In this our first trip to Laos, we visited one of the most attractive areas, Luang Prabang , a city that mixes a wild nature typical of series like “Lost” , with a deep religious spirituality.
The Mekong River is of vital importance for Laos since it is a country that has no outlet to the sea.
This river actually marks a natural border of Laos to the west and south with four of its neighboring countries, Myanmar , Thailand , Cambodia and Vietnam .
Luang Prabang , a city that has been declared a ” World Heritage Site ” by Unesco and is located in the north of Laos, is one of the three most important tourist cities in Laos next to Vientiane and Champassak .
It is located on a small peninsula formed on one side by the Mekong River, onthe other by its tributary the Nam Khan , and has just over 70,000 inhabitants.
To stay in Luang Prabang during your visit, it is worth looking for one of the hotels that occupy the French colonial buildings, since the accommodations in Laos are really cheap.
Curiosities history of Laos
Laos before the 14th century covered a huge territory as its territory covered an important part of Thailand and Cambodia
In fact Laos was known as ” Lan Zang”, the kingdom of the million elephants.
When it became a French colony it was part of what was known as Indochina together with the current countries of Cambodia and Vietnam.
Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos until the capital city moved to Vientiane in the 14th century .
This change was due to two important facts.
The first was defensive against the frequent invasions of Burma and China , and the other reason was orographic, since Vientiane is much flatter and facilitated communications and trade.
A curious fact that not everyone knows is that Laos was the most bombed country of the Vietnam War .
The American army once reached the border of Vietnam with Laos, continued to advance until the end of the war in 1975, the same year that its monarchy ended and Laos became a republic.
Another very important fact about the social situation in the country is that after the conflicts with Thailand, institutional relations have gone through bad times.
Today this has changed and a sample of them is that they have already built five bridges known as the ” Friendship Bridges “ , which join the two countries across the Mekong River .
What to see in Luang Prabang
Then I will highlight the highlights that you should see during your stay in Luang Prabang on your trip to Laos.
With more than 4,000 kilometers in length, this river marks the life and history of Luang Prabang .
As it passes through the city, it is more than a kilometer wide and is used as a river highway to connect many of the small fishing villages.
Its sunsets on its way through Luang Prabang are one of the most sought after by all visitors.
Peoples of the Mekong River Fishermen
Throughout the Mekong River there are small fishing populations like Bang Xang Hai that we could meet.
Its main activity is obviously fishing, but also the cultivation of rice and agriculture.
During the day these small towns descend the river to trade in the different local markets of Luang Prabang.
Pak Ou Caves
This corner of the river is known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas .
They are up by boat to the north by the Mekong River where it meets a major tributary, the Nam Ou .
The name of these caves comes from their location at the mouth of this tributary.
Pak Ou in a word game that means Boca del río Ou , specifically, Pak means mouth and Nam Ou is the name of the tributary.
They were found in the fourteenth century and the merchants used them as a refuge, while they were leaving Buddha statues for the different caves.
Wat Long Khoun temple in Luang Prabang
This small temple is located just opposite Luang Prabang, on the other side of the Mekong River .
It is the home of a group of monks, which can only be reached by boat.
This temple can not always be visited because if the monks have gone to the city to be part of the “parade of monks”, the temple is temporarily closed to the public.
Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang
A few kilometers from Luang Prabang these turquoise waterfalls are one of the most beautiful in the world.
These waterfalls in various heights inside the jungle are the main tourist attraction in the area, as they are absolutely unique.
To its descent by the slope it is forming small swimming pools in which it is possible to bathe between lianas and waterfalls.
Without a doubt, they seem one of the most beautiful we have seen throughout the planet.
Bear Shelter in Luang Prabang
At the entrance to the park where the waterfalls are located, we pass through a small bear shelter, where they are in charge of helping these animals that have been attacked by the peasants.
The coexistence of these majestic bears with the local population has been a conflict during the last years given the conflict over the territory.
Most bears would not have survived if they had not been rescued, as there are some who have recovered from very serious injuries, including amputations.
Wat Xieng Thong temple in Luang Prabang
The Wat Xieng Thong is the main temple of Luang Prabang and one of the best preserved.
A coincidence of fate made it possible to conserve of the multitudinous looting of the pirates who arrived by the Mekong River .
These pirates took advantage of the invasions of the Chinese armies to take away all the jewels and valuables that remained after the attacks.
The chief of the main group of pirates who raided the cities studied in Luang Prabang , so when he arrived in the city he decided to respect the temple.
Later it was reconstructed and in its one enclosure we found several temples and small chapels, prayer rooms and stupas.
Mirador Monte Phou Si in Luang Prabang
If you want to have a 360º panorama of the city, this mountain and the temple that houses its top is the place where you should go.
In the center of the city in Luang Prabang, the Mont Phousi rises about 100 meters, from where you can see perfectly how the Mekong and Nam Khanrivers surround the jungle city.
To raise a council, there are two sides of rise, the one that has less steps (more than 300) is the one that gives to the Royal palace , so if you want to save steps, that is the “easiest” access
Royal Palace of Luang Prabang
When the Monarchy ended in 1974 in Laos , the state decided to keep the Royal palace so that later generations could enjoy it.
Thanks to this decision, this Royal palace can be visited and preserved as it was abandoned by the kings after their flight from the country.
You can see impressive rooms with curious mosaics and the golden decorations of gold leaf that cover the wood of the palace.
In them the kings of Laos made official receptions to the leaders of the rest of the monarchies that visited them.
Night Market in Luang Prabang
The joy in the city is the Night Market , a market that is installed every day on the main street of the city, which runs through the peninsula of Luang Prabang.
This street that also houses the Royal Palace, every day, from 5 in the afternoon, when the sun goes down, becomes a huge market.
A point of union among merchants from all the villages around the Mekong River , it is a must for tourists.
In addition to the many craft stalls and local products, you will find a street food area , which we liked the most during our trip to Southeast Asia.
A street with many food stalls where tourists meet local people, and a great place since there are so many people in the stands, that the food is always fresh because they do not stop cooking.
And above cheap. Recommended 100%
French colonial architecture in Luang Prabang
After the years of French colonial occupation most of the buildings of that time have been preserved, so walking through the streets of Luang Prabang is a walk through historic streets and houses.
There are some of the houses of that time that have been converted into hotels, like the one we stayed at, the Villa Meydou .
The street Sisivangvong that takes the name of the penultimate king, and where the Night Market is, is a clear example of these colonial constructions.
If you want to visit them, that is the best area to see them, although these colonial houses are found throughout the city.
Bamboo Bridges in Luang Prabang
Each year the river flow low, this is due to the arrival of the dry season of the year.
It is the moment in which the citizens of Luang Prabang build these wonderful bamboo bridges over the Nam Khan River, which you can cross paying about 50 cents of euros.
They are one of the most curious pictures of Luang Prabang .
Of course, if you go in the rainy season when the flow rises very sharply, you probably can not see them.
When the river grows it is normal that there are overflows due to the strong floods of the river that destroy these bamboo constructions.
Wat Aham temple in Luang Prabang
Also in the center of the city, Wat Aham is actually a set of temples turned into monks’ homes.
It is presided by a huge Buddha statue under old wooden structures that have been rebuilt over the years.
This beautiful temple also houses in its interior several of the Buddha sculptures that have been recovered from the temples destroyed over time in the attacks on the city.
You can also see a huge stupa that, unlike the rest of the stupas of the temples, was not used to deposit ashes of the dead.
It is built in concrete and was used by monks to store treasures and relics when Luang Prabang was attacked.
Parade of Monks in Luang Prabang
One of the most interesting points for your visit is the event that is repeated every day of the year.
At sunrise, at 5 o’clock in the morning, all the monks of the temples of Luang Prabang leave in procession to tour the city.
It is an event of spiritual connection between the residents of Luang Prabang and the numerous monks around.
Dressed in their attire, in a row sorted by age, they leave loaded with ballot boxes to receive offerings from citizens.
These offerings are the only foods that the monks eat during the day, which they distribute in two meals.
As I said, this street takes the name of the penultimate king of Laos, and it is the place where you will find a large number of bars and restaurants .
Many of them are focused for tourists with international food , but not all are like that.
You can also find local food especially rice cooked in a thousand different ways, as well as meats, especially chicken.