3 Days Unmissable Luang Prabang
3 Days Unmissable
An introduction to one of Asia’s most charming destinations under UNESCO protection
WHY THIS TOUR?
A town drenched in spirituality. For long, Luang Prabang has drawn on its somewhat secluded location along the Mekong where the abundance of nature certainly befitted its religious status. More than 30 temples, pagodas and monasteries are within walking distance in its quaint little town centre where small cafes and local bars are to be found at almost every corner.
Outside its laid-back centre, nature rules with a gentle, green fist, dominated by the town’s presence along the Mekong and jungle-clad landscape. For three days, touching base with Luang Prabang’s main landmarks affirms the above – Luang Prabang is one of these unique destinations that is repeating visitor material.
Arrival Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang [D]
You are warmly welcomed by our airport representative before being transferred to the booked accommodation in the heart of Laos’ most charming town. Luang Prabang is an ancient kingdom of former Laotian kings, a stately royal palace and abundant glittering temples – reasons it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1995. Situated in a deep valley alongside the meandering Mekong and with a dramatic mountain backdrop, this is the country’s leading tourism draw. We highly recommend arriving with an early morning flight not to miss the afternoon programme.
Lunch is not included
In the afternoon, you’re warmly welcomed by your guide for the coming hours who will gladly show you the ins and outs of why Luang Prabang is just such a unique destination in Asia. Dating back to the early sixteenth century, Wat Visoun is Luang Prabang’s oldest temples, which therefore demonstrates some of the earliest Luang Prabang temple architecture. It was built on rice paddies belonging to the city’s guardian spirits, Pu No and Na No, and has a fairly simplistic design with brick structure and a two-tiered roof with adorning Nagas (half man, half cobra). Wat Visoun also has a collection of ancient Buddha images and delicate gilding carvings depicting Hindu mythology.
We continue to one of the city’s most palatial decorated temples, which survived Chinese invasion in 1887 – Wat Xieng Thong. It has two entrances with the King using the Mekong entrance as he travelled by boat from the Royal Palace to the bottom of the staircase that leads to Wat Xieng Thong. Decoration is spread across its buildings: the sim has impressive gold stencilling on black lacquer, its Chapel of the Standing Buddha is adorned in colourful glass mosaics of mythical creatures, and the Chapelle Rouge’s exterior has a distinctly pink colour decorated with scenes of heaven and earth.
We end the day at Phousi Hill. Phousi Hill proudly sits at the centre of Luang Prabang on the peninsula between Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. A climb to the top of this sacred hill reveals sublime 360-degree panoramic views of the city, the Mekong River and surrounding lush jungle. A small Buddhist temple and a gold stupa are at the top, and its views naturally make this a popular sunset spot. There are two different stairways and travelling up one and down the other is recommended to pass all the attractions including various Buddha images and a small cave temple. Once the sun has set and marked the end of the day, we head back to your booked accommodation for the night.
Dinner and overnight at your booked accommodation in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang [B | L]
Every morning before sunrise, orange-robed monks walk in procession to participate in a Tak Bat also known as alms giving. This highly-revered daily ritual for the local community is an essential part of being a good Buddhist and in return for food offerings, brings good luck and karma. Visitors are encouraged to partake in this very early morning ritual but asked to uphold a great level of respect as hundreds of barefooted monks shuffle along to collect their meal for the day. You will return back to the hotel for breakfast, together with a guide and driver.
Breakfast is included at your booked hotel in Luang Prabang
After breakfast, it is time to learn more about Laos history and royalty at the former Royal Palace which is now a museum. Facing sacred Mount Phousi and on the banks of the Mekong River, the National Museum houses the most important treasures of Laos’ recent past. Known locally as Haw Kham or Ho Kham, meaning ‘Golden Palace’, this building has been designed with Lao and French-influences. It is home to Laos’ most sacred Buddha image, the Phra Bang, which is fittingly kept in an ornamented shrine. Guests are advised to dress appropriately to be allowed entrance into the National Museum by wearing long trousers and shirts that cover the shoulders.
Adorned in decoration and gold leaf, Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is undoubtedly one of Luang Prabang most lavishly decorated temples, which is situated next to the Royal Palace and was used by Lao royalty. It has a five-tiered roof that nearly reaches the ground and a facade of gilded stucco bas reliefs of animals, festivities and dancing woman. Since Wat Mai was one of the few temples in Luang Prabang to survive Chinese invaders in 1887, it became home for Laos’ most highly respected Phra Bang Buddha image until it was moved to the Royal Palace Museum.
We head out to a local boat pier at Luang Prabang where we board a traditional wooden boat for a sailing trip downstream to the famous Pak Ou Caves. Before reaching the Pak Ou Caves, we stop at Ban Xang Hai. Lao Lao translates to ‘alcohol Laos’, which is a whisky used to celebrate ceremonies and to welcome new friends. It is an integral part of local culture and few places produce this lethally strong drink including Ban Xang Hai. This village north of Luang Prabang brews Lao Lao using traditional methods using an earthen jar over an open fire, which visitors get to try! The morning ends when you arrive at the boat jetty located in front of the entrance to the Pak Ou Caves.
These caves are two limestone caves that sit on the riverbank at the confluence of Nam Ou and the Mekong River. Hundreds of Buddha statues fill these enchanting caves which have been deposited here by pilgrims over the centuries visiting the site to worship. The lower cave is the well-lit Tham Ting, which has some written explanations of the statues however, a short trek to Tham Phoum is well worth it. Less visited than its sister cave, Tham Phoum offers a more serene ambience, and torchlights reveals its fascinating Buddhas.
Lunch is included at a local restaurant opposite the Pak Ou caves.
Before reaching Luang Prabang, we disembark at Ban Xang Khong. This village is specialising in products made out of silk and saa paper – a colourful paper often embedded with flowers and leaves. The paper is made from mulberry tree bark which is boiled into a pulp and laid out on a screen to dry under the sun. Gift bags, lanterns, fans, boxes and scrapbooks are made from the paper which can be bought at the village shop alongside silk items.
A relaxing upstream trip back to Luang Prabang and your Luang Prabang-based accommodation ends the day. If still energy left, head out to the Luang Prabang Night market. Opened daily between 5 pm and 10 pm, the market offers ample options for souvenir hunters and trying traditional Laotian dishes and snacks.
No dinner included.
Overnight at your booked accommodation in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang Departure [B | L]
Breakfast is included at your booked hotel in Luang Prabang
The last day of this unmissable tour in and around Luang Prabang does not end right after you’ve checked out and meet again our local team. The morning starts with visiting a social enterprise; Ock Pop Tok. Ock Pop Tock is a non-profit organisation seeking to preserve traditional weaving techniques, which are an important source of income for many Lao families but are slowly fading out due to modern-day technology. Founded in 2000 by an Englishwoman and Laotian, Ock Pop Tock quickly grew from its small shop selling just a few designs moving premises to its Mekong riverside location. Visitors can tour the weaving workshop, participate in a hands-on class, refresh with drinks at the cafe which has spectacular views across the river or shop for beautifully crafted items from its expansive shop.
We quickly leave the town centre and head towards Luang Prabang’s most sought-after natural landmarks. Kuang Si is considered as Laos’ most beautiful waterfall and a must-see visit for those staying in Luang Prabang. This picture-perfect setting has turquoise waters cascading over three tiers of pools making this a popular spot for swimming and a place for picnics. It is situated in the lush jungle adding to its scenic backdrop, and it is possible to swim in most of its pools. Head to the top pool to get a pretty view over the cascading water as it falls below is certainly a recommendation. A visit to the Bear Sanctuary to watch the conservation work done in maintaining the bear population in Laos alive completes this morning outing.
Lunch is included at a local restaurant nearby the waterfall
Joined by your guide and driver, it is time to make your way back to Luang Prabang and its international airport for your flight to your next destination. It is highly recommended booking a flight after 5 pm.