Luang Prabang, the most fascinating city this side of Mekong

At first it was a bit of a shock. After exploring some entrancing but chaotic and grimy Southeastern Asian metropolis for a while, you get so used to noise, air pollution and to certain harassment from the locals, that you become almost immune to them; but there was none of this in Luang Prabang, in northern Laos.

Although the city is quite touristy and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, the community have somehow kept and restored their old timber houses and dodged all the sordidness than tourism can attract, to convert the area into a refined and elegant town, a rare bird in Indochina.

Not surprisingly, many visitors end up staying here for longer than planned. Let's find out how this charming place can seduce you:

Luang Prabang
There are plenty of magnificent temples with their monks in saffron robes in this peaceful haven.
Image by Aaron Geddes


Royal Palace Luang Prabang
In the middle of the town, the Royal Palace stands out, now converted into a national museum.
Image by ¡kuba!


Louang Prabang
You never have the feeling that there are too many tourists, possibly because the city has the ability to spread them out well. Image by Mctrent


Spectacular Nagas
The Nāgas are spectacular deities. Great for decoration.
Image by Allie Caulfield


French colonial buildings
Under the wires, you will find many surviving French colonial buildings.


Kuang Si
No doubt, one of the best spots around LP is the Kuang Si Falls.


Kuang Si Falls
Beautiful, isn't it?


Lao People's Democratic Republic
LP is not an easy to reach destination, since low cost AirAsia doesn't fly here (yet), and there are no direct connections with the big hubs of the region like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Hong Kong. Only from Bangkok, Hanoi and Siem Reap, and they are quite pricey. Image by ¡kuba!


Tad Sae falls
You can also visit the Tad Sae Falls, and maybe meet some elephants.
Image by Jean-Michel Baud


Bamboo bridge
The city is settled on a peninsula connected to its surroundings by bamboo toll bridges.


Saffron robes
It's so quiet! oh, what are these orange dots at the right?


Buddhist Monks
Ah, monks having their cigarette break.


Planting rice fields
Life feels so organic here.
Image by Anguskirk


Staircase to heaven
Staircase connecting the pier with one of the finest temples of the city.


Boats Mekong
The Mekong offers a good chance for a great boat excursion.
Image by ¡kuba!


Pak Ou caves
One of the most popular half day trips, because it's close, is going to the disappointing Pak Ou caves with their thousand Buddhas. But just sailing the river is a good excuse for the ride.
Image by Chrissam42


Nong Khiaw
Looking for Marlon Brando, you can head up the river Nam Ou to Nong Khiaw.
Image by Pondspider


Muang Ngoi
Or go even further, to a remote village only reachable by river, Muang Ngoi.
Image by Pondspider


Nam Ou
On the way you can enjoy spectacular views and meet the Laotian motley fleet, like this boat house.
Image by Chrissam42


Mekong Sunset
But let's go back, we haven't finished yet with LP, there is a lot to do there!
Image by Jean-Marie Hullot


Lao Dance
You can go to a traditional Lao dance performance.
Image by Elrentaplats


Night market Luang Prabang
The main nocturnal attraction is the stylish night market, even if they all sell virtually the same things.
Image by Whl.travel


Hmong Market
You have a morning market with fresh products as well.
Image by Krisprachant


Alms ceremony Luang Pranbang
For the early-risers, the Alms ceremony (offering food to the monks) is a must-see tradition, although it has become a parade for tourists. Image by ¡kuba!


Utopia Luang Pranbang
Maybe Utopia was the reason why I was always late for the Alms ceremony. I read somewhere that the only bad thing about this bar, which uses sinister UXOs (unexploded ordnance) as flowerpots, is if you bump into it on your last night in town.


Tuk-tuk
But in the daytime, any corner is good for meditation.


Water festival Luang Pranbang
During the Water Festival celebrations, people used to gently sprinkle some water on each other to welcome the new year, as a sign of respect. Today it’s more a merciless battle of all against all.
Image by ¡kuba!


Happy children
According to Wikipedia, Laos has the youngest population of any country in Asia.


Street scene Laos
Street scene. Apparently, the bun is quite chic in this land.


Laos
Luang Prabang is a really green city, this is what one of the main avenues looks like.
Image by Pondspider


Al Pacino Serpico
Finally, a little detail: it seems that Laotians prefer Al Pacino in his role as the incorruptible cop in Serpico, instead of the more widely admired criminal in Scarface. Good choice.






 

2 comments:

vitex said...

You can go there by 2 day slow boat from northern Thailand/Lao border. Or by bus from couple of Lao cities. And by air of-course too :) As for me its so touristic city. I want to go somewhere deep in the countryside. North Lao, i'm waiting for a change to come :)

Ra said...

Thanks Vitex!
Also you can find more than 30 comments about this post in Reddit:

http://www.reddit.com/r/travel/comments/lobmc/luang_prabang_the_most_fascinating_city_this_side/

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