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10 Things To Do In Luang Prabang

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Work Your Heart For Buddha

Mount Phousi is almost the geographical centre of Luang Prabang, a small mountain that rises to just over 150 metres above the surrounding landscape. It is perfect place from which to view the city or to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River and nearby mountains.

You can climb up to the top of the small mountain via two different routes and both are a great workout!  Both routes lead to Wat Chom Si (the temple located at the top of the mountain).

If you start the climb from the Kingkitsarath Road steps (south eastern side) you ascend past some beautiful statues and vantage points.

A small fee is charged for the climb to the very top – a small price to pay for the experience.

Swim in Kuang Si Falls

The Kuang Si falls are located in a beautiful rural area about 28 kilometres (a 45 minute drive) south west of Luang Prabang.  Transport options to and from the falls are dependent on one’s budget and desired travel experience.  You can ride, catch a Tuk Tuk or hire a private car.  None are expensive.

The falls themselves are a must see and a cooling off dip in the pools which the falls run into is definitely recommended.

Kuang Si (also called Tat Kuang Xi) falls is a three-tier waterfall around 200 feet high.  The water falls over ancient limestone and down into beautiful turquoise coloured pools below.

Visitors can climb to the top of the falls although, in the wet, the track is very slippery and the views from the top are not necessarily worth the effort or risk.

Time might be better spent with your feet in the pools and having your “tootises” cleaned by the local fish that inhabit them.

Café Lebelair, located near the main falls, offers some tasty treats and local coffee and tea – a nice stop off after walking alongside the pools and viewing the main falls.

Delight In A Fresh Feast

Laos was a French protectorate from 1893 through until 1946 and, in addition to some stunning French style colonial buildings, the French influence is still evident in the food on offer at many of the excellent restaurants located throughout the city.

For the “foodies” amongst you, Luang Prabang will be a delightful experience.  From the street side outlets to the more up market restaurants the food on offer is delicious.

For the not so budget conscious try L’Elephant on Vat Nong.  The food is authentic French and the décor inside is eye catching.  The Apsara on Kingkitsarath Road is another favourite amongst the expat community in LP.

For those wanting an awesome feed at a great price try L’etranger Books and Tea on Kingkitsarath Road – the soup is to die for and they have a great little gallery upstairs.

Sisavangvong Road is one of the main streets in the small city (it’s the one transformed into the wonderful night market) and your hunger can be resolved at any of the great eateries located at the north eastern end.

Get On Yer Bike

One of the refreshing things about Luang Prabang is the number of bicycles on the road.  This cheap and healthy transport option is still a big favourite amongst the locals and many visitors.

Most of the hotels, villas and hostels offer free (or very cheap) bike hire so there are no excuses for not “getting on your bike” for the day.

For those readers that are not at the peak of their fitness don’t despair – Luang Prabang’s topography, for the most part, is rather flat.

The roads are very safe to ride because the local traffic moves slowly and it is very respectful of bike riders.  You might have to negotiate the occasional slow moving chicken or a mangy dog that has taken up residence in the middle of the road but neither of these will cause a panic.

If you want to extend your workout and get really active you can join one of the adventure company rides.  These rides can be part or full day or you can even do two plus day adventures.  The rides take in some of the spectacular rural country in northern Laos – a perfect way to get a feel for this beautiful place.

Stroll The Markets

Asian marketplaces are always fun to visit.  The bargains on offer are hard to resist and the energy of the marketplaces attract locals and visitors alike.

While it can be said that some markets around Asia are “same, same” Luang Prabang’s nightly market is not in this category.  You will find beautiful (certified) local products on offer – silks and cloth covering every spectrum of the colour band, delightful (read “not pushy”) stall owners and polite fellow tourists.

Before “entering” the market proper you can grab a fresh juice (or beverage of choice) and sip on it as you meander through the neatly presented ground level stalls.

The night markets take up half of Sisavangvong Road and start just before sunset.   Allow yourself an hour or so to take in the vast array of goods on offer – it’s worth it.

Find Some Modern Masters

Art, in its many forms, plays a big part in Laotian culture and many current artists call Luang Prabang home.

Carvers, painters, potters, sculptors, weavers and writers – you will find them all in Luang Prabang.  Some have studied overseas and many are gaining the attention of galleries, fashion houses and publishers on the international stage.

Visitors can visit the tiny factories where traditional weavers and potters work their magic or search out the small shops and galleries that display the fine art and carvings of local artisans.

Hmong (local tribes people) crafts can be purchased from a craft market located on the corner of Sisavangvong and Kitsalt Roads.

A visit to the small village of Ban Tchan on the opposite side of the Mekong River to Luang Prabang is a must for fans of pottery.  The village is around 15 minutes by boat from one of the wharves located on the LP side of the river.

Get Up Close And Personal With Nature

High summer rainfalls and a temperate climate mean that the northern part of Laos is lush and alive.

Nature lovers will enjoy the abundance of birds and insects that call Laos home.  They will also enjoy the stunning native trees and high canopies.

For those that enjoy the sound and feel of water Luang Prabang’s rivers (large and small) and waterfalls will keep you happy.  In addition to the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, water lovers can immerse themselves, literally, in beautiful rural streams and waterfalls that flow from the surrounding mountains.

Figure Out Wat

One of Asia’s attractions is its love for Buddha and all things Buddhism.  Laos is not exception.

Wats (temples) big and small can be found scattered throughout Luang Prabang and each of them is beautiful.

Whilst Mt Phousi’s Wat Chom Si’s mountain location is unique, those that can’t make the long climb to the top can take in the stunning Wat Mai – located right in the heart of the city.

Several other large temples are located at various points in and around the city.  If you are not too “watted out” you would do well to enjoy the sights on offer at Wat Phol Phao on Highway 13, Wat Xieng Dong at the north eastern end of Khem Kong and Wat Wisunalat near Kingkitsarath Road.

Work Out The Breeds

You may have seen some scruffy dogs on your travels but probably never as many as you are likely to see in Luang Prabang.  These “bitzer” (bits of this and bits of that) breeds come in all shapes, colours and sizes and most of them are adorable.

The bitches amongst the breeds don’t seem to spend too much time between litters with many of them having teats that are so long that they almost drag on the ground.

With low basic wages that barely allow a family to just survive, one can’t imagine that much money gets spent on animals in Laos.  This doesn’t mean that the locals don’t love their pets but it is survival of the fittest in these parts.

The dogs are friendly and happy and they make for great pictures.

Bear It For All To See

Free The Bears is a not for profit organisation started by Australian woman Mary Hutton in 1995.  Mary and her team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to “protect and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.”

Visitors to Luang Prabang can get up close and personal with some of the bears that “Free The Bears” (FTB) have saved from a life of misery.

FTB’s bear rescue centre is located at the Tat Kuang Si falls and the entrance fee for the falls allows visitors to see the bears and to donate to the cause.

The FTB workers have been building elevated walkways and enclosures and this gives visitors great exposure to the 30 plus bears.  The bears are quite active (particularly during feeding time) and it is evident that the home they have now is a wonderful existence compared to the caged life that many of them experienced in the past.

Don’t forget to donate some monies (or purchase some of the gifts for sale) to this worthy cause before you head off to the nearby waterfalls.

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