A traveller's favourite, the town of Luang Prabang in Laos is a city that always surprises and delights its visitors. Bordered by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this UNESCO-protected city oozes charm and enchants at every turn.
Consistently named amongst the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia, travellers who make their way to Laos will find a smattering of things to do in Luang Prabang – none too arduous, and most in keeping with the country's unofficial motto: Laos PDR, please don't rush.
The oasis of calm and culture that is Luang Prabang offers up a range of sights and attractions, dining options and cultural events. These are my top picks.
See the Monks
Rise early to watch hundreds of monks walk the streets of Luang Prabang, as they receive alms from the villagers. Anyone can participate but make sure to ask your guesthouse to help prepare food the night before. Avoid interfering with the monks by snapping photos in their faces and be sure to dress appropriately; make sure your shoulders are covered to avoid causing offense.
Enjoy sunset by the Mekong
A number of great bars and local restaurants line the banks of the Mekong in Luang Prabang. Pause here for a delicious Beer Lao, fruit shake or cheap bite to eat while you watch boats lazily float past. The sunsets here are spectacular.
Visit Joma Bakery Cafe
For great Western food and air conditioned comfort, Joma Bakery cafe offers free WIFI, great food and friendly staff. Stop here for their highly recommended taco salad or freshly made sandwiches before trying out other authentic Lao cuisine in the town.
Jump in the back of a songteaw, a large shared tuk-tuk, and head 30km south to the Luang Prabang waterfalls of Kaung Si. This collection of waterfalls – including one very big one – offers refreshing swimming holes in turquoise pools. Visitors are able to take the well-maintained bridges and track to the top of the largest waterfall.
Climb Phu Si for sunset and great views
Phu Si is the highest point in central Luang Prabang – a small hill flanked by a number of small temples and shrines. Climb the 328 steps to the top for the best view over the town of Luang Prabang. It’s best to tackle this climb at sunset for the view and to avoid the maximum heat of the day.
Visit Utopia Bar & Restaurant
This could possibly be the best bar in South East Asia. This garden bar and restaurant has an excellent river-view and a large balcony decked out with mats to relax on. Stop in for a cold drink or a bite to eat or join in with the other travelers playing volleyball or board games.
Shop to your heart's content at the local night market
The night market in the main street is home to amazing handcrafts, clothing and food stalls. In stark contrast to markets in Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia, the stallholders here are unlikely to pressure or accost you when you stop to admire their beautiful wares.
If you are short on time as you travel in Laos, make your stop in Luang Prabang, a beautiful little city with tons of fun things to do, see and experience. Take your time, enjoy these top spots and, soon enough, you’ll find yourself settling into the peaceful and easy-going Laotian way of life.
For those with some extra time, volunteer with English conversation practice at Big Brother Mouse, attend local cooking classes, ride elephants or simply amble around town on bicycles, waving and chatting with local kids as you pass by.