The former capital of the Lao Kingdom is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is partly owned to the fact that it is home to 34 Buddhist temples. But also because of its idyllic location within the lush rainforest and almost surrounded by two rivers. It’s the atmosphere that makes this city unique but there are also a few things to explore here:
Swim in the Kuang Si Waterfall
This waterfall is probably the most beautiful in entire South-East Asia. It consists of several limestone cascades which release carbon oxide into the water, which reflects the sunlight and gives the water this unique turquoise color. It is a scenic 45min drive with a motorbike or a minivan to get there. And while the lower cascades of the falls are mostly overcrowded by Chinese tourists, the upper ones are perfect to take a swim.
When we were there, we decided to walk all the way to the top before going for a swim. But right after we had taken the perfect photo of the top level of the falls a thunderstorm broke down on us. We found shelter with about 10 other people under a small hut and hoped the storm to be over soon – but it wasn’t. After being cramped together for more than half an hour, the guide of an Indian couple managed to get his driver up there and generously gave us a lift to a restaurant on the lowest level. And when the sun came out after lunch, we managed to take that long-awaited swim in the turquoise water.
Explore Wat Xieng Thong
It is considered the most beautiful out of the 34 temples in Luang Prabang. It is not as extravagant as the blue or the white temple in Chiang Rai but decorated with a lot of gold and love for details. And while walking there you can observe many other temples and with some luck also a group of monks proceeding a ceremony.
Watch the sunset on Mount Phou Si
There are only 300 steps to climb the hill in the center of Luang Prabang. But when doing this in summer it makes you sweat tremendously. On the way up you pass a larger temple in the beginning, different buddha statues on the way and a ruin on top of the hill. The view from up there is wonderful and when the sun sets, it dives the entire city and the Mekong into a magical light.
When we went up there, we got chatted up by a group of boys aged 11 to 13. They asked us all sorts of questions in English and we were surprised that they even spoke English. When the same happened to us again on top of the hill and also at the night market, we had already learned that this was their homework and we even more enthusiastically supported them.
Explore and eat at the Night Market
Every night after 5pm a night market is set up at Sisavangvong road. Other than in northern Thailand, it is less crowded and the venders mostly present their goods on a blanket on the floor. There are all sorts of handcraft items, jewelry and paintings to buy and in a side street there is some kind of a food court. If you are looking for a cheap way to eat this is definitely the place for you.
We took the buffet option for less than 2 USD but were a bit disappointed because the air was hot and the food cold. But nevertheless, we enjoyed our time at the market a lot.