Overshadowed by the likes of its neighbor, Thailand, Laos is often disregarded as a destination in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, Luang Prabang, Laos is a must-see. The UNESCO world heritage sight offers both old-world charm, French influence and quiet, but quaint feel that you won’t experience elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
What to do in Luang, Prabang?
1.Climb Kuang Si Falls
Kuang Si Waterfalls is a must-do while you’re in Luang Prabang. Hire a tuk tuk for 150,000 kip (per tuk tuk; not person). Prepare for a early start as the falls become quite busy later in the afternoon. There is short walk to the emerald waterfalls. However, you can also climb to the top for a birds-eye view of the waterfall. Entrance Fee is: 20,000 kip.
Recommendation: Walk to city center where the tuk tuts are eagerly waiting. Negotiate the price.
2. Visit the bear rescue center
On the way up to Kuang Si Falls, you’ll pass a bear rescue. This is included in the price of the waterfalls. Here you will see a number of bears that have been rescued. While entrance is included in the price of the waterfalls, donations are gratefully accepted. You can even pick up a “Free the Bears” t-shirt as a momento. You can even volunteer!
3. Pak Ou Caves (aka Buddha Cave)
Pak Ou Caves is one of the most religious sights in all of Southeast Asia. The Pak Ou Caves date back to THOUSANDS of years! The cave has since become a shrine for over 4,000 Buddha statutes. There are two caves to visit: Tham Ting and Tham Theung. The caves are located along the Mekong River. So, you can take an excursion by boat along the picturesque river.
4. Try some local whiskey
A visit to a local whiskey “village” is often combined with the daily trip to Pak Ou Caves. Negotiate a deal with your boat man to take you to both sights. The whiskey, known as “lao lao,” is made from fermented sticky rice and are lined up on the beach awaiting distribution and thirsty visitors.
5. Grub at the Night Market
As with most of Southeast Asia, Luang Prabang hosts its own night market. Located in city center, you can buy local handicrafts. There are also side streets that run parallel along the main road that have “buffets” of local food for a little more than $1USD. Alternatively, you can also try a French-inspired baguette sandwich, which are equally delicious.
6. Be humbled by the Alms-Giving Ceremony
Luang Prabang is the perfect place to experience one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Alms Giving Ceremony. Buddhist monks line the streets to accept offerings from local people (and even some travelers). Be sure to arrive early and maintain a level of respect by either watching the ceremony from across the street or partaking in the ceremony. If you plan to partake, purchase your offering in advance (as it is very offensive to interrupt the ceremony) and kneel before the monks while presenting your offering. Rice is a perfectly acceptable offering as is fresh fruits or local sweets.
7. Climb to Mount Phou Si
Dominating the old city center is Mount Phou Si. While it is more of a hill than an actual mountain, the hundreds of steps to the top is exhausting. Nevertheless, the climb is well-worth the spectacular views of the city, especially at sunset.
8. Teach English
In Luang Prabang, there are many locals who are eager to learn English. Volunteering to speak English offers a wonderful way to give back to the local community whist also learning about the culture by communicating with the local people. Big Brother Mouse is one such place where you can do this. No need to make a reservation! Just show up (at 9 am or 5 pm, each day); the local people will be glad to have you. Sometimes even Buddhist monks show up for a chat.
9. Utopia Bar
Utopia Bar is a well-frequented bar with good food and drinks. It also has live music, shisha, and even documentaries.
10. Rent a Bike
Luang Prabang is the perfect town to ride a bike around and explore the city. Catch a glimpse of the real Laotians outside of the”touristy” part of Luang Prabang for a better view of the real Laotian lifestyle. Tiger Trails offers a tour, or explore on your own.