24 Hours in Luang Prabang
Even before you land, you know you are arriving somewhere special. The undulating, forest covered hills, and the bright green of the rice fields that surround this ancient former capital give way to the temples and stupas of the city, where monks wander and tourists gather and everything is peaceful and relaxed. To make the most of your time, here is a guide for 24 hours in Luang Prabang – alternatively split this out over two days and enjoy at a more leisurely pace.
There’s a magic about this Buddhist city in northern Laos that is clear from the start. To really understand the people of Luang Prabang, and the importance of their religion, start your day by witnessing the alms giving. Locals and visitors offer alms to the hundreds of monks who inhabit the temple compounds along the Luang Prabang peninsula .
If you do wish to join this ceremony, it is important to do so respectfully. As a religious practice, you should look reasonably smart and have clothes that cover your knees, shoulders, and everything between. You need to be lower than the monks, ideally kneeling, and you mustn’t touch the monks or their robes. This is particularly important for women. Above all, be respectful and polite. If you wish to take photos, do so in a way that is unobtrusive and courteous. Read more about the Alms Giving Ceremony.
As the monks return to their temples to eat their first meal, take advantage of the coolness of the morning to climb Phousi Hill. Throughout Laos you will find an odd number of steps leading anywhere important. This is because the good spirits live on the odd numbers and Phousi Hill is no exception. At the top of the 323 steps is a small stupa and temple with stunning sunrise views. It is a great place for sunset too, but much more crowded later in the day.
Head back to your hotel or sit alongside the river for breakfast and watch as the fishermen cast their nets into the Mekong River. The Belle Rive Hotel has a great terrace for this.
The Luang Prabang Royal Palace
King Chao Fa Ngum brought the Prabang Statue with him when he established the Kingdom of Lane Xang, and it is this statue that Luang Prabang is named after. The Prabang Statue has a suitably grand building to house it, so head over to the former Royal Palace, which is now a museum. In the grounds is Hor Prabang where you can view the Prabang, before heading into the residence. In particular, check out the throne room, decorated with mosaic murals formed from Japanese mirrored glass, where the king and queen’s crowns together with various accoutrements of office are on display, before heading over to check out the vehicles which include a jeep and the speedboat he used to visit his orchards.
Traditional Arts and Ethnology
A short stroll from the Palace is the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) where not only can you see the clothes, the jewellery and even a replica home from various ethnic groups, but you can also listen to some of the songs on the headphones dotted around the exhibition. If you want to learn more about the fascinating ethnography of Laos, then this is the place to do it.
Lao Pottery House
Just over the river, in what is known as Chomphey District, you might want to pop along to the pottery village and learn the techniques that have been passed down through the generations with a tour with Lao Pottery House, or maybe take a forest walk alongside the temples and visit Tham Sakkarin Cave whose holy waters are said to be able to wash away the bad from your life and bring good luck in the future.
Ock Pop Tok
Head back over the river and splash out on some souvenirs at Ock Pop Tok which is a living crafts experience and offers multiple weaving classes and a beautiful Mekong Villa, or maybe treat yourself to some delicious ice-cream at 3 Nagas, from the spot which was once the Royal Family’s official ice-cream parlour.
Then, as the sun drops in the sky, relax over a Beerlao or three on a sunset cruise along the Mekong with the Khopfa Mekong Cruise and take in the sights as evening falls.
More Than 24 Hours in Luang Prabang
We hope you are planning much more time in Luang Prabang than just 24 hours! Check out KuangSi Waterfalls – the most beautiful waterfalls in SE Asia, our guide to the top temples in Luang Prabang and the Alms Giving Ceremony for more inspiration.