Luang Prabang is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former royal capital of Laos. It is one of my favorite places in Asia. There are 30 Buddhist Temples in town with over 300 Monks living there. The Monks, dressed in their saffron robes, walk in single file through the town early in the morning to get their alms of sticky rice which is a large part of their daily diet. This is a sight not to be missed. You can also buy sticky rice to hand out yourself.
In the evening you can walk into the temples and listen to the same monks chant their evening prayers. It is wonderful way to end a busy day.
The Temples themselves are beautifully painted with sculpted roofs. Wat Xieng Thong is one of Luang Prabang’s most magnificent temples. It consists of a large compound with many buildings, stupas and small halls. You will see traditional temple architecture with roofs that sweep low to the ground. There is a rare reclining Buddha to view.
There is a daily vegetable and food market along the streets in town and an amazing night market for handicrafts, along Th Sisavangvong, from the Royal Palace Museum to Th Setthathirat. This is where you can find wonderful textiles from the Hmong or other hill tribe villages nearby. The women are in their native dress and it is very festive.
Enjoy the small shops in town. I loved shopping for the Lao silk textiles which were exceptional. I bought a large number of pieces from Caruso Lao Home Craft at 60 Sakaline Road. The decorative pillows were great. In addition to textiles they sell exotic wood and silver pieces.
A Globalphile reader recently went to Luang Prabang and found the small shop LaLa Laos which sells jewelry, photographs, pillows and textiles. Not only is the merchandise made by local people in the Luang Prabang area, but “each purchase also helps to educate children who have moved from the countryside to complete their secondary schooling. As LaLa Laos grows and flourishes, more children will be sponsored.” This particularly helps young girls who often don’t have the same opportunities as boys. I highly recommend that you visit the store when you are in town!
If you take a boat trip up the Mekong, make sure to stop at the small village of Ban Kang Khong where they weave textiles and make handmade paper.
On the Mekong trip you must stop at the Pak Ou Caves. There are two caves in the lower part of a limestone cliff facing the river that is filled with hundreds of carved Buddha statues. You can have lunch in one of the small villages across the river from the caves. They are fun to explore also.
Royal Palace Museum: Make sure to include this palace which is now a museum on your list of places to see.
I really enjoyed just walking, exploring and photographing the monks, the people and the great architecture.
To get some exercise, climb the steps to the summit of Phu Si where you will have a great sunset view. You can see two temples and a stupa at the top, That Chomsi.
Take a trip north to the nearby hill tribe villages. I saw many small thatched homes built on stilts and many wild poinsettia trees. Village life is great to see.