Luang Prabang , Laos
Luang Prabang has so much spirit. You can feel the the magical history of this special town.
- More about your oliver guide: Cynthia Pillsbury
- Trip type: Adult, Family, City, Mountains
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: 3-4 days
to & from
Fly into Luang Prabang from any major Asian city. You may not get a direct flight, but the remoteness makes it even more special! We flew Laos Airlines there and Bangkok Airlines to Thailand after our visit.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of very chic places to stay. The bigger question is whether you want to stay in town or outside of town. We prefer being able to walk or bike from hotel to town so we opted for the small and charming Sofitel , which is located on a quiet neighborhood street, 5 minutes on bike to the center of town. There is nothing hotel-chain-ish about this special hotel. Built in the early 1900’s as a residence for a French Governor with only 25 rooms we absolutely LOVED this hotel. Other hotels we considered:
Where to Eat and Drink
Laos food is a bit of a hybrid of Thai and Vietnamese. It can be spicy. We dined at our hotel once, but preferred going into town for dinner.
- Mando de Laos– Incredible!!! You sit and eat authentic, local fare around a lotus pond that is protected by UNESCO and has been in the same family for three generations. You would never know it is there from the street which makes the initial view that much more astounding.
- Tamarind– Local fare overlooking the Nam Kahn River. Food can be spicy, but delicious!
- Carpe Diem– Lunch by the waterfalls. Take a refreshing dip with rose in hand and. Food was very good and atmosphere was relaxing and cool.
- Coconut Garden– Great for lunch, right in town, shady and you can catch a breeze from the mighty Mekong River.
What to Do
The village/town of Laos is unlike any other Asian town we visited. The scale is small and very easy to navigate and it feels set back in time. I loved being able to hop on a bike and ride around town taking in all the beautiful temples (32 in the small town of LP) and sites. Plan to hire a car and explore the mountainous Laos countryside for a day.
- Hike to the top of Phousi Temple to take in the views. Luang Prabang is set on a peninsula between the mighty Mekong River and the local Nam Khan river.
- Bike to the end of the Main Street (Sisavangvong Road) to the Wat (temple) Xieng Thong. There is a collection of small temples that are breathtaking. We even were able to see monks who live on-site in the common space.
- Tour the Royal Palace. Built in 1904 by the French for the last Royal family in Laos.
- Tour the Laos Buffalo Dairy (and their delicious ricotta donuts and ice cream). This is not an ordinary dairy. Two ex-pats (an American and an Australian) are acting as a “nursery” for expecting Water Buffalos. They teach local farmers how to best care for their buffalos and are now taking on the issue of malnutrition among Laos children. It was a trip highlight!
- Learn the methods of ancient rice farming at The Living Land Community Farm. We actually were able to plant rice, steer a water buffalo and taste rice fresh off the fire. You’ll never look at a grain of rice the same way.
We did not love the Kwang Si waterfalls. It was filled with tourists and felt dirty. The Bear Rescue Habitat on the trail to the waterfall is a worthy cause, but depressing. We preferred taking a dip in the smaller (and cleaner) waterfalls at the Carpe Diem restaurant in the same village as the waterfalls.
With that said, the market at the base of the waterfalls had some of the best artisan goods (better than the “Night Market” in town) so bring dollars or Kip (most take both).
What to Pack
Laos is causal, but conservative. Adults must cover shoulders and knees while visiting temples and the Royal Palace.