This is home for the next 7 days. I love how it is located in a quiet alley, just a minute’s walk to the main road where the temples, cafés and atm machines are. A minute to the opposite direction is also what it takes to reach the Mekong River.
While I was getting myself oriented with the layout of the town, I came across the beautiful Wat Mai temple where there are people lighting up candles and lanterns for the Buon Ok Phansa, the last day of Buddhist lent, and also Luang Prabang’s festival of lights.
One thing that I observed about Luang Prabang’s Night Market is that people here are not as aggresive as those in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Lao Papaya Salad
Crispy Pork Belly and Clear Soup
Every morning, the Alms Giving Ceremony (Sai Bat) takes place along the main street where locals offer food to monks. The long-standing tradition is made special today since it is the last day of Buddhist lent. After three months restricted to their temples, monks who were ordained during this period once again return to their families and social duties, and are welcomed with offerings of food and gifts.
Do. Wake up early. The ceremony starts between 5:30-6:00 AM. Observe the ritual in silence and contribute an offering only if it is meaningful for you. Dress appropriately.
During this period, each temple and village creates a light boat such as this one at Wat Pa Phai. On the last night of the festival, it will be paraded around town to the famous temple of Vat Xieng Thong, at the end of Luang Prabang’s peninsula and will be released into the Mekong River.
Novice Monks making a lantern made from Bamboo and rice paper
Built in the mid 1500s by King Setthathirath and functioned as a royal temple until 1975, Wat Xieng Thong is perhaps, Luang Prabang’s most beautiful temple.
Admission. 20,000 Kip ($2.50)
A group of novice monks decorating the temple for the festival
A novice monk decorating the temple for the festival.
A novice monk decorating the temple for the festival.
Breakfast by the Mekong
First stop of the day was Par Nor Village, about 25 kilometers from Luang Prabang, where the Khmu ethnic minority reside. The ride to to the village was really bumpy, made more difficult because it rained so hard the night before. It was a really good decision not to trek to reach the site. It was my first encounter with the Khmu tribe, learning some things about them such as: they are the largest ethnic minority in Laos, mostly living at the base of mountains and forest valleys. I’ve noticed that they have mostly adapted to the modern way of life, there were satellite dishes everywhere and i keep hearing cellphones ringing non-stop.
Further up the mountain is Baan Long Lao, the village where the Hmong ethnic minority live. Compared to the the Khmu village, life is more simple here, being located in a more elevated area. I have encountered Hmong people in Sapa, Vietnam before, and have always found them fascinating and very photogenic people. The big difference is that the ethnic minority here is not commercialized, hence it was a much more pleasant and genuine experience seeing their way of life.
Monks getting ready for the festival
At around 5:30 PM, participants of the Boun Heua Fai or the Festival of the Fire Boat a.k.a. Festival of Light started to congregate on the main street just in front of the hotel. It was such a sight to behold all the beautiful people of Luang Prabang dressed in traditional costumes as they take photos of each other, while others have started celebrating early by dancing, singing and drinking on the street.
Certainly the most impressive festival of Luang Prabang, Boun Heua Fai takes place during the end of Buddhish lent and the end of the rainy season. The festival is highlighted by illuminated boats being paraded along the main street where they are later on released on the Mekong River to ask the water spirits to bring good luck.
Everywhere in town, tuktuk drivers will ask you if you want to go see the waterfall. And by that, they mean only one... Kuang Si Waterfall. And everyone i’ve talked to said that it would be foolish not to see it. They were right. I was just speechless when I saw the waterfall. It is just so beautiful.
Located about 30 Km from Luang Prabang, the waterfalls is the most popular attraction in town. Once on site, the first thing you will encounter are the shallow pools on the hillside, and once you keep walking up several levels (which gets more breathtaking each step of the way), you will reach the main waterfall with a 200 ft drop.
To Go Up To Not. Beautiful as the waterfall may be, the climb up to the top of the waterfall is not one bit leisurely. It’s steep, it’s wet and slippery, and you don’t really get a good view of the water cascading down. Do climb up though if you intend to swing and swim on the pool on top. Other than that save your strength and just enjoy the view and the pools below.
Run by Free The Bears, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center has been taking care of Asiatic Moon bears confiscated from poachers who sell them to bile farms that serve traditional Chinese medicine.
The bear rescue center is located inside the Kuang Si Waterfall Park and depends on donations and sponsorship.
Get Involved. For more information visit Free The Bears.
I just love markets, it’s such a sensory experience, and Luang Prabang’s Day Market is no exception. Located in an alley just beside Wat Mai, the market is such a lively place, where one can find all sorts of stuff being sold. If you want to get to know a certain place, the market is where you should be.
I pass by The Royal Palace turned National Museum every single day and I have yet to enter it. Maybe if I have time before my flight on friday I should.
Photography. Not allowed inside the museum.
One of the two Bamboo Bridges over the Nam Khan river before it meets the mighty Mekong. Every year these bridges are rebuilt after being washed away by flood during the rainy season.
At 3 Nagas is perhaps where I’ve had the best meal in Luang Prabang. It’s a little bit more on the pricey side, but after eating street food for most of the days here, it’s time to treat myself to something nice for a change.
Try. The coconut ice cream with unlimited toppings ($5). Also Happy Hour is between 4-6PM, two drinks for the price of one.
The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) features a small but fascinating exhibit that provides insight into the living cultures of four ethnic groups in Laos – the Akha, (H)mong, Tai Dam, and Kmhmu. What I like about the museum is the interactivity it provides visitors with some of the exhibits.
Admission. 25,000 kip ($3). If you are planning on trekking to the hilltribe villages near Luang Prabang, it’s best to visit this museum first. There’s also an activity area for children, so this will be a nice place to bring kids to learn about the ethnic tribes of Laos.
Wat Chom Si on top of Phousi Hill is a very prominent landmark in the center of Luang Prabang. And it is 300+ steps up. Now, I really don’t know why subject myself to such torture, specially a day after climbing Kuang Si Waterfall. Over and over I just fall for traps like this. Anyway, the views of the countryside and sunset are nice, not really breathtaking, but still rewarding.
Admission. 25,000 kip ($3). The front entrance is right across the Royal Palace (National Museum), while the back entrance is near the Nam Khan River.
Lao Papaya Salad
Woke Up at 5AM to see another round of morning alms giving near Wat Mai
Selling sticky rice for alms giving
Breakfast at Avani’s Main Street Bar and Grill
Avani+ Eggs Ben
Wat Aham is a little temple right beside Wat Wisunarat. I must say it is also one of my favorites because the grounds are just atmospheric and peaceful.
Get Around Luang Prabang. All temples and other attractions of the UNESCO World Heritage City in this journal can be easily reached by foot (or by bicycle). There’s no need to ride a tuk-tuk unless you are traveling to the outskirts of town.
One of the more intricately designed temples in Luang Prabang