Everything You Need to Know about Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, the ancient royal capital of Lao (the capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1945), is featured by the heat drizzle, and breeze of the beginning of the summer blowing through every corner of heritage sites.

Hiding in the middle of an immense forest of the Highland and the majestic Mekong River, Luang Prabang (Luang) impresses its tourists by the cool air and poetic beauty. The route from Hanoi to the heritage city of Laos is nearly 900 km long, of which 700 km is the pass.

Luang train station is located on the outskirts, so we went to the city center, Bangkok to get to the booked hotel on Kingkitsarath Street (located between Phousi mountain and Nam Khan river) by Tuk- Tuk (also called “sam-lor” (three-wheeled), used to be one of the most favorite way of travelling around Bannkok before the BTS, MRT and colorful Taxi took over. It is originated from an old-fashioned rickshaw during the second World War. Tuk-tuk can be seen as one of Bangkok’s most recognizable transportation features, and are still popular among tourists and visitors. Noticeably, riding a tuk-tuk is more expensive than other ways to get around the city). Opening the window, the blow of cool breezes from the river into the room made us more comfortable during such hot weather of the early summer. The quiet atmosphere of this amazing land definitely gave us a “sound” sleep.

From the window of the hotel’s room, I can hold a panoramic view of charming sunrise and, later on the majestic mountains hidden under clouds. The houses that combine modern features and traditional characteristics of French and Laos architecture, respectively, creates picturesque scenery.

We were introduced to the daily activities of monks who get up bright and early to attend communal chanting and praying, then get to the street with their “alm” bowl to beg for daily food on the central streets at 5-6 a.m. That morning, we did not see it because of immersing ourselves in the early sunlight at sunrise, so we decided to spend the following morning to taking part in this exciting activity.

After greeting the dawn, we found something good to full our belly. The best option was surely Luang Market which is located on the left side of the Royal Palace( now called Luang Prabang National Museum). Got there, we had a chance to enjoy various local tasteful dishes such as grilled chicken, roasted pork, fragrant dishes made from bamboo shoots and even vermicelli that is quite similar to Vietnam.

A crowded noodle soup restaurant attracting mainly the locals at the center of the market facing us. We were introduced to a tasteful and fragrant coconut milk noodle soup accompanied by roasted pork and various herbs by a Laos middle-aged couple. Chatting with them, they turned out to be the former students of Thai Binh Medical University in the 90s and is currently working as doctors at Luang Hospital. Especially, we were highly impressed by the fluent Vietnamese they talked to us. How amazing!  

Tropical fruits were served along the main path, including watermelon, mango, and pineapple. The is one special thing in this market that customers do not need to bargain because the tradesmen do not offer “ virtual” prices which we often see in other places. Meanwhile, they always keep a graceful smile in their mouth and reply the price-asking question of visitors by "Sa bai dee" (hello) and "Khop chai" (thank you).

Walking around the market, we were all stuffed with the famous tasteful dishes. That lovely breakfast were enough for us to explore that beautiful World Heritage site. 

Our next destination was the Royal Palace which is now opened for tourists to learn more about the Feudal Dynasties of Laos. From the 14th Century to 1946, Luang Prabang served as the ancient capital of the Lang Xan Kingdom and before it became the capital in 1975, it still performed its role as the center of Laos Kingdom.

Located at the crossing of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang measures the highest density of Wats (Buddhist temples in Laos) in the world, with up to 98% of population worshiping Buddhism. At the peak of Phousi mountain, you probably hold a panoramic view of Wats with the high-rise tower imbued with cultural characteristics of Buddhism in Laos.

Coming Luang,  it will be a big regret if you do not make a visit to the most ancient and famous temple called Wat Xieng Thoong. This sacred temple was built in the reign of King Setthathirat from 1559 to 1560, and, as the name would suggest, Wat Xieng Thoong means the temple of the Golden City. Featured by curved rooftops, numerous small shrines and meticulously and sophisticatedly sculptured carvings, tourists must be immediately “mesmerized” by the beauty of the temple.

Situated at the downstream of the Mekong Delta river, the magnificent  Kuang Si Waterfall is about 30 km from the center of Luang Prabang. Taking a Tuk Tuk, we went through a shaded road of Teak, a typical tree of Laos to get to the amazing waterfall.

The magnificent Kuang Si waterfall also fascinates tourists with a bear sanctuary and a butterfly farm where they can access and explore their living habit and habitats.

We returned to Bangkok in the late afternoon by Tuk-Tuk. It’s the best time to watch the sunset, too. In Luang, an ideal place to greet sunset is at Phousi peak, opposite to the Royal Palace. We climbed all 328 steps to reach the peak at the height of 150 meters. Turning your head to the West,  you definitely see the sun sinking below the horizon and shining the last sunlights of the day onto Mekong river.

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