Luang Prabang is one of those cities that deserves every bit of its reputation. I instantly fell in love with the charming, relaxing and hospitable former colonial town. The city is beautiful, with wellmaintained French Colonial architecture and traditional Lao temples. The vibe in Luang Prabang is laid-back and indulgent. It is clean, calm and sure, gentrified, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it. Luang Prabang is a haven for weary backpackers and luxury vacationers alike, who want to unwind and recharge for a few days.
1. Climb Phousi Mountain
Climb up for a spectacular view of the city and impressive Buddha statues. You can watch the sunset from atop the mountain if you don’t mind sharing it with tons of Chinese tourists. For an equally stunning but more chill experience, head to the banks of the Mekong river for sunset. It’s the same view as you would have from one of the boats, but free. Simply bring a beer and bug spray and enjoy.
2. Play in the Kuang Si waterfalls
About an hour (25 km) from Luang Prabang lies the biggest waterfall in Laos. A collection of bright turquoise pools lead up to a 50 meter stunning waterfall. It’s one of the main sights in Luang Prabang so it gets pretty busy, but it definitely worth a visit. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen and the pools are perfect for a refreshing dip on hot days. Big groups are best off renting a private van and small groups can hire a tuk tuk. Couples and singles are cheapest off renting a motorbike, but only do this if you are an experienced driver as the roads around Luang Prabang are notoriously tricky and riddled with potholes.
3. Vist the UXO information centre
Due to the Vietnam war, Laos is the most bombed country in the world. During the war, American troups tried to cut off Vietnamese supply lines by dropping cluster bombs along the Lao – Vietnam border. To this day 80 million unexploded bombs and mines remain. These bombs cause a lot of pain and suffering as people die or get injured when they find them. Lao is a poor country and removing the the bombs and educating locals is expensive. UXO Laos strives to clean these up and educate locals about the dangers. The UXO information centre is well worth a visit. They explain everything about the bombs and how they try to improve the situation. The museum is free, but a donation is greatly appreciated.
4. Shop at the night market
The Luang Prabang night market is an evening filling experience. It might just be my favorite night market in Southeast Asia, with Pai as a close second. Unlike many night markets in big cities in Southeast Asia, this one isn’t filled with plastic tourist crap. Instead you can find beautiful traditional artisan and handicraft items. From gorgeous Indigo dyed cloth to jewelry made from bomb fragments and from rice whiskey to reusable bamboo straws, this is where you get souvenirs that your family will actually appreciate. Of course, there are also plenty of key chains and fridge magnets, but they’re just a little pretties. Be prepared for some serious haggling as vendors tend to overcharge by 50-80%. If you’re willing to negotiate you can get some great deals.
But don’t just go for the market itself, go there for the amazing street food. The Luang Prabang night market is filled with stalls selling cheap eats. The side street next to Indigo House has a vegetarian buffet, barbeque and noodle shops, but my favourite place to eat on the night market (and all of Luang Prabang) is the little noodle stall at the west end of the market. They sell the best Khao Soy in all of Laos in my humble opinion. I’ll be honest, it’s so good that it was one of the reasons I came back to Laos for a second time.
5. Go out and party
Luang Prabang’s chill vibe caries from day into night at Utopia Bar. Beloved by locals and backpackers this cool bar is the place to be. It is the perfect place to lounge and work during the day (great wifi!), chill at the end of the afternoon and drink in the evening when it really fills up. Another chill place with a great ambiance (my perfect romantic date spot) is the backyard of Lao Lao Garden with its twinkling lights and candles. The cocktails are cheap, but truly terrible. Or grab a drink flyer at the night market and go to Sakura if you want to get drunk on a budget. Nightlife in Luang Prabang is on a midnight curfew and all the bars close at 11.30. If you still want to party after this, take a tuk tuk (around 10.000 kip per person) to the bowling alley. Yes, a literal bowling alley is the highlight of Luang Prabang nightlife where backpacker go to play bowling (20.000 kip per person per game) and drink until 2 am.
Have you ever been to Luang Prabang? Did I convince you to put it on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments and if you liked this post, please share it on social media.