Luang Prabang, once the capital of Laos and an ancient city, has now transformed into the most highly regarded destination in Laos. Join Trustreview to explore this remarkable city.
Where is Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is an ancient city situated on the banks of the Mekong River. This city is located approximately 425 km north of the capital, Vientiane. The area of Luang Prabang covers around 16,875 square kilometers, with a population of over 22 thousand people. In the past, Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos, which is why the city still preserves numerous historical sites and ancient architectural structures. In 1995, UNESCO recognized Luang Prabang as a World Heritage cultural site.
Why to go Luang Prabang
Renowned for its ancient Buddhist temples, including Wat Xieng Thong dating back to the 16th century, the birthplace of Lao Buddhism, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site celebrated for its history, charm, and welcoming monks.
In the early morning, Luang Prabang is famous for the sight of monks walking along the streets to collect alms, a daily tradition open to tourists who wish to observe or participate. However, there are appropriate etiquette considerations if you wish to partake.
Beyond its numerous sacred religious sites, Luang Prabang is nestled in one of the world’s most breathtaking locations, at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. It boasts waterfalls, mountains, and lush forests, providing ample opportunities for adventurous souls to hike through the jungle, mountain bike, kayak, and immerse themselves in the city’s natural ancient beauty.
When to go Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang’s climate follows the four-season pattern of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, with a similarity to the climate of northern Vietnam. You can choose to visit Luang Prabang at any time of the year, depending on your preference. The optimal time to explore Luang Prabang typically falls between October and February when the weather remains consistently warm and dry. During this period, Luang Prabang experiences minimal rainfall, with an average temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius. Laos has distinct wet and dry seasons, so venturing outside of these months can lead to encountering substantial rainfall. Even during the rainy season, anticipate afternoon storms, but it can still be a pleasant time to visit. If you decide to visit from March to May, it’s essential to be prepared with a hat and sunscreen, as outdoor temperatures can soar to as high as 40 degrees Celsius and there will be the prevalent smog caused by regional slash-and-burn agricultural practices.
How to come Luang Prabang
Firstly, to reach Luang Prabang, you must first get to Laos. Then, you will have the following transportation options to reach Luang Prabang.
By air (International):
An increasing number of airlines offer direct flights to Luang Prabang from various Southeast Asian hubs, including Bangkok, Hanoi, Chiang Mai, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. Northern Asia also operates direct flights from Seoul and Chinese cities such as Chengdu and Guangzhou. Carriers providing non-stop flights include Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Silk Air, Air Asia, Thai Smile, and Jin Air. Many major global cities are just a layover away, and visas are readily available upon arrival.
By air (Domestic):
Lao Airlines operates three daily flights from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, departing at 09:10, 11:30, and 17:00, with the journey taking less than an hour. Additionally, Lao Airlines offers three weekly flights (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays) from Pakse to Luang Prabang, departing at 16:40 and arriving at 18:20. Lao Skyway provides daily services from Vientiane in the afternoon, as well as three weekly flights (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays) from Xieng Khouang at 13:15, with a flight duration of approximately 30 minutes.
Buses depart from Luang Prabang’s three main bus stations: the Northern Bus Terminal, the Southern Bus Terminal, and the Minivan Terminal.
You can use a bus or a minivan for your trip to Luang Prabang from various domestic locations in Laos. The duration and ticket prices may vary depending on the starting point of your journey.
By boats and “bullet boat”
Tourists traveling to Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand, typically take boats departing from Houay Xay and overnight in Pakbeng. Others visit Luang Prabang as part of an extended multi-day journey or opt for a “bullet boat” from Houay Xay. There are five options available:
- Public riverboats with 36-42 seats for a 2-day journey with self-booked accommodation in Pakbeng priced at 280,000 LAK (approximately 35 USD). They depart at 08:00 from Houay Xay town pier and the Thai-Lao bridge.
- Private operators offer leisurely river cruises with spacious seating, comfort, meals, village and sightseeing stops, and Pakbeng accommodation for around 130 USD (double room). They typically depart between 09:00-09:30 from Houay Xay town pier.
- Premium tour companies based in Luang Prabang provide refurbished traditional boats with various amenities, facilities, and dining options. A 2-day journey from Houay Xay costs between $400-$800, depending on the accommodation and boat in Pakbeng.
- Five-star international cruise lines offer multi-day luxury cruises that include stops in Luang Prabang along the Mekong Golden Triangle-Vientiane-Houay Xay route.
- Independent boat captains provide “bullet boats” for 1-2 people equipped with safety gear for an exhilarating day trip.
A public riverboat departs from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang (120 km) at 08:00, with a fare of LAK100,000.
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang caters to a diverse range of travelers, with a splendid selection of accommodation options that includes upscale hotels, charming boutiques, cozy bed and breakfasts, luxurious villas, welcoming hostels, and immersive homestays. Regardless of your budget, you’ll discover an ideal place to stay in Luang Prabang, whether you’re a budget-conscious backpacker or seeking the utmost in luxury.
What to eat in Luang Prabang
To visit Luang Prabang, you can try a variety of traditional and unique dishes from the region, such as:
(Steamed Fish) is a local dish that surprises with its eco-friendly preparation. It includes lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, green chilies, and fresh herbs mixed with steamed fish, often catfish.
Laos Laap is a beloved national dish with a spicy kick, made from minced chicken, duck, pork, or beef. It features a unique sweet and sour flavor from lime juice. You can enjoy it in its fresh “goi song” form or opt for the cooked version at restaurants like Tamarind.
Talad Sao morning market in Luang Prabang offers a unique experience. Unlike night markets, it’s a place where Western flavors are almost absent. Here, locals stock fresh food and cooking ingredients, including various herbs and “jungle meat.” Sooner or later, you might come face to face with a small creature with a twitching tail—grilled rats! It can be quite alarming, but rest assured, these are field rats that are safe for consumption.
This renowned stew, a Luang Prabang specialty, features buffalo skin, vegetables, pork, and a distinct woodsy flavor from pepperwood. Although it may not look very appealing, it’s known for its unique blend of flavors. Manda de Laos restaurant is famous for its chicken Or Lam version.
Khao Piak Sen – Lao’s Traditional Noodle Soup
Khao Piak Sen, also known as Khao Piak or Ka’piek, is a traditional dish in Luang Prabang, Laos. It resembles Vietnamese pho but has a simpler broth and chewier noodles made from rice and cassava flour. The broth is prepared using pork bones or chicken, with salt and sugar as the main seasonings. Unlike other cuisines, additional spices are not used, preserving the broth’s natural sweetness. You can find this dish in various places, but it’s best experienced at local street stalls for an authentic taste.
Khao Jee Pâté
Khao Jee Pâté is a popular Laotian sandwich, similar to Vietnamese banh mi. It features a crispy French baguette filled with meat, vegetables, and herbs, often served as a quick and affordable breakfast or lunch option in Laos. The ingredients typically include carrots, onions, coriander, mint, pâté, and sometimes spicy jaew bong sauce for a distinctive Laotian flavor.
Edible insects have been part of the menus of people in Asia, Africa, and Central America for thousands of years. Worms, crickets, beetles, grasshoppers, and even smoked bee larvae are a common sight at morning markets.
Delightful coconut milk custard cakes, cooked in cast-iron pans until they rise. With a crispy exterior and a soft interior, Kanom Krok is one of the most popular street foods in Laos night markets.
More tranditional food you can have in Luang Prabang
Additionally, you can explore a wide range of traditional street food dishes and savor exquisite dining experiences in upscale restaurants in Luang Prabang. The city offers a diverse culinary scene to cater to all tastes and preferences.
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