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Luang Prabang

Photo © Chelsandliam

Travel Guide Asia Laos Luang Prabang Province Luang Prabang

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Introduction

Loatian Temple

Loatian Temple

© All Rights Reserved Luis M

Luang Prabang is one of the most popular destinations in Laos and one of the most popular cities to visit in all of Southeast Asia. The old city has a wonderful feel of being the royal capital and then a French colonial centre. It is very easy to spend several days relaxing by the Mekong or jumping off of water falls outside of town.

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Sights and Activities

Alms Giving

The Alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang is often listed as one of the best activities in town. The ceremony starts around 6:00am, when monks leave their temples in order to make their round for accepting the gifts of locals and tourists alike. Unfortunately many tourists don't know how to behave, so in order not to disturb the ceremony, only give alms when it means something to you. Don't buy the food from the hawkers walking around trying to sell you stuff prior to the start of the ceremony, as this is food that will not be eaten by the monks (often given to kids, or even straight back to the hawkers). If you want to make pictures, take a distance and don't use flash photography.

Temples

Luang Prabang is a city with lots of temples.

  • Wat Haw Pha Bang is the temple at the grounds of the National Museum and is actually a new temple completed in 2006. It was built to hold the Phra Bang Buddha, the most highly revered Buddha image in the country, and handcrafted 2,000 years ago in Sri Lanka. The Buddha can actually be seen in the neighbouring National Museum.
  • Vat Xieng Thong is located on the northern tip of the peninsula and maybe the most important of all the temples in town. Constructed in the 16th century and recently resorted with foreign aid the temple now looks magnificent. When visiting take notice of the mosaics on the outer walls of the main temple and some other buildings.

Mount Phousi

Mount Phousi, actually a hill, is located in the middle of town. A climb can be done from two sides, and is therefor best done going up one side. I would suggest the east side. and going down the other side. Descending on the western side, the side facing the Mekong, takes you to the area of the night market. There are several statues to be seen during the climb. The hill top is a popular spot for seeing the sunset. Be aware that you are not alone at this time.

Night Market

The Night Market located on the main street comes to life every evening around 5:00pm with locals and people from the hill tribes selling handicrafts and other goods meant for tourists. There are also plenty of opportunities to eat something at stalls in the side streets, at both ends of the market or in one of the many restaurants or bakeries along the market.

Tamarind cooking school

For the ones that want to have a better understanding in Lao cuisine, the Tamarind cooking school (also a restaurant in town.) is a good option to get their hands dirty. There basically two options: the daytime course, starting at 9:00am and the evening course, starting around 4:00pm. The morning course includes a trip to the market. The course is given a 15-minute drive outside of town. (bring bug spray.) It is a hands on experience, the chef(s) show you, and you duplicate the dish. At the end of the course you can of course eat your own fruits of labour.

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Weather

Luang Prabang has a hot and humid tropical climate. There are two seasons. The rainy season lasts from May to October while the much more pleasant dry season lasts from November to April. During the rainy season there is about 200 to 300 mm of rain a month and the high temperatures, averaging around 33 °C during the day and around 24 °C degrees at night, makes this time the worst for a visit. Winter is much more pleasant with days still close to 30 degrees and nights a nice 15 °C to 18 °C. March to May can be very hot, with temperatures exceeding 40 °C and the record stands at 45 °C!

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max27.7 °C30.9 °C33.5 °C34.6 °C33.8 °C32.5 °C31.6 °C31.4 °C31.7 °C30.9 °C28.8 °C26.5 °C
Avg Min14.2 °C15.1 °C17.9 °C21.3 °C23.4 °C24.3 °C24 °C23.6 °C22.9 °C21 °C17.9 °C14.4 °C
Rainfall13.5 mm16.1 mm33.7 mm94.1 mm149.2 mm177.3 mm223.8 mm226.5 mm165.8 mm107 mm28.2 mm13 mm
Rain Days13491515192014941

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Getting There

Night Market, Xiang Thong street, Luang Prabang

Night Market, Xiang Thong street, Luang Prabang

© All Rights Reserved Glug

By Plane

Luang Prabang International Airport (IATA: LPQ, ICAO: VLLB) is a small international airport located outside of town with regular domestic flights to Phongsaly, Vientiane and Xieng Khuang. There are also international flights to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Hanoi and Siem Reap. Remember that flight schedules can change so make sure to check for the most current destinations served.

By Car

From Vientiane you can reach Luang Prabang riding road 13. Please keep in mind that this is a road in bad shape, especially in the mountains. Driving in Laos is not recommended in the dark, and many accidents do take place.

By Bus

Bus is the most common way to reach town and the bus stations have direct buses to every major city in the country and several international buses to China and Thailand. The main bus station is about 3 kilometres south of the town centre. The minivan station is across the road. In general roads are not great and progress is slow. For the extra price a minivan is faster and slightly more comfortable.

Tickets can be arranged in town, in which case the prices are around 20,000 kip more expensive, but that normally beats the taxi charge of getting to one of the bus stations. (unless you of course arrange your ticket upon arrival.)

By Train

Plans are in progress to unlock Laos from the north by building a train connection coming from China, which will make stops in Luang Prabang, and Vientiane.

By Boat

Boats ply the Mekong to and from Huay Xai at the Thai border, stopping in Pakbeng where you can catch overland connections towards the northeast and the border with China. The trip takes 2 days (both days about 9 hours) by slow boat, or 6 bone-rattling hours by speedboat.

The slow boat leaves Luang Prabang at about 08:30, from a pier that is 10 kilometres away from the town centre and arrives around 18:00 at Pakbeng. It is common to have to switch to a different boat in Pakbeng, so you may end up in a boat of higher or lower quality for the second half of the journey. Two day boats have comfortable (car) seats and it is no longer necessary to purchase any cushions. The slow boat is generally packed, so much so that there may not enough seats to go round. Arriving early will mean a longer day, but most likely a better seat, towards the front and away from the engine.

If you choose to travel on the speedboat (a light canoe with a very powerful engine), a crash helmet and life-jacket should be provided. It is not recommended you travel in a speedboat without this essential safety equipment. It is also recommended that you make your bags as waterproof/water-resistant as possible and wear a rain jacket. The boat can generate quite a bit of spray, plus any showers you might encounter along the way will sting like needles against any exposed skin. On sunny days, sunscreen is invaluable as there is no roof/shade on these speed machines. The journey to Huay Xai can be reduced to as few as 4 hours in the wet season, with a lunch stop at Pak Beng. However, some consider this means of transportation less safe, especially in the dry season.

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Getting Around

Luang Prabang is not a big town, especially if you stick to the town centre. Going on foot, or renting a bike at a modest price are the best options. There is not a lot of traffic at all.

By Public Transport

The public transport is basically the 'tuk-tuk', be aware that you need to haggle with the driver, and agree a price before leaving.

By Foot

Walking is a great way to get around, as the city is not very big, and there is also not a lot of traffic around.

By Bike

Bikes can be rented everywhere and are great if you want to venture out of the centre of town. It is advisable to return to the centre before sunset as roads are not great in Laos, and most accidents happen in the dark.

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Eat

There are several restaurants, bakeries, and other places to eat in Luang Prabang, which you will find all around the centre. Among the outstanding restaurants, you will find Tamarind and 3 Nagas. JoMa and the Scandinavian Bakery are good choices for getting some nice pastries or other snacks. When looking for cheaper options, your best option is to head to the night market, and find several options at the south side of the market at Sisavangvong Road, and some of the side streets. Many cater in a all you can eat kind of way.

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Drink

There are a number of places to drink around Luang Prabang, though the late-night club scene is pretty much nonexistent. The liveliest and busiest bars are in a small cluster between Mt Phousi and the Nam Khong.
If you're simply looking to relax and enjoy the river views, most riverside restaurants have tables outside where you can sit back with a beer or two.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Villa Merry No 1 at the Khan RiverVisun VillageHOSTEL82
Sala Prabang Boutique Hotel102/6 Thanon Ounkham Xieng MouaneHotel-
Souk Lan Xang Guest HouseNO: 2, Unite: 20, Groups:Xeingthong, Ban: WAT NONG, Luang prabang DistrictGuesthouse84
Spicylaos BackpackersBan Thong Cha-LeaunHostel-
Villa Merry Lao IIIBahn Aphay Phousi RoadHostel81
Thony 1 GuesthouseBan Visoun, Chao chopho Road.Guesthouse-
Luang Prabang Backpackers Hostel19/2 Ban Meun Na VillageHostel-
Rama HotelBan Visoun Visounnarath RDHotel-
Chitlatda2 GuesthouseMekong river road Ban HorxiengGuesthouse-
Xayana GuesthouseBan Hua Xieng Luang PrabangHOSTEL74
Halolao Backpackers222 Ban That Luang Luang Prabang.GUESTHOUSE-
Sopha House52 Soukkasem Rd. Ban Vat Sene ,LuangprabangHOTEL53
Merryguesthouse No2Chaoxomphou Road Unit 8\1 Ban MuannaGuesthouse87
Tanoy Guest Housewat that villageGuesthouse-
Villa Thony 1 House 1Ban Visun House No 26 Luang PrabangHOSTEL74
Saysamphanh Hotel13 North Road Ban NasamphanhHOTEL-
Villa Merry No1 House 2Ban muanna,Chaoxomphou Road Luangprabang ProvineGuesthouse-
Halolao VillaBan Khili, Sakkaline Road,GUESTHOUSE-
Phonepraseuth GuesthouseBan Phanluang Luang PrabangGuesthouse-
Vangsavath HotelPhetsarath Road Ban Nongkham LaosHotel-
Hongkham1 GuesthouseSakkalin Road Ban XiengthongGuesthouse-
Namsong Sai EcoLodgeroad13 ban viengmai village close to namkhan new bridgeGuesthouse-
Liberty Guest HouseBan Thadluang, Luang prabang, LaosGUESTHOUSE80
Khammany Inn HostelPhouthisalath Road Ban That LuangHOSTEL74
Dao Fa HotelNaluang Village 13 North RoadHOTEL-
MyLaoHome Capsule BedChoum Khong Village Sisavangvong RoadHOSTEL-
Singharat Guest HouseBan Thad Luang, Luang prabangGUESTHOUSE80
Lakhangthong Boutique HotelNoradeth Road Ban ThatluangHOTEL72
Villa Suan Maak92 Noradeth Rd. Ban That LuangGUESTHOUSE-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Most provincial capitals have internet access, particularly those that a more popular with tourists. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane rates are usually very reasonable at about US$0.50 to US$1.50 per hour. In more remote towns where competition is low, rates are a fair bit higher at around US$3 to US$6 per hour. If you're looking to save a bit of money, it's best to save your emailing until you reach the larger towns and cities.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for Laos is 856. To dial out of the country, the international access code is 00. There are plenty of public phone booths in Laos but these are pretty useless as phonecards are no longer sold and the technology is rather archaic. For long distance calls it's much better to use a post office or internet cafe. The best place however is the local Telecom Office.

Mobile phone users can use their own GSM mobile phone in Laos. Roaming tends to be expensive, so if you're planning on using your phone a fair bit it may well be worth buying a local SIM card and purchasing prepaid minutes. SIMs are normally around US$5 and both Lao Telecom and ETL have good network coverage.

Post

For the best postal services, send your mail from Vientiane as the post in the provinces is less reliable. In general it takes anywhere from 1 to over 2 weeks to send post to/from Laos. Post offices generally are open from 8:00am to 5:00pm, with some having shorter hours on weekend days as well. If you are going to Thailand, post from there as it's more reliable and faster. If you are worried about sending home valuable items there is a Federal Express office inside the main post office in Vientiane. You might also check possibilities with companies like DHL, TNT or UPS.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 19.8841
  • Longitude: 102.141602

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This is version 29. Last edited at 14:40 on Apr 23, 15 by Utrecht. 31 articles link to this page.

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