by Sacha Bunnik
Luang Prabang is a peaceful city located at the confluence of the Nam Khan River and the mighty Mekong River in the northern part of Laos. With a population of just under 50,000 inhabitants and a building law that does not allow buildings over 3 storeys, Luang Prabang is a great place to relax and find some tranquillity.
Most locals still use bikes as their main form of transport and every morning just before sunrise, hundreds of monks walk the streets to collect offerings for the day making Luang Prabang very authentic and unique compared to the other larger cities that have sprung up over Asia.
Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong is a Buddhist Temple and monastery dating back to the 1550s and is located in the heart of Luang Prabang overlooking the Mekong River. This religious site has many different colourful shrines, smaller temples and pavilions, as well as residences for the monks.
The museum houses an array of national treasures including the king’s crown jewels and throne as well as lots of diplomatic gifts including a rock from the moon given to Laos by the Americans during the 1970s. The museum has still kept the palace as it originally was with the living quarters, throne room and queen’s reception rooms all in tact. There is also a garage out the back housing three of the king’s cars, all large petrol-guzzling American cars.
Kuang Si Falls
We ventured out of the city for the day to experience some of the natural beauty that surrounds Luang Prabang; we headed towards the spectacular Kuang Si Falls.
The Kuang Si Falls are truly a scenic masterpiece with beautiful cascading waterfalls, some as high as 60 metres, all flowing into shallow pools as it flowing down the mountain. There are a number of blue turquoise pools that you can take a swim in to cool off from the humidity, so bring your bathers.
Each night the streets of downtown turn into a massive market with stalls selling everything from local arts and crafts, to clothing, to freshly made Laos cakes and other eatable delights. It’s also filled with the many overseas backpackers that visit, giving it a real hippy alternative type feeling about it.
Visiting the night markets is a must for any visitor to Luang Prabang and a great place to have dinner.
Every night thousands of people, both tourists (with drinks in hand) and locals, gather on the banks of the river to watch the sunset in a carnival type atmosphere. Here, everyone is talking, mixing and enjoying themselves while waiting for the sun to set.
It was one of the nicest sunsets I have seen and a very enjoyable experience.