18.7953° N, 98.9986° E
As I mentioned before, we almost skipped Laos entirely on our trip. Luang Prabang is another town I’m so glad we didn’t miss.
Luang Prabang was described to me as a SE Asian honeymoon destination by my cousin Matthew who had visited the year before. Not quite sure what he meant by his description we added it to the list wanting to check out the Kuang Si waterfalls and visit an Elephant Sanctuary. Neither attraction disappointed but the town itself lived up the quaint, romantic destination my cousin described it to be.
Luang Prabang has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and therefore receives some flack from travel bloggers for being “too touristic.” I’ve never really understood this term but if Luang Prabang is touristic than it means having morning markets full of fresh produce, night markets full of crafts, food markets full of all you can eat Asian buffets, temples home to Buddhist Monks, and French colonial architecture bordered by 2 rivers.
Luang Prabang is a destination for any budget with activities from morning to night.
It’s best to start the day early at sunrise to catch the monks collecting Alms. Throughout the city you’ll see the Monks dressed in orange walking in a line collecting their food and offerings from the local town folk. Tourists are welcome to participate as well, but as this is a religious tradition it’s important to dress appropriately for the ritual. We chose not to partake as it isn’t part of our religious customs, but thoroughly enjoyed witnessing this daily tradition.
Following Alms you can head to the morning market to catch it at it’s peak before the sun starts to wilt the fresh produce lining the street. With all the fresh produce and local meats to be bought it is no wonder Luang Prabang is considered one of the culinary capitals of SE Asia. Their food has heavy french influence and there are many french cafes to find around town. I would highly recommend enjoying the cheaper lunch menus at one of the many cafes and sticking to the local food (which can’t be found during the day) for dinner.
We loved the all you can eat grill your own meat BBQ with a sunset riverside view. At $7 a head though we often opted to keep it cheaper and stick to the all you can eat buffets for $2 in the local food market for dinner.
Following the morning market you can head to one of the many tour shops to plan the rest of your day. With boat tours, waterfalls, elephant rides, buddha caves, and bike adventures you could stay busy in Luang Prabang for a while.
We choose to keep most days simple taking in morning yoga at Utopia, strolling past the many temples that lined the streets, and working in one of the many french bakeries.
If tours and day to day life aren’t enough there are also cooking classes to take (so bummed I missed mine due to some food poisoning ) and you can spend your days volunteering to teach monks to read English.
As the sun begins to set and the day gets cooler, the town comes alive even more.
After reading all the blogs that railed on Luang Prabang I was shocked to find such a variety of things to do. There really is something for everyone! Yes there may be tour shops with endless tours and markets with souvenirs you wouldn’t find a local using or wearing, but we had a blast on the tours we did and did more shopping in Luang Prabang than we’ve done thus far. Nay-sayers claim the town to be unauthentic, but I found it to be just the opposite. I found the locals to be amazingly nice people who have invited tourists to their town to participate in their day-to-day lives. This may seem touristic to some, but to me I found it refreshing to be in an area that so open heartedly shared their customs and traditions with visitors from all over the world.
What qualifies a town as “touristic” to you? Do you find “touristic” areas to be a turn off or a reason to visit?
Would you visit Luang Prabang? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think!