The "heart" of Laos
In February 2012 I was fortunate to take an extended trip to South East Asia. During my sojourn I travelled through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. One of my favourite places was the former capital of the country of Laos.
Whether you arrive in Luang Prabang by riverboat along the Mekong River or fly into her small rural airport, you are immediately struck by the ethereal beauty of the city. Set on the peninsula formed by the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, Luang Prabang simply shimmers in mystical energies. UNESCO World Heritage touts the city as the finest example of the fusion between SE Asian and European Colonial architecture and ancient lore calls it the place “where Buddha smiled while he rested for a day during his travels”.
Although the city is a very popular destination with foreign visitors of all nationalities it should be noted that it has not lost its cultural heritage or gracious nature. It is a wonderful place to spend at least 4 to 5 days exploring both the city and its surrounding areas.
A very special tradition to witness is the “tak bat” or collection of alms by the monks early each morning. There are over 80 temples in the area and therefore literally hundreds of monks line the streets of the city and surrounding avenues to silently await their day’s rations which are bestowed upon them by the local people and respectful tourists. A symbiotic relationship between the monks who provide spiritual redemption and the locals who feed them.
Luang Prabang is also home to a fun and lively Night Market which showcases wonderful local handicrafts such as textiles, ceramics, paintings and exquisite silver jewelry to name but a few. You can also find exotic spices, rich, flavorful Laotian coffee beans and for the dare-devil foodie … an incredible assortment of “street food” markets offering you “all you can eat” buffets for 15KIP (roughly $1.50CAD)!
For those less adventurous diners there are many scenic road-side cafes, international restaurants and beautiful theatre-style venues which offer both exquisite cuisine and cultural entertainment.
Accommodation varies from the simplest guesthouses to luxury boutique hotels. The city is well represented by a number of professional tour guides and suppliers.
I had always wanted to ride an elephant and found that the Laotian experience was both the least expensive in cost (compared to Chiang Mai, Thailand) and also allowed you the option to ride bare-back! Truly a memory which will remain a high point of my travel exploits!
A half day tour to the Pak Ou Caves was insightful as to the reverence that the local people still attribute to the ancient legends of the past. A tribute spot to the River Gods … The Naga.
And lastly the long hike up to Kuang Xi Waterfull. So worth the effort to view the pristine pools and marvel at the magnificent scenery of the surrounding jungles.
Luang Prabang will not disappoint. Advance planning is recommended due to visa requirements.
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