Luang Prabang is one of the cutest cities in SE Asia. This ex-French colony is World Heritage site since 1995 and has an outstanding well-preserved architecture. The city is well worth a visit, for its stunning views, the architecture and design and the fantastic food. We lively recommend you to visit Luang Prabang and recommend you the top things to do in Luang Prabang!
How to travel to Luang Prabang from Thailand
Therefore, how should you go to Laos from Chiang Rai?… In the bus station of Chiang Rai catch a bus to Chiang Khong for 1,75€. Ask the driver to let you at the nearest stop to the border. When you arrive at the bus stop catch a tuk-tuk to the border for more or less 1,35€. These prices are negotiable, but not as much as you may think.
In the border, after filling the visa papers, you will need to take a bus that crosses the friendship bridge in order to enter Laos (0,65€). Although it is just 600 mt, they don’t allow you to walk. After entering Laos and getting your tourist visa you need to catch a tuk-tuk to the city of Huay Xai, 10km from Board (2,60€).
TIP: Don’t forget to bring passport photos for the tourist visa or you will need to pay more. The visa cost us 34€ but it depends on your passport’s country. If you can, try to catch the tuk-tuk with other tourists.
Slow boat to Luang Prabang
In Huay Xai, you can take the slow boat to Luang Prabang (25€) or if you opt, you can stay and join the tours of Gibbon experience (it seems very cool but it is a bit expensive). The trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang through the Mekong River takes 2 full days. Two extremely slow days, but with fantastic views. You will overnight in Pak Beng, a small village with just 20 houses or so, nearly all of the guesthouses or restaurants. In Pak Beng, we ate a fantastic Laos meal in Sabaidee Sivilay Restaurant. (Sabaidee means hello, through Laos you will hear it often).
After 2 days of slow boating in the Mekong we arrived Luang Prabang, the cutest town in SE Asia 🙂 Laos was under the influence of France during more a less 58 years. Actually, Luang Prabang was designated a protectorate of France with internal autonomy, governed by King Sisavang Vong. So you can find some French influence around the town, including influence in the cuisine. Be aware that Luang Prabang is more expensive and has more tourists than the rest of Laos.
Accommodation in Luang Prabang
Belmond La Residence Phou Vao is an award-winning hotel which provides 5-star boutique accommodation in Luang Prabang. It features an outdoor pool, Spa treatments, free Wi-Fi and a gym. Guests can enjoy the sun on the terrace or have a drink at the bar. It offers babysitting services, a currency exchange and a reception that operates 24/7. There isn’t really anything that can wrong if you choose the Belmond… However, this comes with a price tag that you may don’t want (or can’t) afford…
My Dream Boutique Resorts an elegant resort in Luang Prabang that offers complimentary Wi-Fi, a swimming pool and a free shuttle service. This cozy resort offers massage services, free bicycle rental and a coffee bar. It provides babysitting services, a currency exchange and a reception that is available 24/7. Just a stone’s throw from nearby bars and clubs for those who want to party in Luang Prabang.
Cold River Guest House provides a comfortable setting in Luang Prabang offering free Wi-Fi access throughout their stay. The area surrounding the guest house is famous for its nightlife, though if you prefer it features both a restaurant and a bar where guests are able to relax of an evening. Check the latest prices!
Top Things to do in Luang Prabang
#1 Temple Hopping
Laos is a Buddhist country and they are very religious, in Luang Prabang you can find temples nearly everywhere. The most famous temples are Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Hosian Voravihane. You will also see numerous Buddhist monks in the city. If you are a morning person don’t forget to assist the alms ritual. Every morning at sunrise, there is a procession of monks that accept offers of the locals and tourist. Notice that it’s a respectful ritual, so it is best to dress appropriately and don’t take photos. Also, don’t give food if you are not sure of its origins, lots of monks died of food intoxication.
#2 Climb Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is situated in the center of the city. It is a good walk to the top of the hill (100 mt high), tons of stairs. On top of the hill, you will find a small temple and an amazing view of the city, the Mekong and the Nam Khan river. An excellent place to take photos especially during the sunsets and sunrises. Along the walk, you will encounter Buddha statues and a small cave with another temple.
#3 Walk around Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is full of cute houses with a mix of Asian and French style. All the city is well preserved, being so isolated from the rest of the world protected it from the wars. You will find loads of coffee shops and restaurants built in beautiful houses with charming balconies. Most of them are nice spots to enjoy a coffee, eat french pastry and do some people watching.
#4 Cross the Bamboo bridges
Over the Nam Khan river, you will find some bamboo bridges, built by some Luang Prabang families. All the bridges are temporary, during the wet season they are dismounted because of the river floods. In all the bridges you can find a toll to help pay for the construction of the bridge. On the river banks, there are fishermen, children playing in the water. The river is a good place to do tubing or floating down the river, but besides the local kids, nobody else does it.
#5 Shop in Night Markets
Everybody that has been to South East Asia is familiar to night markets. In every town you can find one, we already had gone to quite a few in Thailand. Although it wasn’t a novelty, we liked Luang Prabang’s night market. Normally we don’t buy many souvenirs, but we found in the market a big variety of crafts that were beautiful. From clothes to paintings, teas and coffee to stuffed animals. Additional to the night market, every morning there is a grocery market where you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, fish (huge catfish), and all kind different stuff like dried herbs and not identified food (by us).
#6 Eat fantastic food
We are Portuguese, and like most of the European and western countries, bread is an important part of our diet. After spending 1 month in Thailand, without any source of bread when we arrived at Luang Prabang we found heaven, bread was everywhere and it was tasty. Throughout the city, you will find a fair amount of pastries selling bread and cakes. Although the best places were the stalls that sold big baguette sandwiches, some of the best we ever ate! We loved the Lao style baguette or anyone with avocado. In the night market, you will find a big variety of stalls selling baguettes. Besides the sandwiches, there are food stalls selling grilled fish, skewers of meat, noodles and veggies. Tip: try coffee with milk in a café, you will not regret it.
#7 Chomphet loop bike trail
We saw this trail on the travelfish site, and decided to try it. So we rented bikes, bought sandwich and water. Headed to Mekong river, took a taxi boat to the other side of the river, to the Chomphet district. The bike trail is hilly and bumpy, the total loop is 23 km of dirt road. We overestimated the trail, it was hard and the day was very hot. It took us nearly 8 hours to do the loop but it was well worth it. We passed through some villages, stunning views, rice fields and plenty of kids. Note: Take a good amount of water and be prepared to ride up and down plenty of hills.
#8 Swim in Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si falls are definitely a must, it is the top thing to do in Luang Prabang! If you can’t do anything else, you have to visit Kuang Si Falls! You have 3 ways to get there: you can hire a motorcycle, catch a bus directly to the falls or take a tuk-tuk (if you are crazy fit you can also go by bicycle but it is a big distance from the city, 29 km). Kuang Si Falls consists of a reserve park with a luxurious tropical forest, enormous tries, several waterfalls and pools. Follow the track in the park and you will find several levels of waterfalls with turquoise water falling over limestone. It made us remember Plitvice park in Croatia but better, because you are allowed to swim. When you arrive at the main fall, 60 mt, you will find a path to a “secret pool”. On the top level of the main fall, there is a big pool that has a stunning view down, the path to get there is quite steep and challenging but it is totally worth it. The entrance fee to the park is 2 €.
#9 Visit Bear Park
The Bear park is in the entrance of Kuang Si falls. It is a small park, but quite amusing just to stand and watch the bears. They look like black pandas, very funny and adorable. It was a surprise to us because we didn’t even know that Laos had bears. The park works as a reserve and rescue center for the bears that are in danger of extinction. So the bears were a good bonus.
After all these amazing things to do in Luang Prabang, one can only wonder when to return to Luang Prabang, right?
If you are still looking for information on Luang Prabang we suggest this post.