Exploring Luang Prabang heritage city

by TAA on December 24, 2019

Luang Prabang - the former capital of Laos and also the World Heritage town - is located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region. The town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. Steeped in history, Luang Prabang is perfect meeting of rivers and mountains, spirituality, and man-made creations, from serene temples to colonial shophouses. Luang Prabang has now managed to hold on its best qualities despite its growing popularity with travellers.

Nestled between the mountains of Upper Laos and the mighty Mekong, Luang Prabang (Luang) greets visitors with coolness and charm. The distance from Hanoi to the heritage city of Laos is nearly 900 km, of which 700 km is mountain road.

Luang Bus Station is located on the outskirt of the city. We took a tuk tuk to the center, to a hotel booked on Kingkitsarath Street between Phousi Mountain and the Nam Khan River. Opening the window, a cool breeze from the river blew to soothe the heat of the early summer days. A good night's sleep on Luang land is as gentle as the tranquility of this land.

The peaceful scenery of Luang Prabang - Photo: Internet

The view of the rising sun through the hotel window amazed me with the distant mountains hidden under the forest clouds. The house combined French and traditional architecture of Laotian people under coconut is so beautiful.

We were also told by the hotel reception about the monks' begging activities at around 5-6 am on the central streets. That morning, because we were engrossed in the sunset the day before, we missed it. Hence, we absolutely had to take part in this exciting activity on the next day.

Peaceful Luang Prabang town - Photo: Internet

After the sightseeing, we have to find something right away to eat. The best option is Luang Market. The market located to the left of the Royal Palace, now is the Luang Prabang National Museum. The bustling market sells a lot of Laos food such as grilled chicken, grilled pork, dishes made from bamboo shoots and even noodles similar to Vietnam.

In the center of the market, there is a very crowded noodle shop, mostly local people. We were introduced by two Lao sellers about the coconut milk noodles with pork and herbs. After talking, I was surprised to know that the aunt and uncle are now doctors at Luang Hospital and they were former students of Thai Binh Medical University in the 90s. The conversation in Vietnamese made us feel close like being in Vietnam.

Local noodle in Luang Prabang - Photo: Internet

Along the main walkway, tropical fruits like watermelon, mango, and pineapple are sold a lot. We know that, at this market, sellers do not say higher prices. The vendors always smile brightly on the lips and happily answer to many questions: "How much?" of visitors with "Sa bai dee" (hello), and "Khop chai" (thank you).

Going around the market, we are all full with the taste of local food of the land of millions of elephants. Breakfast is enough to explore this beautiful heritage city.

Fruits are sold in the local market - Photo: Internet

After walking to the market, we have arrived at the Royal Palace, now open for tourists to better understand the near and modern feudal dynasties of Lao people. From the 14th century to 1946, Luang Prabang was the capital of the Kingdom called Lang Xan and remained the center of the Kingdom of Laos before becoming the ancient capital in 1975.

The tiny city, located at the junction of the Mekong and the Nam Khan River, is the home of the most pagodas in the world, with a 98% Buddhist population. If standing atop Phousi, viewing to the four sides, you can see the pagoda with sharp towers rising strongly everywhere, a typical of Buddhism in Laos.

Take pictures at Wat Xieng Thoong - Photo: Internet

When traveling to Luang Prabang, you must definitely visit the oldest and most famous temple named Wat Xieng Thoong. Built during the reign of King Setthathirat in 1559 - 1560, the temple called Wat Xieng Thoong means the temple of the golden city. With the architecture of the curved roof close to the ground, countless small shrines and walls sculpted, we really admired the skill and meticulousness of the local people here.

In addition to the unique pagodas, Luang also attracts us and other visitors by many typical houses, a harmonious combination of Lao tradition and standard French architecture. That is the reason why Luang Prabang was recognized by UNESCO as the world cultural heritage in 1995.

Sunset in Luang Prabang - Photo: Internet

Located downstream of the Mekong, Kuang Si waterfall is about 30 km from the center of Luang Prabang. Taking a windy tuk tuk in Laos, we temporarily left the center on the shady Teak road - a typical tree of Laos.

Contrary to the burning heat of Upper Laos, Kuang Si waterfall brings a cool feeling. The waterfall is about 60 m high with many different strata, winding around the primeval forests. Some members of our team could not resist the beckoned green water, so they jumped down into the majestic waterfall.

Kuang Si waterfall - Photo: Internet

At Kuang Si Waterfall, there is also the Bear Conservation Center and Butterfly Farm, which attracts us because of the novelty and closeness to nature's mother.

Leaving Kuang Si in the late afternoon, we were driven to the center by the tuk tuk driver. It was the best time to watch the sunset. In Luang, the most beautiful sunset view is none other than the peak of Phousi located opposite the Royal Palace. We climbed all 328 steps to reach the peak of Phousi about 150m. We viewed to the west, where the sun is slowly falling on the mountains, to catch the silver sunshine on the legendary Mekong in sight.

Tips for traveling Luang Prabang:

Transportation:

- By air: From Hanoi, there are direct flights to Luang Prabang. From Ho Chi Minh City, you can fly to Bangkok, then catch a flight to Luang Prabang. Price varies from time to time, VND 2,000,000 - VND 4,000,000.

- By road: Currently, at the Underground Bus Station (Hanoi), there are many buses going to Luang Prabang, the price ranges from 800,000 to 950,000 VND / way. In addition, in cities such as Vinh, Da Nang or Dien Bien Phu, there are also bus routes to and from Luang Prabang every day.

- In Luang Prabang, in you go in groups, you can catch tuk tuk and bargain the price.
- If you go on a tour with Travel Authentic Asia, you will go by plane or bus to Luang Prabang and travel by tuk tuk or bus there.

Food:

- The food in Luang is mostly baked, greasy and spicy. Except for noodles, the meal is quite few green vegetables.

- Lao beer is one of the favorite drinks for tourists. The price is 10,000 - 15,000 kip Laos (27,000 - 40,000 VND).

- You should enjoy dishes made from fish and shrimp caught in the Mekong River near Wat Xieng Thoong.

- Price is usually around 15,000 - 35,000 Lao kip / meal / person (40,000 - 100,000 VND).

Other notes:

- Women should pay attention to dress discreetly when visiting temples and palaces.

- You should use sunscreen, hat or umbrella because the weather here is quite sunny and hot.

- In the night market, sellers usually say higher prices, you should pay about 50-70%.

To book a tour to Laos or combined tour between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, you can contact Travel Authentic Asia via email: info@travelauthenticasia.com or WhatApp: +84 912221442. Travel Authentic Asia is the tailor made tour operator based in Vietnam since 2011, which has delivered excellent travel experiences up to 4000 travellers over the world.

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