Luang Prabang, Laos

The charming former Laos capital of Luang Prabang has fiercely guarded its religious traditions for centuries. Yet, the UNESCO town’s biggest test may still lie on the horizon.

So now we find ourselves in Laos. We took the slow boat from the Thai border down the Mekong and ended up here in Luang Prabang, which by all accounts is an extraordinary place.

Like a lot of other travelers we’ve met, we knew very little about Laos before coming here. We had few preconceived notions or expectations given Laos’ relative obscurity—but what a relaxing and breathtaking place so far. Every Laotian we’ve met has been incredibly kind and seemingly sincere—even tuk-tuk drivers are courteous! The scenery is amazing too—lush green hills and red clay banks sloping toward the Mighty Mekong.

The town of Luang Prabang is also quite the surprise. We are staying in the historic UNESCO quarter near the famous alms-giving temple. It is one of the most peaceful and quiet towns we’ve visited in Southeast Asia. The roads are lined with French-influenced guesthouses and restaurants, brick sidewalks, and tamarind trees. Local children play in the streets in the evening and you can stroll around the old town free of hard-selling touts, save for the low-key woman on the street corner asking “Massage Madame?” or the random sketchy Lao dude passing you on the street whispering “waterfall tour, smoke-smoke, joint?” outside of the boutique artist gallery and bookshop.

Luang Prabang became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and, as you might expect, is a truly remarkable town.

UNESCO description:

“Luang Prabang is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.”

Luang Prabang was its own kingdom for centuries until very recently. When the French annexed the country, they recognized Luang Prabang as the royal residence of Laos, and when Laos gained independence, the king of Luang Prabang became the head of state of the Kingdom of Laos, ruling until communist forces seized the city in 1975. As such, the city has long been the site of numerous significant temples and in many ways, today still serves as the spiritual epicenter of the country.

Consequently, saffron-clad monks are a common sight throughout the city.

Keep Reading » Luang Prabang

Return to Phu Si Hill
First thing on the Saturday morning agenda? Hike up Luang Prabang's revered temple hill, in the heart of Old Town.
Slow Boat to Luang Prabang
Getting from Chiang Kong to Luang Prabang was a fun and unique experience — two days on a long wooden boat floating down one of the world’s great rivers.
Nong Khiaw
We spend four nights in Nong Khiaw, a remote and subdued jewel of the north, soaking up the fresh mountain air and easy-going vibe.
No Reservations
Luang Prabang is a funny place — and even funnier in peak season. In Vientiane, no reservations? No Problem! In Luang Prabang…oh boy.
Luang Prabang: Day on the Mekong
Lori and I thought Grammy, Grampy & co. might enjoy some time on the Mekong, so we headed down to the navigation office across the street from Saffron Coffee and
Luang Prabang (Pt.1)
Our two-day Mekong boat journey from Thailand ends at an astounding place – owing to its mysterious, historical, and natural character, and the fact that we hadn't read up at
North Bank
We spend our last day in Luang Prabang taking a leisurely stroll around the UNESCO peninsula, and a local ferry across the Mekong to explore a small village and a
Welcoming 2018 in Luang Prabang
Our last post of 2017 takes us back to Luang Prabang! A journey over the mountains, world-class cuisine, and fish slippers await!
North Into the Unknown
We venture to the remote north of the country, covering our first new territory in Laos in 13 months.
Slow Boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang
Two days on a long wooden boat cruising down one of the world's great waterways. Read on for our full report on riding the "slow boat" from Thailand to Luang
Luang Prabang: Bamboo Bridges
Monday morning in Luang Prabang with family and friends. Miraculously, we beat the retirees to breakfast. Not sure how that happened with the babe, but it happened. A good morning
Luang Prabang: Dry Season & Visitors
Lori’s parents are here visiting for 2.5 weeks — our first visitors here in Laos. Close family friends, John and Shirley joined them for the final week. We spent about
Riding the Ou River to the End of the Line
We follow a dying boat route to three isolated hill tribe villages, up a Mekong tributary poised to be dammed in seven locations.
Daddy Days In Luang Prabang
While Lori went on site visits with her technical team, Noe and I spent quality time together exploring the religious and historical heart of Laos.
Can Luang Prabang’s Sacred Tak Bat Survive?
A critical look at this critically endangered religious practice in the heart of the UNESCO Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang (Pt.2)
In Part Two of our exploration of the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang, we continue to discover the wonders of this unique place and hop a local boat for an
Up early at 6am to catch tak bat, the almsgiving for which Luang Prabang is famous. Despite having visited Luang Prabang since moving to Laos in September, this is our
A Gloomy Day, Indeed
Returning to the UNESCO Heritage town of Luang Prabang after a four year absence, to discover a place largely unchanged – and a world forever changed.
Luang Prabang: The Tamarind Café
How do you follow a memorable day in Luang Prabang, Laos? With an unforgettable dinner experience.
Luang Prabang, Laos

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