Where the Nam Khan River meets the Mekong, French colonial architecture and stunning Buddhist temples combine for beautiful cultural patchwork that makes Luang Prabang amazing. This northern Lao city has not gone unnoticed by UNESCO as it has been named as one of their World Heritage Cities. With all that Luang Prabang has to offer, it is no wonder that it is a popular tourist destination for many visitors to Southeast Asia.
Central Luang Prabang is located on a peninsula between the two aforementioned rivers. The city itself is surrounded by numerous temples and monasteries, the most prominent of which is Wat Chom Si, sitting high above the city. As a result of Luang Prabang’s many temples, every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms, tourists looking to join in need only make their way to Sisavangvong Rd (the main street in town) for sunrise.
Sisavangvong Rd is also the site a nightly market catering exclusively to tourists. The market opens every evening and closes around 10 pm and is well stocked with all the handcrafts and souvenirs that anyone could ever want.
For those looking to for change of scenery from the city, the Kuang Si Falls located about 29 kilometers (18 miles) south of town make for a great day trip. Many travelers rent bicycles to ride to the falls while those looking for a less strenuous mode of transport can organize a tour through one of the many travel agencies or for much less money barter with a tuk-tuk driver for a ride. The park surrounding the falls contains a bear rescue centre. The waterfalls themselves are stunning; a main fall with a 50m cascade flows downstream into numerous turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in.
Nightlife in Luang Prabang is enjoyable although can seem subdued at first glance. The main strip offers a great selection of top-notch restaurants and wine bars while a back street along the Nam Song is where you’ll find backpackers drinking Lao whiskey at the 4 or 5 bars crowded onto this narrow strip. "The Hive Bar" and the "Lao Lao Beer Garden” are two of the most popular with young travellers Lao Lao Beer Garden serves up a variety of cheap Lao Lao (Lao whiskey) cocktails including the popular ‘Pink Gay.’ When all the bars close (at midnight), those looking to extend the night head to the bowling alley a few kilometers out of the city centre. As it turns out the bowling alley offers the best nightlife and partying in Luang Prabang. The alley stays open until 3 am and is a great way to party the night away with fellow travellers.
Whatever type of trip you are on, whether it be backpacking, honeymoon or family vacation; Luang Prabang is an exceptional addition to any Southeast Asian itinerary.