Luang Prabang Things to Do

  • Suburban Luang Prabang
    Suburban Luang Prabang
    by Assenczo
  • Things to Do
    by Assenczo
  • Things to Do
    by Assenczo

Most Recent Things to Do in Luang Prabang

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    Whiskey/Textile tourism

    by Assenczo Updated Feb 26, 2014

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    Pak Ou caves trip includes a major stopover in one of the villages along the Mekong. Some of the original traits are still around such as the “woven” houses but in general the whole lifestyle is on a very slippery slope to “civilization”. Men are producing “whiskey” in industrial quantities and women are churning out enough textiles to dress up half of China. Hopefully the men know how to distill properly and get rid of the poisonous alcohol. Most probably the liquid is sold for its preserving properties though. The bottles are home to all sorts of animals – snakes, lizards, scorpions etc. Sure, it makes for an interesting souvenir provided the home countries’ immigration department does not have anything against exotic fauna entering its land space albeit in cooked form. As for the shawls, scarves and other materials they tend to be much cheaper than in town and look more authentic in the local environment. Considering that the locals are not dressed up from head to toe in their own production it does not look so authentic anymore. Along the way, some of the locals have improved their lot so much that they have moved into brick base “blouse-and-skirt” type of houses complete with satellite dishes so they are “au courant” with what the latest fashion trend is. Chances are the latest output from Gucci and Louis Vuitton does not include Lao textiles in their fashion statements.

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    Cave tourism

    by Assenczo Updated Feb 26, 2014

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    North of Luang Prabang the magnate for the foreigners is a set of caves names Pak Ou. All the passengers raked by the travel agencies for the last couple of days are lined up around eight o’clock in front of the stairs leading to the tourist boat pier. The trip even includes a “free” drive-around town in a tuk-tuk with length depending on the location of someone’s hotel. This practice might be a bit of a nuisance that early in the morning but at the same time relationships with fellow passengers are developed on the tuk-tuk and lamented after later on while feeling lonely on separate boats. The number of passengers are strictly limited, usually less than the seats available on board. This could be done on purpose or be the fluke of the day. One thing is for sure, the local tourism administration does not want to see any capsized boats due to overcrowding. Anyway, overcrowding there is and it is at the bottle neck of the journey - the caves. There are so many boats that they cannot moor at each other’s side anymore and have to use the shore further downstream. Caves are the preferred local for Buddhist shrines in the buxom of nature sort of speak, far away from the human vanity and hustle. Well, not quite in this context since the hordes are overwhelming and time restricted so overcrowding is the norm. Most likely the whole exercise can be done at different time and the site would be practically desolate with the minor detail of higher cost since the boat has to be chartered separately for fewer people.

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    Fantasy waterfalls

    by Assenczo Updated Feb 26, 2014

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    Luang Prabang has its limits. After a couple of days of shrine investigations and Mekong lounging it is time for some action. There are two popular destinations in the area developed to absorb the bored tourist mass and spin dollars off. South of town about 35km away are the Kuang Si Falls. The access is easy with a tour in a minibus but in return no expectations of serenity are to be developed. Many other busses have been hired for the day and they all congregate around the same time based on “two-shift” policy which in turn spreads the masses around a bit. The falls are cordoned off and provided with some extra entertainment in the form of Asian bear zoo where unfortunate/fortunate animals are hanging out sometimes quite literally of a bamboo hammock. At the bottom of the falls large pools form and swimming is quite feasible since the waters are so beckoning with their mad blue colour. Another matter is the bacterial or other flora thus people must use it on their own risk. Two paths follow the falls – the right one much less used then the left one, offering a glimpse of the natural wonder from different angles. No matter the angle though, the water has the same enigmatic blue hue that does not leave the visitor indifferent to say the least. The main cascade is the tallest, followed by smaller ones that finally turn into something similar to terraced rice paddies before calming down into the bottom lake. Despite its touristy designation the falls make for wonderful half-day trip out of Luang Prabang in the jungle of Laos that still retains its humongous trees.

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    Participate in Touristy Ceremony

    by Assenczo Written Feb 11, 2014
    On the move at 6 o'clock
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    Luang Prabang is the old capital of Laos, a landlocked country. By default this background defines more traditional way of life with other peoples’ modernity kept at bay. One expression of traditional life is the presence of many monks who are young Lao men on their way to become better people without committing their lives to God necessarily. While on duty though they have to follow the cannon, perform certain rituals and society has to give back to them in response. The “giving back” portion consists quite literally of giving rice and other commercially processed foods in plastic bags. So far so good till his majesty the tourists come into the picture guided by the skilful invisible hand of the tourism industry, subdivision of the growth ministry of the planet. While taking the pictures might be offensive enough to the ritual from somebody else’s point of view this is not an issue in traditional Lao culture because as Buddhist it is it must be all inclusive. So why do not we allow the tourists to be reverent and give alms too? Here is a nice kilim to kneel on and by the way you can buy the processed crap directly from the mother of the monk freshly turned into a business woman.

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    Beat the Crowds at Sunset

    by Assenczo Written Feb 11, 2014

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    The Sun setting
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    The initiation process of becoming a Laos fan (or at least a Luang Prabang fan) includes a tough test of endurance and perseverance. It involves climbing a steep hill, highest in town, jockeying for position at the top where there is hardly any space around the stupa to accommodate the willing and then take this ultimate photo that is going to make you famous on Facebook. Some people are experienced tourist attraction travellers equipped with the latest photo gadgets including ones that attach to a pole so one can beat the crowds out of the view or take the perfect “selfie” with the sun in the background.

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    Cross Nam Ou

    by Assenczo Updated Feb 11, 2014

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    Check point
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    Central Luang Prabang, being a peninsula, has the advantage of contact with rivers on two sides. The fancy, touristy downtown is connected to a more real suburb via temporary bamboo bridges that come down during the downpours. As entrepreneurial as ever the Lao have installed check points on the downtown side charging white-skinned people for the crossing. Nevertheless the toll is worth it to be able to have a different vantage point of Luang Prabang proper or just watch locals do their chores along the banks. On the other side a completely different pace of life reveals itself. The monks look more natural, the street dogs more ambitious and the houses more traditionally made.

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    Cross the Mekong

    by Assenczo Updated Feb 11, 2014
    Life on board
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    Crossing the Mekong by a local ferry is a telling experience. A trip in the late afternoon can turn into an improvised and spontaneous “sunset” cruise. The locals bring over all sorts of belongings and vehicles to their “other” world across the mighty river. This world of theirs starts to unveil itself en route. With a bit of luck the cycle of life and death can be witnessed on the spot. A body, closely resembling one of a dog was freely flowing towards the South China Sea. On the opposite side of the river, fully oblivious to this event, a bunch of locals were doing their night ablutions – strait into the river. One fellow even brushed his teeth with the blessed waters of the Mekong! One has to be quite sturdy to withstand the onslaught of so many exotic bacteria coming all the way from Tibet!

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    Give a child an amazing gift.

    by planxty Updated Nov 17, 2013

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    Library Building, Luang Prabang, Lao.

    I mentioned in my tip about the Big Brother Mouse literacy programme that it is easy to feel good about yourself in Luang Prabang and this tip refers to something that, whilst not free is so ludicrously cheap and yet so worthwhile it is well worth doing.

    The building shown is as multi-functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. It houses the local library, the Childrens Cultural Centre, a book exchange / shop where any profit goes into providing books and the place I am now going to describe. Literacy in much of rural Lao is a serious problem with 30% of all Lao females aged 6 - 25 never having attended school. Some of the other statistics are seriously disturbing as well.

    To the left hand side of the building as you look, there is an office which runs a slow boat library, as this is the most effective way of visiting many of the outlying areas. For a mere $2 US you buy a book to be put on the library boat and distributed next time it goes out, which is usually about twice a month. If you donate and are there at the right time, you can go on the boat and watch this distribution, altohugh unfortunately, I wasn't.

    I don't care how tight a budget you are on, if you can afford to travel from elsewhere to Lao, you can afford $2 for the chance to perhaps start an under-priveleged Lao child on the path to literacy. Backpackers, forego that extra beer tonight in the Hive Bar and believe me, you will feel far better than the buzz the Beer Lao would give you.

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    The Alms Giving Ceremony - A Sacred Lao Tradition

    by gdilieto Updated Jul 6, 2013

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    Monks on their Alms Round

    The Alms Giving Ceremony is an old tradition of Theravada Buddhism and one of the most sacred Lao traditions. Alms giving is usually done at the break of dawn when Buddhist monks leave their monasteries and begin their alms rounds. It starts at about 5:30 am and by 6:15 am the monks are back to their monastery; you will have to match this window if you intend to observe or participate to the ceremony. The Northeastern part of Sakkarine Road (Main Street) and its parallel street leading to Wat Xieng Thong are two popular spots to observe the ceremony, with Sakkarine Road being popular with guided tours and the street leading to Wat Xieng Thong being in my experience more intimate.

    The Alms Giving Ceremony involves local people preparing food and making offerings to the monks. Laypeople wait for the monks to approach them with their alms bowl. The monks walk bare feet, single file, carrying their alms bowls in front of them. The monks do not speak or smile or make any sign of appreciation; once food has been placed inside the bowl, the monk will place the lid on top of his alms bowl and carry on on his round. Most common offerings include rice, fresh fruit and traditional sweet snacks.

    All what you need to be equipped with to observe the ceremony is common sense: attend in silence and, if taking photos, do it discretely. If you intend to participate to the ceremony offering alms to the monks, the key rules are: (a) dress appropriately (women should have their shoulders, chest and legs covered), (b) women are supposed to lay in sign of respect, men are allowed to stand, (c) women must not make any physical contact with the monks, (d) do not disturb the regular course of the ceremony. Since it appears monks have occasionally got sick by mishandled food, you will find recommended to have your food cooked at your guesthouse or to buy it at the local market rather than purchasing it from street vendors gathering around to sell to tourists for the purpose.

    Nowadays this religious ceremony has become the top tourist attraction in Luang Prabang, with tourists often outnumbering participants and spoiling the ceremony with disrespectful behavior. I have read somewhere monks intended to discontinue the practice but government stated they would maintain the ceremony for tourists using actors so eventually monks reverted on their intent.

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    Stroll across a bamboo bridge.

    by IreneMcKay Updated Jun 24, 2013

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    Bamboo bridge.
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    I believe this is only possible in the dry season. There are two bamboo bridges across the Nam Khan River. The one near where the Nam Khan and Mekong meet costs 5000kip there and back. We just crossed and viewed the Mekong and Nam Khan but I read you can walk from here to a pottery village. The other bamboo bridge was also 5000kip, but you could cross several times a day for that. On the other side there was a guest house restaurant overlooking the river.

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    That Makmo

    by IreneMcKay Updated Jun 24, 2013

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    Watermelon Stupa.

    Watermelon shaped stupa located on the grounds by Wat Visoun and Wat Aham. This area is worth a wander. At this point in our trip we had no kip and I paid $US3 to go in Wat Visoun. It would have been cheaper to pay in kip at 20,000kip. For me the grounds were more interesting than the inside which housed a large Buddha surrounded by smaller Buddhas in a variety of different positions.

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    The Temples of Luang Prabang

    by gdilieto Updated Jun 3, 2013

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    Wat Xieng Thong

    There are more than 30 Buddhist temples (wats) in Luang Prabang's tourist center, an area which can be easily walked in a hour or so. No much guidance is needed on which temples to see or how to get there and my advise would be: beside visiting Wat Xiang Thong which for historical and religious relevance is a real must-see, just wander the town center stopping by the temples which inspire you the most.

    Luang Prabang with its history of capital of a kingdom has been historically rich in temples. Following reopening of Laos to international tourism in 1989 and leveraging funds from UNESCO after appointment as Heritage Site in 1995, the majority of those temples have been beautifully restored (with undeniable success on one side but also to the point that at times it may feel like being in a theme park) and protected by the city's UNESCO status. Those temples also serve as monasteries housing more than 1,000 monks.

    All architectural styles found in Laos are represented in Luang Prabang: the so-called "Luang Prabang style", with multi-tiered roofs sloping almost down to the floor (check Wat Xieng Thong), the "Vientiane Style", with roof sustained by columns and verandas outside the hall, and the "Xieng Khuang Style" a blend with features from the two styles above.

    Some of the temples require an entrance fee during opening hours but access is still permitted (and free of charge) outside those hours. No specific need-to-know for visiting temples in Luang Prabang other than using common sense keeping in mind those are religious monuments with a religious life going on. Among other things: dress respectfully and ask permission before photographing monks from close distance.

    The best time of the day for temple site-seeing is in my experience the earlier hours of the day, between 5:30 and 8 am, when the atmosphere is peaceful and serene.

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    Enjoy the sunset over the Mekong.

    by IreneMcKay Updated Mar 1, 2013

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    Sunset over the Mekong.
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    The best place to view the sunset in my opinion is from a restaurant overlooking the Mekong. There are lots of people offering sunset cruises too. You will encounter them as you stroll along the Mekong. Apparent disinterest gets the price down.

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    The Royal Palace.

    by IreneMcKay Written Feb 23, 2013

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    Wat on the palace grounds.
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    Luang Prabang's royal palace is now its national museum. Entry 20,000 kip. We did not go inside just looked at its grounds where you can see a stunningly beautiful wat, the royal theatre, a statue, a fish pond, some lovely plants.

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    Wats on Sakkarine Road.

    by IreneMcKay Written Feb 23, 2013

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    Wat Sop.
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    There were lots of beautiful wats one after another on this road. All were free entry and all are worth a visit. Sakkarine Road is a continuation of the main road as it heads towards the end of the peninsula.

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