Luang Prabang, a UNESCO Town: Complete Guide for a Responsible Traveler
About this blog: Luang Prabang, an incredibly pretty ancient town of Laos sits pretty at the peninsula by the confluence of the Mekong river and Nam Khan. Steeped deep in the culture of Buddhist teaching, Luang Prabang allows tourists to indulge in a timeless experience. There are 33 ancient gilded pagodas with golden roofs rising towards the sun.
The UNESCO heritage town of Luang Prabang does an astounding job of preserving the colonial architecture dating back to the days of Indo-China. Erstwhile French bungalows miraculously fit in the oriental setting of Luang Prabang. People travel to Luang Prabang in the hope of witnessing the glorious Buddhist temples, preserved from the gnaw of time. They are distinct from those from Bagan in Myanmar.
Compared to the neighboring Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia, Luang Prabang has successfully steered clear of the madness that sweeps these regions on the peak tourist season. I would hesitate to call Luang Prabang an offbeat destination, but it sure acts as the last bastion of hope and tranquility. There are plenty of things to do in Luang Prabang, ranging from temple hopping, visiting the local villages and nearby Kuang Si waterfall.
But above all, you may relax by the river Mekong. The river dearly strips you off the last bit of weariness.
From easy visa on arrival rules to a list of must see attractions of Luang Prabang, this blog post is gonna be a handy guide for every traveler taking the road less taken to LP. LPQ is the airport code for Luang Prabang!
It is imperative to be mindful and practice responsible travel while exploring Luang Prabang, Laos. The small landlocked country has often been listed at the wee end of the economic indicators lists. Mounting amount of waste due to increased tourist footfall is the true sleeping dragon here. With a little effort and an attitude of giving back and goodwill, travelers’ commune can help Luang Prabang attain a sustainable life. Highlighting the sustainable and eco-conscious life choices of locals of Luang Prabang is one of the primary goals of this travel blog.
Click here to read more travel blogs and stories from Laos!
Why Should you Visit Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Old Town!
Find the Dragons of Luang Prabang!
Mountains covered with dense foliage stand tall, guarding Luang Prabang from the world outside, safekeeping her secrets from olden days. Ancient mythology reveres them as dragons, protecting Luang Prabang from the evil eye that pry on the plain-land! “Fire can not kill a Dragon!” Landlocked from every aspect, Luang Prabang takes her sheen from the rusty orange water of Mekong river.
Majestic river Mekong!
The town sits pretty at the confluence of Nam Khan and Mekong river. Abundant signage of life prevails everywhere. Flow of Mekong continues from China. Periodic flooding of Luang Prabang and greater regions in Laos is an annual occurrence in this part of the world! New layers of alluvial soil carpets the soil that grows plenty of vegetables. A taste of traditional cuisine of Luang Prabang will hard press you to bow down to the mighty Mekong, Mother Mekong to the residents!
Find peace in the land of Buddha dotted with French cultural remnants
I close my eyes and take a deep breath to fill my heart! Air in Luang Prabang fills wholesome, soulful. It reaches my heart and cleanses the path along the way! From the air, the town looked exceptionally pretty! Tiny houses with bright red thatched roofs thrive amidst manicured gardens! Dots the land shining pagodas with gilded heads! There are 33 of these old temples, I learned from the UNESCO portal! Luang Prabang is one of the three UNESCO Heritage sites in Laos.
The Old Town of Luang Prabang has preserved age old architectural wonders of various kingdoms that ruled over the land and brought in something new at every fold of history. As a result, you will find a quaint little French style bungalow with ivory white glass panel juxtaposed alongside a Buddhist pagoda inscribed with traditional folktales on its golden wall panel. Monks in blood-maroon robe cross wooden bridges from distant rural areas to reach Luang Prabang at the wee hours of the day break to collect alms.
Tourists can break their fast with freshly baked baguettes and steamed Poisson smeared with exquisite dill! Luang Prabang is an extraordinary yet tiny hamlet where cultural traits of both the world are hemmed together! Both of them have grown roots and intertwined somewhere resulting in intangible cultural heritage, glimpses of which we can see at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai or Yangon in Myanmar!
Find your inner peace
At the risk of sounding cliched, I found Luang Prabang as the last bastion of peace and quite in Southeast Asia. Only a handful of offbeat destinations have successfully retained that unscathed charm in the region. This, despite Luang Prabang making frequent appearances on travelers’ list in Banana Pancake trail!
*Banana pancake trail refers to the backpacking route western tourists usually follow in Southeast Asia.
Luang Prabang means “Royal Buddha Image” in Lao language!
History of Luang Prabang, the Land of Million Elephants
Strange as it may sound, it was not all siesta and jolly times for this idyllic retreat in Southeast Asia! Luang Prabang has witnessed turbulent times until recent political history. Flames of the Second World War touched her scantily with Chinese and Japanese troops, then loggerheads with Vichy China. Western Colonists of French sucked out plenty of resources until the recent communist upheaval. There have been instances of violent clashes between Pathet Laos and Viet Minh, political streams of the region inspired by communist ideology.
Tracing back the Ho Chi Minh Trail of Southeast Asia!
Not many know that Laos PDR remains the most heavily bombed country in Southeast Asia, thanks to the ensuing Vietnam War and America’s secret air war in close vicinity. I recall climbing an old cave perched atop a steep monolith somewhere at Nong Khiaw, a quick day tour from Laos (even better if you stay there for a few nights).
The trail was marked with plenty of bombshells and bullets, reminding you of a madness that brushed past Luang Prabang in the recent history. Suddenly the air feels heavy and somber, reminding you what a privilege it is to be able to travel and soak in the grandeur of the world!
One of the best mindful things to do in Luang Prabang for a cultural traveler is to visit the one of the many UXO visitors’ center s of the country and learn about the grim history of Laos. The mountains on the north are laden with such UXO till date.
The French brought Coffee in Luang Prabang! A lot like British started the art of drinking tea in India.
Keeping aside the gloom of an unjust war (lest we forget), one cultural attribution that has been ascribed to Laos from the west is the habit of drinking coffee! The French started to experiment with coffee harvesting in Laos and the yield was beyond expectation. Today, Laos exports close to 5000 tonnes of Arabica and Robusta, which is a triumphant result of that experiment! It is intriguing how a buffalo dairy has been established and working full fledged to supply dairy products for quenching the thirst of the hospitality industry.
“Do you like to drink milk?” I asked my kind and knowledgeable Laotian guide.
He smiles and shakes his head in negation, almost embarrassed!
Water buffalo, both wild and domesticated, roams freely in the verdant valley adjacent to Luang Prabang. They contribute immensely to the agrarian economy of Laos. Water Buffalo meat is used in Laotian cuisine, both fresh and dried! I spotted only one or two cows in Laos. It felt a lot like rural parts of India. However, traditional Laos culinary skill has no use of dairy product.
History traces back life and culture in Luang Prabang circa 8000 BC. Though Laos PDR has succumbed to poorer scale of economic segregation at this moment, it reached the zenith of art and culture during 14th century. Most of the Buddhist temples and monasteries were built at that era! Some of them have crumbled down but ever since UNESCO ascribed Laos with the honor of a World Heritage site, the town has been preserved tastefully by the committee.
Did you know: Mekong river is also known as Nine Dragon river in Vietnam (Sông Cửu Long) !
Travel to Luang Prabang: How to reach Luang Prabang
It is easy to reach Luang Prabang from every region of Southeast Asia. Traveling to Luang Prabang is a good idea to start exploring Laos.
To reach Luang Prabang by flight: Laos airlines, Bangkok Airways are some of the most famous airlines connecting Luang Prabang with the rest of the world. You can also take the night train from Bangkok and continue to Luang Prabang from the border crossing point. Airport Code of Luang Prabang: LPQ (Luang Prabang International Airport).
To reach Luang Prabang by slow-boat: You may want to sail down to Luang Prabang from the hills of northern Thailand (Chiang Mai region). It is one the iconic boat-ride route in Southeast Asia, a lot like the boat that sails down from Mandalay to Bagan on the Irrawaddy river. Though time is a luxury that many of us may not be able to afford! Nowadays, luxurious teak wood boat frequent on this old passage to Luang Prabang!
Scoring a Travel Visa for Laos on Indian passport
Get Visa on Arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport
Laos is one of the few countries that allow Visa on Arrival for Indians passport holders. You may fly in to one of the international airports of Laos or cross the border from Thailand and get your visa stamped. For details of obtaining a tourist visa for Laos, check out this website.
It is possible to travel to Luang Prabang and obtain a Laos visa on arrival from the international airport.
Documents to produce for applying a Laos Tourist Visa on Arrival with an Indian passport:
- Confirmed accommodation in Luang Prabang or other destinations in Laos
- 2 passport size photo (4*6 CM. Transparent glass if you wear specs. Also ensure the background is white or at least a light color)
- Return airfare (within a month of date of arrival)
- Visa Fee (30 to 42 USD for various countries). For Indians, you need to pay INR 2180 (USD 30). Currency accepted for obtaining a Laos Visa on Indian passport: USD, Lao Kip, Thai Baht
- Visa on arrival is granted at all international airports of Laos and most of the international border crossings (for example the Chiang Mai to Lao border which many opt to visit on a slow boat if not a bus.)
- You may stay in Laos for 30 days with a Visa on Arrival. For extension, you can opt for another 60 days visa from the embassy.
(Please note, once travel resumes post lockdown world, visa rules may change. Request you to call the Embassy for best practice before you travel to Laos!)
Also read: 7 important tips to procure a Laos Travel Visa on Arrival for Indian Passport Holders!
Also read: 2 weeks itinerary for traveling in Myanmar!
Things to know before Traveling to Luang Prabang: essential travel tips
In this section, I will furbish a few essential travel tips for the first time visitor to Luang Prabang. If you are a Southeast Asia pro, you can be rest assured of many similarities between tourist infrastructures and cultural nuances between Laos and Thailand or Laos or Vietnam! The only difference I found in Luang Prabang was a gaping absence of a Chinatown and glass noodles that the Chinese traders ferried across the globe through maritime activity. Be rest assured, Chinese were there, building dam, making roads, progressing metro ready to swallow down Luang Prabang melancholy!
Currency for traveling in and around Luang Prabang, Laos
Lao Kip is the currency of Luang Prabang and the whole of the country, Laos PDR.
While Lao Kip is the legal and national currency, many tourist establishments actually accept USD as well. Keep some changes handy. While par-taking one such transaction, keep a track of the ongoing exchange rate.
Usually, 1 USD is exchanged for 9,500 kip!
Cards are accepted at big establishments. Small bills will save your soul at rural areas and small food joints.
I did not spot many money exchange kiosks or shops in Luang Prabang. One was at the airport. The other one was near night market area, on Sisavangvong road. A few sparse ATM machines stand here and there. But cash walks the talk in most of the shopping centers in Luang Prabang so get money exchanged when you can.
Count the change given to you at the exchange parlor to avoid confusion. You will be a millionaire in Luang Prabang after exchange is done, all thanks to inflation legacy ensued from the days of Pathet Laos!
Best time for traveling to Luang Prabang!
Usually, the dry months of October to March are the best time to visit Laos, like the rest of Southeast Asia. I visited Luang Prabang in July though. It was humid, but not as sweaty as Bangkok.
By the end of July, the rainy season starts in Luang Prabang. Just the week after I left, Laos was heavily flooded. I would suggest you avoid the rains at all costs. Flooding is a real a possibility. Roads are often inundated and pose a threat to commute system.
Dos and Don’ts of Luang Prabang: Cultural Nuances and other things to know before traveling to Luang Prabang!
As a travel blogger forever on a quest to explore a destination through its culture, it was rather easy for me to fall in love with Luang Prabang. Countless temples dating back to olden days, generously genteel and kind commoners, working from the crack of the dawn till the day break, having a square meal of rice and fish with widespread smile, world’s seventh largest river, Mekong flows as a silent witness to these myriad vintages of life. Luang Prabang felt like that promised land, where misery is kept tightly locked inside the Pandora’s box!
While taking part in tourist activities in Luang Prabang, please be sensitive for the local culture. Like many other parts of Asia, Luang Prabang is also a mix of contrasting human emotions. Communist ideology and a deep respect for Buddhist culture share every household.
Laos PDR is a Communist country
And no, they do not sell Che Guevara tees at the night market in Luang Prabang!
Laos is one of the last few remaining communist countries of the world. A visit to rural Laos could be an eye opening experience! It reminded me of the old Soviet propaganda posters and magazines of a shared farm, compassionate (and just) village system and food for everybody, an essential promise fulfilled. But I was there for a couple of hours only.
They say Laos is a poor country. Well, we can not ignore economic indicators. There is no denying to the fact that Laos, though cherished with nature’s abundance blessing, is yet to overcome the lasting impact of the colonial system. And the secret war of 70s. Chinese debt trap looms large at the doorstep.
But the wide smile and warm hearted people of Luang Prabang show a content lifestyle in everyday chores.
At Luang Prabang, with more influx of foreign tourists, the communist face of Laos may have taken a backseat. But the usual hustle of the shopping mall and a handful of human mechanisms rushing towards a tube-rail was not found anywhere. What a relief that is, I wish I could express in words.
Slow is the order of the town in Luang Prabang!
Traveling to Luang Prabang is essentially another name of reconnecting with your inner self!
Time stands still in Luang Prabang. I am not exaggerating a bit! Even when thousands of backpackers or French vacationers flock in to get a taste of their erstwhile “Oriental land”, Luang Prabang operates on a separate time zone. Life is a lot easier and calm in this tiny old town and you better revere it like that! If you fancy slow travel, Luang Prabang will enamor you like no other place in South east Asia! Sip on a chilled glass bottle of BeerLao and watch the Sun go down by Mekong and monks clad in maroon robe cross the river! In many ways, Luang Prabang reminded me of the unequivocal charm of Varanasi.
Don’t touch the monks when in Luang Prabang (or anywhere where Buddhist culture is prevalent)
I stood in the crowd at the night market of Luang Prabang, dodging from one vendor to another, when the locals all of a sudden stood in caution and sobriety. Curious, I looked around while a woman with a baby on her shoulder snatched my absent minded body to one corner of the paved road.
“Monk.. stay away!” she wailed.
It dawned on me that I am a mere mortal, a woman and supposed to keep distance from the Buddhist monks, even if they are just children. Ashamed, I learnt a lesson for life!
NEVER TOUCH THE MONKS.
Not that my intent was to touch them. Not even a stumbling is allowed. This is as important as wearing long skirts and modest dress before visiting the Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang!
What to Wear when traveling in Luang Prabang?
Try to stick to comfortable cotton wears while traveling in Luang Prabang. The place does not get very warm, neither winter is tolling here. You shall love the mild evening breeze during golden hour. The sunrays will kiss your skin aplenty while going for the quad biking and other action packed adventures in the mountainous regions adjacent to Luang Prabang, Laos.
Be mindful of what you wear while visiting the old temples of Luang Prabang, Laos! There are plenty of Buddhist temples, one at every bend of the road and they are beautiful! In fact, these temples are the main constituents of Luang Prabang’s ethereal character!
While visiting the temples of Luang Prabang, check for the following:
- Is your dress covering your shoulder?
- Is your skirt or pant going below the knee?
- Would you consider them as modest/appropriate while visiting a place attributed to spirituality?
Modest clothing is advised while visiting the temples of Luang Prabang. I always carry a scarf. That saved me from from quite a few embarrassing moments during travels!
Luang Prabang is relatively a new entrant in Backpacking Route of Southeast Asia
Banana Pancake trail of Southeast Asia and Luang Prabang travel guide!
Luang Prabang only opened door to tourists in the year of 1989. Laos was a closed country before that and traveling to Luang Prabang and other parts of Laos was a rare occasion in the world before!
Speak English/ French/ Body language in Luang Prabang!
English is spoken and understood in Luang Prabang, to some extent. Beyond that, smiles connect! Since Luang Prabang was under the rule of French, French is spoken and understood widely. Chinese and Thai can do the job as well.
Also read: 15 beautiful destinations in Vietnam!
The Shrimp season in Luang Prabang: travel incentives for the gourmands!
Fancy dining on the “river pearls” or shrimps from the heart of Mekong river? Plan a visit to Luang Prabang during July or August. These sweet river prawns differ greatly in taste from their marine counterpart and have distinct flavor, enhanced with the chilli sauce produced at Laos households. If you visit areas close to Sop Jam or Muang Ngoi, you might find fisherman folks using bamboo sticks and diving to the river bed in search of these prawns.
Frangipani: the Champa flower of Eternity from Luang Prabang!
Frangipani is the national flower of Laos. In Luang Prabang, you will see frangipani in bloom everywhere. The flower is used in abundance to decorate a traditional dinner spread in Laos. It is not edible though. In fact, Frangipani is poisonous. While in Luang Prabang, try the local moonshine that is procured from frangipani. Go slow with the drink. It hits you hard, specially if you are an occasional drinker. In Luang Prabang, I also spotted wine bottles that caged a snake or scorpion, a lot like Hanoi. These bottles of moonshine are to be consumed in Luang Prabang itself, you can not bring them back home.
Festivals in Luang Prabang
In Luang Prabang, you will find a medley of cultural celebrations that find root steeped deep in Buddhist practices as well as communist ideology. It is intriguing to see how the two of them form an integral part of socio-political culture in Luang Prabang, Laos.
If you are lucky, you shall come across a Baci ceremony. Staying true to the ancient tribal system, Baci ceremony is held to render respect and commitment to new form friendship and born between a guest and the head of a clan. Incense, food and threads are offered at an altar prepared with cane and bamboo. White threads are tied to the wrist of the guest, which is not to be altered with for next one week. I had the pleasure of taking part in one Baci ceremony and will write a separate post on that!
- January/ February: Chinese New Year celebrated in Luang Prabang
- Jan 08: Pathet Lao anniversary, to commemorate the victory of communist movement that emerged out of Laos civil war. History is written by the victors!
- February: Boun Khao Chi (Makhaboussa), Buddhist festival contemporary of Wat Phou Festival in Champasak.
- February: Elephant Festival, 50 elephants walk around the province and rural corners of Luang Prabang
- March 8: International Women’s Day, local women takes a break and indulges in Beerlao
- August/ September: Boat racing in Nam Khan River, during Buddhist Lent. This is also known as Boun Khao Padabdin/Rice and Boat Racing Festival. Wooden boat race takes place on river Mekong as a part of paying homage to water deities and the Nagas. Locals also offer food morsels for the monks and the deceased.
- December 02: Laos National Day
- December: Khmu New Year
- December: Full moon day, a day off for the artisans of Luang Prabang
Local commute while traveling in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang does not have an Uber/Grab system yet. The three wheeled tuk tuks are your best friend in the city. In Vientiane, I heard they started a cab service named Loca.
For a taxi, you need to contact your guest house. Airport at Luang Prabang has a taxi stand too.
The easiest way to commute in Luang Prabang is to rent a bike. You can rent a cycle from the hotel/hostel/guest house you are staying in as well. Hiring a scooty in Luang Prabang should cost you around 100k kip for a day. Like Langkawi or Goa, renting a scooty gives you an edge over other methods of commute and certain degree of independence. People in Luang Prabang and the rest of Laos drives on the right side of the road.
Legacy of Laotian Coffee: Travel to Luang Prabang to drink coffee!
While Vietnamese coffee often steals the limelight for coffee lovers in South east Asia, the coffee connoisseur soul of yours are in for a surprise treat in Luang Prabang! There are plenty of pretty cafes, Saffron cafe being the oldest of the lot, who serve freshly brewed Arabica or Robusta of your choice! Laos coffee is chocolaty and thick with a robust flavor.
Coffee in Laos is prepared with condensed milk with heightened tones of sweet buds. In Laos, Coffee is mainly harvested at the Bolaven Plateau area in south.
Some of the best coffeshops in Luang Prabang are: Saffron Coffee, Cafe de Laos, Indigo Cafe.
Nightlife in Luang Prabang! (And The Night Curfew)
After nightfall, Luang Prabang is not a Phuket or a Hoi An! Even when there is an increasing pressure of tourist footfall, Luang Prabang retains its sleepy charm with elan. Nightlife in Luang Prabang is rather mellow with a vibrant night market selling local produce by the distant hill communities, intricate textiles and rustic Laotian food. A handful of bars operate. A few alleys go abuzz with live music. A Khon dance performance with masked dancers take place at the Royal Ballet Theater. Luang Prabang seeps early and I love her like that.
After 11:30 there is a curfew at the Old Town of Luang Prabang that forces all establishments to shut down the doors. The midnight curfew in Luang Prabang is enforced by UNESCO and duly observed. If you want to live up the night, drive for 10 more minutes and reach Bowling Alley (backpacker’s hub) for more fun.
Traveling to Luang Prabang is safe for solo travelers?
Luang Prabang is NOT a dangerous destination!
I was traveling with a group of people in Luang Prabang, Laos. I was a guest of the Luang Prabang tourism board. I am not the one to comment if it is safe to travel solo per say.
But then I traveled solo in Uttar Pradesh, in the north of India and remain unscathed. And I think Luang Prabang is a safer place compared to that. So, there you go!
I feel people in Luang Prabang are the kindest lot in the entire region of Southeast Asia! They are ever smiling, the guides are kind and they often go out of their way to show you the best of their country. Think about the fisher man whom I had shown in my Luang Prabang vlog. He showed us the tricks of fishing, invited us over home, was eager to share the catch of the day and introduced us to his kittens. A fisherman who fishes for his cats. This has a tune of melancholy steeped deep somewhere!
People are very friendly in Luang Prabang. If you have to walk alone at night, be careful of the stray dogs. Some of the lanes did not have night lamps. The night market of Luang Prabang and adjacent area were safe though.
as a rule of thumb, do not drink with strangers, get back to your stay before nightfall and keep a vigil for the stray gods to remain safe in Luang Prabang. All these, added with covered clothing shall help you not attract undue attention which can be a challenge to deal with while traveling solo.
Best Neighborhood: Where to stay in Luang Prabang?
Where to stay while traveling in Luang Prabang?
It is always wise to stay close to the Old City of Luang Prabang for easy access to all the central attractions. Luang Prabang largely remains devoid of the nuisance called traffic. Walking is a delight here if you are ready to discount the stray dogs. To be fair, there were not many.
You should ideally be looking for a place to stay in Luang Prabang that is by the banks of the river, yet close to the night market and cafe area.
If you fancy staying further and securing a place by the river, ensure your guest house has a free shuttle to the center of Luang Prabang at regular intervals. Otherwise, commuting could be a challenge.
Check out this map for easy understanding. Your hotel/guest house must provide you with a local map as well for sightseeing.
Neighborhoods to stay while traveling in Luang Prabang with practical comparison:
Old town/ The peninsula: Close to every attraction of Luang Prabang, the old city!
Pro: UNESCO heritage zone, Close to all the main attractions & Mount Phousi, great for family
Cons: Night curfew and no pool allowed at the hotels
Mekong Riverfront: A peaceful and scenic neighborhood in Luang Prabang
The area between Phothisalath Rd (the main road) and Khem Khong (the Mekong road). Dotted with budget guest houses. The area has a residential feel about it. Plethora of makeshift restaurant dots the riverbank in the area, perfect place to hang out in my opinion.
Nam Khan side: For backpackers and night owls
Pro: Backpacking vibe. Vibrant nightlife (outside the night curfew zone), cheap hostels
Cons: Further away from the major attractions of Luang Prabang
Many of the old French colonial buildings have been refurbished into luxury stylish boutique accommodation. You may book a stay with these bespoke properties as well. It is one of the unique experiences of Luang Prabang travel.
I stayed at Sofitel Luang Prabang, one such property. I had a chance to go to Pullman Luang Prabang and Avani as well, both beautiful luxury properties. These luxury stay options in Luang Prabang often are located far off the city, allowing a shuttle to arrange periodic transport to the city center. Staying close to the old city will make it easy for you tick off from the list of things to do in Luang Prabang!
Also read: Old Phuket Town, a culturally immersive guide to explore Phuket!
Best things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos: Cultural Experiences and more!
3 to 5 days in Luang Prabang are enough to explore the town and surrounding areas.
While life significantly slows down thanks to tranquil vibes of Luang Prabang, there are still plenty of things to do for tourists in Luang Prabang. You can take your time to explore the old town of Luang Prabang. Reserve some time to conduct a few day trips around Luang Prabang. Indulge in a relaxing spa with aromatherapy oil. Orient Express in one of the premier choice for this service.
Things to do in 3 days in Luang Prabang: Highlight
For a curious observer Luang Prabang unfolds each day with newer quirks. For a typical three days itinerary in Luang Prabang, you can keep the mornings reserved for alms giving ceremony. Follow that up with a visit to the morning market. Look for the grilled honeycomb, a rather bizarre dish from Luang Prabang that I never found anywhere else in Southeast Asia!
The second day can be reserved for a boat ride down Mekong river, visiting the hill tribes or going to the Kuang Si waterfall. Reserve one day to walk around the Old town of Luang Prabang and explore the 33 ancient temples with exquisite art work. In the evening, you may climb mount Phousi for excellent sunset view or experience the thriving night market of Luang Prabang. I visited the night market of Luang Prabang each day in evening and absolutely loved it!
Sign up for a cooking school or try out the local Laotian food with Backstreet Academy for one evening! Do not miss the vintage cars that dot the roads of Luang Prabang. Remnants of French colonial past of Luang Prabang! Options are endless, which is why I wrote a separate blog post on that!
Following are a few things to do in Luang Prabang for the cultural traveler, for the nature lover or for one who wants to relax in Luang Prabang. Note that almost every place of interest in Luang Prabang has an entry fee attached to it. Not a lot. Say a 10,000 to 20,000 kip but that becomes a large sum cumulatively considering you have to pay at the oint of entry for almost every monument. I suggest choose your must visit places in Luang Prabang based on what gives you the best value.
Cultural Things to do in Luang Prabang!
The early morning alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang
Important: Be respectful while taking part in Alms Giving Ceremony
The alms giving ceremony in early morning in Luang Prabang is a deeply cultural event. The practice has been performed since eternity.
Young monks come from distant villages to Luang Prabang and collect sticky rice as alms. We have a beautiful word for this practice in Bengali, “Madhukari”. The alms giving ceremony is an excellent event showcasing the inherent community spirit of the Laotian society.
Off late, the alms giving ceremony has been hijacked with extremely enthusiastic tourists standing on the opposite side of the road with a camera. I stood there in the crowd and felt a lot like Durgapuja days except in this case living human monks are at the center stage of attraction, not the idol.
If you want to experience the alms giving ceremony without the tourist crowd, ask your guest house and opt for a lesser known spot where locals visit.
Explore the Old temples of Luang Prabang!
When traveling in Luang Prabang, it is a no-brainer to explore the old temples! They are omnipresent! At the bend of every street, an exquisite temple stands in pride with all her gold and red intricate detailing!
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the oldest temples of the Luang Prabang town and historically the most important one. I loved Wat Manolam which I discovered in serendipity. Look for the detailed panel walks of the temples which tells plenty of stories.
You can also indulge in a cooking class in Luang Prabang to learn the nuances of Laos cuisine! Everything said and done, my favorite activity in Luang Prabang was to sit by the river Mekong and watch life pass by! It sort of reinstated purpose to my life!
In Lao language, you say “Sa Bai Dee” for “Hello”!
The Morning Market of Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang holds one of the most intriguing local market everyday in morning. From frogs to fresh river fish of Mekong, river weed and various leafy vegetables, Luang Prabang night market is the actual one frequented by the locals of Luang Prabang. This is where Mark Weins tried the grilled honeycomb larvae on his Youtube channel. If you love to eat local, and intensely local food, the morning market of Luang Prabang is your place. This felt a lot like fish markets of Kolkata.
Luang Prabang night market runs till 9 am in the morning.
The Famous Night Market of Luang Prabang!
One thing you must not miss when traveling in Luang Prabang is exploring the night market at the old town city center. It is a bustling and vibrant confluence of world travelers and hill tribes who live adjacent to the old town. I can not begin to list out all the products on display and sell at Luang Prabang night market.
On display are beautiful indigenous textiles, handwoven with care and hues with indigo cultivated at the backyard of the communities. The space is also shared between various handicrafts, say a miniature wobbly dragon or an elephant woven in shining threads. Local moonshine and Laotian rice wine are on sale. There are glass bottles filled with snakes and scorpions. Some of the vendors bring in buffalo horns and old figurines, looking like antique pieces. I dare not ask what is the source of these products!
The night market of Luang Prabang takes place everyday from 5 pm to 11 pm. You can try bargaining before making a purchase. However prices are really on the lower side. Transaction takes place in Laotian Kip and cash is the king, like many other places of Laos.
If you are looking for authentic handmade souvenir in Luang Prabang, Laos you may search your quest from the night market!
Lounge by River Mekong!
I can not describe in words how beautiful it feels to sit by the Mekong river and watch life pass by. There are plenty of cafes by the river bank. You can set sail on the river as well. One of the best things to do in Luang Prabang is to watch sunset on the Mekong river. The world becomes bright red when that event takes place!
There is a bamboo made makeshift bridge on the river Mekong which has become one of the star attractions of the town. The bamboo bridge gets washed away at the onset of every rainy season but locals rebuild it and how!
There is a provision of taking a luxury sunset cruise in Luang Prabang on the Mekong river as well. Luang Say Riverboat arranges for this service.
Explore the city of Luang Prabang by Foot
Luang Prabang Old City is not very big and is very much explorable by foot.
Start your day slowly, go on to explore many of her 33 gilded Wats (temples of Luang Prabang). Appreciate the traditional style of storytelling through detailed paneling on Luang Prabang.
Take rest in between. Visit a cafe or so. Indulge in a herbal massage. Taste a few grilled chicken in lemon grass straight from the skewer of street side vendors of Luang Prabang. Find the quaint bungalows. Find the vintage old cars that are beautifully showcased at every bend of the road.
Movie Night at a Cafe
Luang Prabang (or Laos in general) does not have a lot of movie halls. The locals have found an innovative way to solve the issue. The various cafes of Luang Prabang have started movie nights! From 7 pm or after night fall) many people head to the cafe who run movies on the first floor. You do not have to pay anything extra for being a part of the show. But may be buy a drink out of goodwill. L’etranger is one of the classic cafes in Luang Prabang. It is a good old school experience in Luang Prabang. Coco Home in Nong Khiaw does the same.
Book Exchange Cafe (cafe culture in Luang Prabang)
Luang Prabang is emerging as a destination with a strong innovative cafe culture. Book exchange cafe lets you leave the book you were reading and pick up another one that the previous traveler has left.
Various workshops with local artisans
To live closely with the locals of Luang Prabang and understand how indigenous people has lived here since millenia, consider taking part in one of the workshops. Learn how to make Saa paper, take a class in pottery making workshop. Spend some time with wood carving artisans. Needless to say, a Laos cooking class is beautiful experience. Backstreet Academy conducts a lot these workshops with the help of local guides. Tamarind conducts a famous cooking class, so does Manda de Laos, the restaurant which also flaunts beautiful lily ponds, certified by UNESCO. I specifically loved Fish Mok Pa, Mekong river fish wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. partly because, we have a similar dish in Bengali kitchen named Paturi!
In Luang Prabang, Ock Pop Tok conducts runs a community endeavor to educate tourists about the art of Luang Prabang’s old heritage of fabric weaving. It is said, each villages distinguishes itself from the next one with the help of weaving style. Big Brother mouse is a famous establishment in Luang Prabang that has significantly worked towards developing literacy in the remote corners of Laos. Buy a book (bilingual) for as low as a dollar from this place as a gift back home and in turn help them support teach Laos kids.
Day Tours from Luang Prabang & Offbeat attractions!
Luang Prabang has seen tourist footfall and has significantly changed over time. To feel the honest pulse of rural Laos, you need to veer towards the hinterlands!
Kuang Si Waterfall: Traveling in and around Luang Prabang!
Located at a couple of hours distance from the old town of Luang Prabhang, Kuang Si waterfall is the quintessential hidden gem of the entire Southeast Asia. I have seen quite a few massive waterfalls around the globe including Mosi o Tunya, otherwise known as Victoria falls. However very few waterfalls in the world can come close when it comes to the natural beauty of the cascading water flow of Kuang Si.
Kuang Si is a multi tier waterfall. You can easily spend three to four hours here as a part of a day trip from Luang Prabang. If you love nature photography and are a water baby, you can easily spend the whole day at Kuang Si. Kuang Si is one of the best places in Southeast Asia for a drone photo enthusiast.
Since Luang Prabang itself stays rather secluded from the crowded backpacking trail of entire Southeast Asia, Kuang Si is not on everyone’s bucket list as a Phi Phi island or a Hoi an is! Nonetheless, Kuang Si deserves to be and will probably scale high up the radar once the Chinese rail line project connecting Luang Prabang to the world outside is completed.
While climbing the waterfall you need to enter the park by paying 20000 kip as an entry fee. For children below 8 years that fee is waived off. You will be greeted with a few playful bears covered with shining black fur. The poor creatures are after hunted for traditional Chinese medicine that needs their bile. The government of Laos has taken a few preventive measures against bear poaching and created a bear sanctuary at the entrance of Kuang Si. Spend some time spotting the bears hanging around the hammocks and bamboo structures. Then proceed towards the fall.
Pro tips for visiting Kuang Si fall as a part of a day tour from Luang Prabang
Visit as early as possible. You shall have the whole Kuang Si fall to yourself. There are multiple layers and beautiful photo opps.
There are multiple spots at Kuang Si waterfalls; each of them will allow you to jump straight into the water. Hold on till you reach the largest section of Kuang si waterfall. That’s a 60 metre high plunge. Swimming is prohibited here.
There is a dirt trail beyond this, marked but not paved, which takes you to the top of the waterfall. I did not venture because the path looked slimy and slippery but some of my friends went on. At the top of the fall, they found a precious still water body of aquamarine hue and a lonely pretty sling indicating human footfall. Infrequent but definite.
Kuang Si is beautiful provided the weather is sunny and bright. If it rains, the waterfall changes its colour from tepid cyann to monstrous flow of muddy untamed water. Forget swimming, half of the trail would be off limits for security during the rainy season in Luang Prabang. Plan your visit accordingly.
Did you know: Tad Sae Waterfall is an offbeat travel destination near Luang Prabang. This spot is frequented by locals, even the young monks. Best time to visit Tad sea is from August to November, with beautiful blue water making multiple cascades. Tad Sae can be visited by a boat ride on Nam Khan river. Not many travel guide to Luang Prabang has a mention of this place but Tad Sea is definitely a tranquil alternate to Kuang Si falls.
Laos buffalo dairy: traveling with the locals in Luang Prabang
Since the rural part of Laos is largely dependent on agriculture, cattle are a huge part of the local economy. The mountains of Laos had plenty of water buffaloes which later became domesticated and an integral part of the local culture, a lot like what cow means to rural India.
However people in southeast Asia usually do not indulge in dairy products. Milk is not a part of regular consumption here. Laos is no exception.
Luang Prabang receives a number of tourist footfalls each year. Demand for milk or dairy products is constantly on the rise. There is no ready substitute in Laos which can go into the coffee mug or cheese platter. Understanding this gap a group of people from Australia took the initiative of starting Laos’s first dairy farm. Laos buffalo dairy is a part of the day trip that you would be taking to Kuang Si waterfall. I recommend making a stop at the Laos Buffalo dairy and checking out their delectable offerings.
Ban Phanom: weaving village of Luang Prabang!
Famous for the weavers’ village who designed royal clothing in erstwhile kingdom! Ban Phanom appears on the route that you take to explore mountain hill tribes adjacent to Luang Prabang. Also check out the ruined Phon Phao temple and Henri Mouhot’s tomb in close vicinity.
Explore the Rice Fields!
Rice grows in abundance in Laos. STicky rice is the staple diet here. No wonder the outskirts of Luang Prabang will be dotted with sprawling fields of rice fields.
Men donning a canonical hat toils on the land till sundown. When the paddy plants grow and ready to be reaped, they look the most beautiful! You need to scoot around for ten minutes from downtown to come across such paddy fields!
While exploring the paddy fields, look for the water buffaloes, the living tractors of the region. Agriculture is a labor intensive task in most parts of Asia. Laos is no exception.
Nong Khiaw: The remote mountain villages of Laos that you must visit from Luang Prabang!
Located at a distance of hours off Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw is the most beautiful scenic place I have been so far in my life! This is where the heart of true Laos culture lies, protected by the tall standing monoliths that once provided a cave of respite for the communist revolutionaries. Pha Kuang and Pha Thok caves still have war memories inscribed in the bullets and aircraft destroyers littered around.
Stop by at the village called Ban Nanyang where the Tai Lue community (descendant from Yunnan, China) live in accordance with ancient rules. This is where I took part in a Baci ceremony.
At Nong Khiaw, you may take a hike to the top of Phadeng Peak for a mesmerising view of the Nam Ou river snaking up the mountain hamlets.
Muang Ngoi: If hiking is not your forte, take the long boat and visit the sleepy village of Muang Ngoi, 1 hours upstream ride on river Nam Ou. This place is known for boating, camping and kayaking for adventurous travelers. The town still harbors memories of the secret air war inflicted by CIA in many war artifacts now repurposed for everyday use.
Mount Phousi: Tourist attraction in Luang Prabang for beautiful Sunset spot
For a beautiful Sunset visa, hike up the 100 meter tall Mount Phousi located at the heart of Luang Prabang! The mountain is sacred among the locals. Entry fee to Mount Phousi is 20,000 Kip and there is a marked trail (narrow staircase) up to the top. Dress modestly. Visit at least an hour before to grab your seat! Every traveler in Luang Prabang tries to hike up the mountain.
Pak Ou Caves: Traveling around Luang Prabang
take a river cruise across the Mekong river and visit this ancient cave where 4000 Buddist carvings have been present since centuries. Visiting Pak Ou cave involves a bit of hiking up to reach the upper cave, Tham Theung.
Whiskey Village (Ban Xang Hai)
Remember those snake wine bottles from the night market of Luang Prabang? This is where that local whiskey is distilled and packed. Whiskey village is a part of the Pak Ou Cave outing and rather touristy
Mobile Network in Luang Prabang!
Luang Prabang is well connected with 4G network. Wifi is found aplenty at the cafe and hostels, apart from high end hotels. Digital nomading is not an issue here at all.
You can pick up a network at the airport, however as usual the price for sim cards is a bit steep at the airport. If you manage to reach the city center (where night market also takes place) you will find sim for a better rate, starting from USD 3 and valid for a month. You can recharge if data gets over.
Data is expensive. USD 16 is the price for 15 GB data. Laos Telecom is a reliable brand. Beeline is another one.
Is Luang Prabang more Expensive than Chiang Mai/Thailand?
Luang Prabang often earns a reputation of being overly expensive travel destination compared to her neighbors. While LP does feel a bit more on the steeper side of price-scale, though less when compared with Phuket, I think you can manage fairly well in a backpacker’s budget. Choose staying at the quaint little guest houses over boutique stays. Eat local Laotian food, robust in flavour with dried fish, mushroom, lemongrass and bamboo shoots. Chuck out the typical tourist activities and you are good to go!
I could spend a week by the banks of the Mekong river doing absolutely nothing yet not get bored. At the minimum, you can have a daily budget of USD 60 per day in Luang Prabang. That budget includes stay ($40), food from a local Laos buffet, entry fee and a bike rental.
$60 per day is a decent budget to explore Luang Prabang!
A Cost Breakdown for Traveling in Luang Prabang
Considering you are spending 3 days while traveling in Luang Prabang,
- Visa fee: USD 40
- Getting around in Luang Prabang by Tuktuk: USD 5
- Renting a scooty: USD 15 to 20 a day
- Entry fee at various monuments: USD 1 for each at an average.
- Accommodation (mid budget guest house): USD 25
- Food (street food): USD 5
- Meals at Cafe: USD 10
- Shopping and miscellaneous: USD 20
- Day trips from Luang Prabang on a Guided tour (with a few more pit stops at caves and villages): USD 100
Please note this is a rough estimate for expenses that you may incur while traveling in Luang Prabang. Of course considering you are on a mid-budget trip and comfortable spending money for a few experiences. If you are on a guided tour, or taking up day trips, cost will increase significantly.
Money saving tips for the pro-backpacker in Luang Prabang!
If you are planning to travel Luang Prabang on a show string budget, you can rent a bike and stay in a backpacker’s hostel. Instead of visiting every temple (which has an entry fee), choose your places of interest carefully.
- Rent a bike in Luang Prabang to travel at ease. They are cheaper than Tuktuk. Renting a scooty here comes as cheap as USD 15/20 for a day. You have to pay for the petrol for the day. her are a handful of gas stations. Fuel is imported from Thailand. Ongoing rate for petrol in Luang Prabang is close to 1 USD. For electric vehicle or more green using, please use the tuktuks for covering short distances. Your home country licence usually works. They drive on the right side (French influence on Laos) in Luang Prabang.
- Get money exchanged at airport. The Night market had steeper exchange rate when I visited.
- Gorge on great Laos food from the buffet at the night market of Luang Prabang. starting price 15,000 Kip only.
- People watch by the riverbank and ditch other touristy activities. You will be rewarded with incredible vintage shots of a life bygone!
The Exotic Lao Food that I tried at Luang Prabang (and you should too)
Because the French stayed in Luang Prabang for a substantial part of history, much has been said about the French food and its reflected influence on traditional Laos cuisine. The croquette . The baguette. The macaroons. A lot like our Cabin restaurants of Kolkata! However, truth be told, Laos meals are full of robust flavors earned straight from raw nature, often reminding you of a rustic dining experience.
There has been a sustained endeavour to bring out the best of traditional Laos cuisine, rich with a medley of ginger, garlic, lemon grass (and hence very appetising for my indian taste buds).
We went out with a food walk with the backstreet academy in Luang Prabang and tried and tasted almost all sorts of local food in Laos. The chili wood that doubles as a spice quotient generator in lieu of fiery chilies, grilled carp fish, Laotian Khao Soi with handmade noodles. Delight is when you get to taste local cuisine with a local foodie, which is exactly the case with backstreet Academy!
At night, visit the famous night market of Luang Prabang and indulge in a buffet. They are very affordable. From 15 to 20 thousand kip, you are allowed to fill up your bowl with as much food as you can, though only once! The local Laos food buffet is usually huge and consists of a great spread of vegetables, meat, fruit, eggs and noodles.
For a fine experience, save a dinner at the restaurant called Blue Lagoon. I absolutely loved their Laos cuisine which had plenty of fish dishes, cooked with vegetables, steamed or braised.
Following is a list of cute cafe and restaurants in Luang Prabang that serve great local food:
- Utopia Bar
- Manda de Laos Restaurant
- Bamboo Garden
- Two little birds cafe
- L’elephant Restaurant
- Popolo Cafe
- Governor’s Grill at Sofitel
- Dyen Sabai Restauant
These places are all beautifully set up and befitting for a romantic dinner date while traveling in Luang Prabang.
A Responsible Traveler’s Guide to Luang Prabang
- Participate in endeavour to successfully tackle waste management in Luang Prabang.
You will leave Luang Prabang but the plastic waste you have left behind will stay back for the next 450 years. Think about the ecological impact it will leave for a landlocked country like Laos! Clean up and leave no trash (specifically single waste plastic) behind in Luang Prabang.
Traditionally residents in Luang Prabang use banana leaf to pack daily errands. Try them. They are green and effective.
If you do not do this, the trash you generate will add up to the handful of landfills that Laos has in larger cities. That is a nuisance.
It is estimated that 100 million plastic water bottles are consumed in Laos every year. You can reuse one and that will make a huge impact and support the Refill Not Landfill initiative taken up by the local businesses of Luang Prabang.
2. Support local artisans of Luang Prabang.
Look around. See a painter? Support by buying a small souvenir, say a bookmark. If you have the space for it, invest in a wall painting. I have seen many small sellers creating ornaments or souvenirs from the scraps of the fighter jets left behind from the war. They are usually sold at the famous night market of Luang Prabang. Buy some of these.
3. Buy beautiful fabric and textile products handwoven by the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC). They have fascinating display of ethnic art and craft of Laos tribes.
4. Learn about the devastating and long standing history of Indochina war at UXO Laos Information Centre.
5. Visit the Luang Prabang public library and support the initiative of a book boat that takes book for children to the remote villages by the banks of Mekong river. You can buy a map or a book or simply donate as you please.
6. Support family run local business, like Bamboo Laos (Connect with them on Facebook here) and spend a day exploring the local culture of Laos in the bamboo orchard. Eat like an elephant is one such business as well.
7. Take informed decisions: What is an ethical experience in Luang Prabang? Take for example the act of bathing an elephant.
Luang Prabang was known as the land of million elephant.
Today, not only those elephants stand threatened for their existence but also have been mal-handles at the logging business for decades. Many a sanctuary keeps them chained. In the name of compassion, elephant washing is often the front face of a money making deal.
Do your research well before you visit such elephant sanctuaries. Green Jungle Park is one such place where retired logging elephants are housed and rehabilitated. The park is located at an hour’s distance from Luang Prabang, Laos.
What to pack for traveling in Luang Prabang?
Traveling to Luang Prabang is a lot like traveling to any other tropical destination. It is usually warm and humid all day long. During the drier months, humidity goes down. At night, the temperature goes down. When it rains, Luang Prabang is beautiful but traveling beyond Luang Prabang, to other destinations of Laos, especially the remote destinations of northern mountains.
Carry enough airy cotton fabrics to wear in Luang Prabang. A baggy jeans, a tee and a scarf are all you need to explore Luang Prabang at ease.
You must be mindful to cover yourself up while visiting the temples of Luang Prabang. Cover your shoulders and wear a skirt that goes beyond your knee. This is applicable for both men and women.
Do pack a swimwear since you can not keep away from stepping your feet in the Kuang Si waterfall.
Luang Prabang does not have a convenient stone chain like 7/11 yet but they have plenty of small stores. A shop named M Point was close equivalent in the city. Cash is acceptable. This is where you get to buy your everyday use, like toothpaste, shampoo, razor, deodorants etc s.
A reading list on Luang Prabang, Laos!
There are a handful books written in English that will prepare you to visit Luang Prabang. For the history lover, pick up the following books A Short History of Laos, the Land in between.
If you want to read more on the secret war of America on Laos, read these: Shooting at the Moon, Ravens, A Great Place To Have A War.
For fictions and personal accounts, books written on Luang Prabang are Another Quiet American, One Foot in Laos, Ant Egg Soup, Crescent Moon on Laos.
FAQs about Luang Prabang
Traveling to Luang Prabang: is it worth a visit?
Even though Luang Prabang has increasingly been known to greater number of tourists, it has somehow escaped the wrath of tourist bus savvy travelers. Luang Prabang retains its idyllic charm and old town vibes to a great extent, partly because strict UNESCO rules enforced around the town.
Is Luang Prabang a great destination for backpackers and cultural travelers?
Luang Prabang is a paradise for backpacking. You are in for a treat if you are a flash-packer. Since Luang Prabang has a number of handpicked fine luxury establishments, you can also splurge on this holiday. A number of action packed activities will keep you busy in Luang Prabang.
How many days are enough to traveling in Luang Prabang?
In Luang Prabang, I suggest you spend at least 3 days. If you can, 5 days will be a perfect plan for Luang Prabang with a room for a couple of day tours.
You can of course choose to slow down in Luang Prabang, take the slow boat, sail on the river and explore surrounding areas at peace. That is a different feeling altogether.
How to reach Luang Prabang city from airport: travel essential?
From airport, rent a taxi and reach Luang Prabang. If you walk out of the front gate, you will be seeing a lot of tuktuks as well. Tuktuks are cheaper than taxi-ride.
The Luang Prabang International airport is located 4 km away from the city center.
Taxis should charge you 6 to 10 USD depending on the time of the day and arrival rush.
How to stay safe from usual travel scams of Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is a safe destination for tarvelers to a large extent.
However steep poverty have forced people to pursue a few mal-practices.
Be informed, if a child is pressing you for buying something or money, there is likely to be a racket operating him on the field. Taxi drivers must agree to a price before you get into the car.
You need to be mindful about the changes you receive while exchanging USD or Euro notes in Luang Prabang. A dollar is 9000 KIP (or somewhere close). You need to count before you leave the counter and dispute should a case of discrepancy rises.
Where can you fly from Luang Prabang?
From Luang Prabang, you may travel to Chiang Mai in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam, Siem Reap in Cambodia etc. The Airport is very well connected with almost all the prominent airports of the Southeast Asia as a region.
What is the best time of the year to visit Luang Prabang?
The dry months of October to February are the best time to visit Luang Prabang! I visited in July. Tain was about to start. Rainy season in Laos has increased risk of flood.
Is Luang Prabang a good destination for digital nomads?
With kind and warm local people around and a decently well connected airport with the rest of the region, Luang Prabang is a good place to choose to be a digital nomad for a while. Abundant nature and dense forest lies at arm’s reach. You can end every day with a visit to the beautiful river Mekong (no word is enough to describe her profound calming impact). A lot of cafes are coming up in Luang Prabang for co working space. Wifi and telecom network is widespread. While Luang Prabang is not a Phuket or a Hanoi (yet), you do have access to many shop-houses around. For long term slow travel, Luang Prabang is an ideal choice.
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