Luang Prabang, “the city of the Golden Buddha Phra Bang”, is definitely the most visited place in Laos, is known for its many Buddhist temples and for the beautiful nature around the city. I’ve spent 5 nights in Luang Prabang on a low budget, avoiding all the expensive tours, but I had a wonderful trip.
1. Seeing the sunset from the viewpoint on the other side of the first Bamboo Bridge. The sunset in Laos is amazing, I traveled along the Mekong River in Laos and I saw it many times, I could say it’s one of my precious memories in this country. So on my first evening in Luang Prabang, I crossed the first Bamboo bridge for 10.000 KIP and I witnessed a beautiful red sunset nearby the Mekong River. It was a perfect introduction to the atmosphere of this place.
2. Enjoy a few hours at the magnificent Kuang Si Falls. The most breathtaking waterfall that I’ve ever seen, Kuang Si is special for its beautiful blue water. Why??? The water flows over many limestone stones on its journey. The limestone particles containing a high level of calcium carbonate which reflects the light making the water appear for us a stunning blue turquoise color. I’ve spent there two hours and a half going by minivan for the price of 30.000 KIP. You have also the possibility to take a bath in some spots of the waterfall if you enjoy swimming. Nature around, the color of the water and the silence of the tourists in front of this natural wonder will make your travel there great.
3. Get informed about the situation of Moon Bears in Laos. Close to the Kuang Si Falls, there is the biggest Bears Sanctuary of Laos open by the organization “Free the bears” where are Lao Moon Bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. You can contribute to their initiative of building a new sanctuary by donating or buying a T-Shirt with their logo. Moon Bears have a protected status which means international trade in live bears or parts of their body is illegal and punishable by law. Bears are being poached for the use of their paws, claws, and gallbladder in traditional medicine. I had the chance to see the bears around their lunchtime when they had to find the vegetable and fruits hidden by the caretaker. Smart, funny and beautiful creatures are these moon bears and I kindly invite you to help the organization to continue their work.
4. Interact with the locals at the Big Brother Mouse English Center. This is an amazing opportunity to get in touch with local people that want to exercise their English. Every evening from 17.00h to 19.00h, Big Brother Mouse opens its door for tourists that want to have a different kind of experience in Luang Prabang. I enjoyed the time there because I had the chance to understand better the situation of young people in Laos who are struggling to get a job even if they have university studies. Lao people are smiling in an open, beautiful way even if they talk about their challenges so I was grateful to meet them there. I had the opportunity to learn a few words in Lao too and I bought a mini conversational guide in Lao maybe I’ll come back to this wonderful country.
5. Volunteering for one day at Big Sister Mouse English School. If you enjoyed the experience in Big Brother Mouse, you could spend one full day in one of their English Schools in the countryside. It was one of the best days in Luang Prabang because I was surrounded by kids from 09.00 to 16.00h. In the morning, I worked with the preschool kids having short activities with all the classes including singing, playing an interactive story reading. After an amazing traditional lunch, we worked with the primary groups organizing short activities including gey to know each other, singing, card games and dancing. They will explain to you how to interact with the kids and how to use their materials if you don’t have experience with kids. In order to cover the transportation costs and lunch, you could contribute to an amount of 100.000 KIP but it’s not mandatory.
6. Visit the National Museum of Luang Prabang. If you’re interested in History, attracted by the traditional royal artifacts and curious about the Royal Familly before 1975, you should visit this Museum. It’s good though to be aware that you can’t take pictures inside so the visit is becoming even more worthy. The price ticket is 30.000 KIP and the yard is an amazing place to spend some time on your own.
7. Have a short hike in the heart of the city on Mount Phou Si. It’s the highest hill in Luang Prabang, an amazing spot to watch the Laotion sunset. The only inconvenience is the crowd of the people coming there for the same reason. Anyway, it’s worthy to climb it and to enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city. You’ll pay 20.000 KIP to get there but I advise you to come around 16.00h in order to have a good spot for your pictures.
8. Walking through the Night Market. The markets in Laos are amazing because you can notice that it’s not only a business but a real way to help the locals to have an income. You’ll see there many traditional products and good street food to buy. It’s open between 18.00h to 21.00h in the center of the city. One thing that impressed me was that there were many kids with their mothers probably because they didn’t have other persons who could take care of them. From the traditional Lao costume to scarfs, souvenirs, strong traditional drinks to traditional soap or other cosmetics, you have what to choose as gifts for the dear ones.
9. Discover Heuan Chan, one of the few surviving traditional houses in Luang Prabang. The home consists of an open terrace, a covered veranda that served as a reception area, a ritual room, bedrooms, and a kitchen and work area. You’ll find out more about the hospitality rituals of Lao people and about their traditions. At the end of your visit, you could spend some time in their yard drinking an amazing Butterfly pea flower tea. The entry fee is 15.000 KIP but the atmosphere is magical, I’ve spent there half a day.
10. Be amazed by the architecture of the Luang Prabang temples. Former Royal Capital, the city of Luang Prabang was designated as a UNESCO heritage in 1995, is the home of more than 30 Buddhist temples or wats that take the attention of the visitors. Honestly, at some point, I become immune to their beauty because there are too many of them in Laos but I recognize their historical and spiritual value. I recommend to visit them starting with the Royal Temple, built to house the Phra Bang Buddha, for which the city of Luang Prabang is named.