny, warm-hearted and wanted to practise their English. Although I said that my mother language is Spanish, and my english not so goo, especially is very bad my accent!.
Monks collect alms and you can see them early in the morning.
- Budget Travel
- Adventure Travel
Wat Sop Sickharam
This also is a quiet garden to visit and enjoy. There are many novice monks here as there is a school and also is a working temple. More fine buildings but I must admit I was a little "templed out" by now and didn't really pay enough attention to the wat, that merited better. This is a decent place to watch the alms ceremony on the other side of the road as not many of the hordes of tourists in front of Wat Sen bother to walk down this far.
Wat Sensoukharam, Luang Prabang.
Another significant wat in the same area as Xiengthong is this one a little further along the same road closer to the town centre and also known as Wat Sen. Built with reportedly 100.000 stones from the river in the early 1700's. It is rather pretty being painted in a deep brown/red colour and decorated in gold designs.
Wat Xiengthong, Luang Prabang.
Wat Xiengthong is one of the many wats and stupas grouped on the peninsula and is one of the main starting points for the alms ceremony every morning. Once the frenzy has died down it is one of the loveliest buildings in Luang Prabang. Dating from around 1560 the wat overlooks the Mekong, and was the site for coronation of early Lao kings. There have been many renovations and restorations over the years and it was fortunate to escape the pillage and fires in 1887 from Chinese marauders. The buildings themselves are beautifully decorated, the Red Chapel with scenes of local life and religious activities in delicate coloured glass and the main Sim has a magnificent Tree of Life mosaic on the rear façade.
Normally entrance is 20.000 LAK but nobody asked me for anything.
Go and try Mr Bounmee's bridge.
Right down at the N/W end of the peninsula is a bamboo bridge that makes it easier to get across to Ban Xankong, the weavers village and a nice walk along the Mekong. Mr Bounmee built the bridge himself along with his wife and dismantles it every year before the rainy season and then rebuilds it before the next dry season. He is also there for any maintainence necessary. It costs just 5.000 LAK to go across and nothing on the return. You can stop off and have a chat with Mr Bounmee as he has excellent French and a good knowledge of English. He also gave me a small present of some sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf.
This really should be in the "What not to do's".After reading Fergy's remonstrations over the tourist behaviour during the Tak Bat, or alms ceremony I got up at 5h30 in the morning to go and see what it was all about. To tell the truth I would hate to be classed as a tourist along with the vast majority of these animals. People turning up on tuktuks and tourbuses, there must have been 4 or 500 people out there and the crowd grew as at 6h00 the drums sounded and people rushed over to the walls and started clicking and flashing through the gaps, and the monks weren't even outside yet. I saw one tourguide get off a bus with some Italians and Americans and actually stood there and taught them what to do and then coached them as the monks were walking past. All dignity was lost when the monks started filing along the pavement and bedlam ensued. I can understand people wanting a photo of a centuries old ceremony but to physically get in the face of these poor monks. It is possible to stand on the other side of the street and get the photo (as I did) without the type of frenzied movement I saw. I completely agree with Fergy when he writes that it doesn't take a lot to respect the people and culture of the place you're visiting. Photos are not that good but do show the frenzy, it was 6h00 in the morning (and I didn't use a flash). Fergy's write-up is here :
Two days up the Mekong.
Many many people do this boat trip the other way round, only because more people seem to go to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai than elsewhere in the N/NE of Thailand. But from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai is just as good as you have to stop at Pakbeng on the way anyway, and the price is the same. It is imperative to get down to the ticket office at 7h30 ready for the opening and be prepared to use your elbows. There is only one desk and the Laotian guides and touts that have clients don't hesitate to push in front if you let them. You can only buy the first part of the trip here LP to Pakbeng. Two French girls we spoke got ripped off by an agency that charged them 280.000 Lak for the whole trip each. Important if you want to be able to choose a decent seat on the boat. Remember to take sandwiches too as on the boat there is food, noodles in containers reheated if that's your thing. They do have coffee and tea at a reasonable price. We had a boat that had good seats although there are reports of wooden benches on some. We had a change of boat in Pakbeng but it was the same, not bad at all even though 9/10 hours is a bit long. There is one toilet on board too. Price is 110.000 LAK per person for each stage, so 220.000 LAK all the way to Huay Xai. The ticket Pakbeng to Huay Xai is bought on board, so once again imperative to be down there early to get a good seat. It is necessary to take your luggage with you as you will probably not have the same boat.
It is possible to do this trip by fast-boat going the whole way in 7 hours, so saving the hotel price of one night but it is not recommended at all, unless you've had a previous life as a Kamikaze, because of the hidden rocks and all sorts of lumps of wood floating in the river.
National Museum, Luang Prabang.
I must admit I started getting a little "templed out" after 3 days in LP even though we had done some different stuff, so here I just wandered round the grounds for a while. Gets you away from the street noise and very peaceful. This building was constructed in the very early part of the 20th century and was the Royal Palace until 1975 when the King was overthrown by the Pathet Lao and the palace converted into the National Museum. In the grounds is the Wat Pha Bang of pretty recent construction and further buildings off to the right side that house the royal barges and the garage that has the Kings collection of cars. Why I don't know but no photos are allowed of the cars (and a guard to make sure you don't). The grounds are free but the museum is not. Photos and bags are not allowed inside the museum and must be put in a locker.
Hours are 8h30 - 11h30 and 13h30 - 16h00 every day except Tuesday.
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