Luang Prabang is filled with the smell of frangipani, old colonial homes, gold-plated Buddhist temples, and has a perfect view of old Indochina. Located in the northern mountains in the region of the Mekong River and Nam Khan, this city has an intricate blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and French influence. Plus, it is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site and one of the finest persevered cities in Asia to experience on the Laos tour packages.
The climate in Luang Prabang can differ from the more traditional tourist seasons. The preferred time to visit this region is October to April which is regarded as the dry season and gives the cool and pleasant temperature. For the traveller that isn’t too concerned with the daily shower, a visit from May to September is ideal. While this can give two or three hours of rain per day, you do get to benefit from the lower foot traffic and crowds, as well as the more cost-effective accommodation.
How to get there
There are several ways to get to Luang Prabang including by air or road. Luang Prabang does have a small airport (Luang Prabang International Airport) which is about 4 km from the city.
If necessary, this airport is able to organize the Lao visa-on-arrival and is available to citizens from most countries. From the airport, the best option to reach the city centre is to take a taxi into town which can cost in the region of $6-$8 one-way.
There are several bus stations in the local town that serve destinations in the north and south of the country. Plus, there is the option to travel by minivan, which is the preferred mode of transport for the tourist. For most travellers the easy way to organize ongoing travel is through their hotel or guesthouse. If taking the minivans, aim to arrive at the pick up point early to get the best choice of seats and avoid being squashed in the front near the driver.
Luang Prabang is a relatively small town which makes it very easy to reach most of the local attractions by foot. But for the travellers who wish to explore further out, there is the option to hire a bicycle for the day. The hire cost is in the region of $1-$2 per day for a basic touring bike, or $6-$7 for the mountain bike. Also, if you have a bicycle with a front or rear basket, it is best to avoid using it because of the risk of bag snatching.
For the more relaxing travel option through town, the tuk-tuk is plentiful with small to large models that can accept 2 to 8 passengers. If planning a day trip to tourist attractions (Pak Ou Caves, Tad Sae Waterfall, and Kwang Si Waterfall) that are further afield it is best to use one of the songthaews. Tourists can easily find the songthaews on the Laos tour packages near the Joma Cafe/post office.
Where to stay
Luang Prabang has plenty of hotels and guesthouses to stay with features and prices that can match the need of virtually every traveller. Prices can start at around $10 for the budget traveller and increase significantly for the luxury stay.
The peninsula is the place to visit for the top-range and luxury hotels, but throughout the town there are many great choices for those in search of the attractive prices. There are plenty of places that have a Mekong riverside location for the great backdrop, while also representing great value.
A stay at the Khoum Xieng Thong Guest House is close to Wat Xieng Thong with a wide range of room categories to accommodate all types of guests and has a lovely tree-filled garden. The cost per night is in the region of $20 to $50.
Also, use a local Laos travel guide to get a complete picture of the available hotels and guest houses.
Eat and drink
The tourist to Luang Prabang will soon discover that his town has plenty to offer when it comes to delicious local food. The street food scene is particularly exciting with a varied choice of dishes, such as barbecued meats, baguette sandwiches, noodle soup, exotic fruits, sugar cane juice, coconut rice pancakes and spicy papaya salad.
The Luang Prabang night market is open daily from 5-10 pm and sells a varied range of items, from ethnic handicrafts to local textiles. Plus, there are plenty of food stalls in the local area serving local dishes at cheap prices.
There is also the Handicraft Market that is great for the tourist in search of ethnic handicrafts for gifts or souvenirs, and most of the stall holders relocate to the night market later in the day.
The Phosi Market is the largest in the local area and provides the most diverse range of supplies, such as clothing, household items, meat, and other products. It is approx 5 minutes from town by tuk-tuk or bicycle and easily found by following the road to Kuangsi Waterfall.
Things to see and do
Even though Luang Prabang is on the tourist trail and features on the Indochina tour packages it has still been able to preserve its inherent charm and natural splendour. Most of the local sights are easily reached by travelling on foot, including the 30+ ancient temples. Plus, the unassuming and gentle nature of the locals is certain to leave a long-term impression.
Ban Phanom is a village relatively close to Luang Prabang and has a history for producing fine textiles to trade on the night markets. It is possible to buy their beautiful items in the village while also getting to experience the local culture. Hiring a bicycle nearby means it is possible to explore the most remote of the ancient temples.
Elephant Village Sanctuary
The Elephant Village Sanctuary is easily found close the Nam Khan River and is set up to provide a peaceful home for rescued elephants. Most of the elephants at the sanctuary are given a place to rest and recover after years of brutal logging work. A trip to the Elephant Village Sanctuary makes it possible to enjoy a variety of adventures and tours, such as a mahout experience and elephant riding.
Kuang Si Waterfall
One of the finest waterfalls to visit in the Laos travel guide is the Kuang Si Waterfall which has a spectacular 50 m drop into a pool of clear blue water that flows downstream. There are plenty of wooden huts nearly to make it possible to easily change into swimming gear for fun in the azure pools.