“Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just landed in Luang Prabang International Airport”. Announced the crew, as the aircraft taxied to the gate. Flying through the mountains on a warm Saturday Afternoon made the one and a half hours’ flight from Bangkok a spectacular one. Immigration and customs check upon arrival was smooth. I paid a 35$ visa fee and obtained entry to the land of wonders.
Towards the exit of the terminal building, there is a small taxi counter. I paid 8 USD to be transferred to the hotel. I stepped out of the airport with an eagerness to absorb everything that this intoxicating city had to offer.
The ride from the airport to Kounsavan Guest House along the streets of this laid back town took about half an hour. It is located right in the center of the old town. It is closer to the night market and Phousi Hill. You can capture the majestic shot of the sun setting on the Mekong River from the hill.
The best way to start your day in Luang Prabang is by rewarding your eyes with a sight of the morning alms procession. Locals call it Tak Bat. The tradition is quite popular in the majority of the southeast Asian countries.
It is a beautiful ritual where Buddhist monks wearing their brown or saffron dyed robes saunter through the quiet streets before dawn. They collect offerings of sticky rice from devotees. Taking part in this ceremony is considered to be sacred and watching this is a privilege.
After the ceremony, a nice breakfast in the morning market would be a perfect thing to do.
It’s great to walk around the streets of Luang Prabang. You can visit different wats (Buddhist Temples). The prominent one is Wat Xienthong or the Golden City Temple.
Wat Xienthong is one of the most visited and renowned active monasteries, built-in 1560 by a Laotian King – King Settathirath. It’s built-in a prime location where the Nam Khan river joins the Mekong River. Wat Xienthong depicts the artwork of Laotian architecture, with colorful exterior and low-slung roofs.
Other wats along the street are Wat Souvannakhili, Wat Sensoukaram –a popular place to watch, and take part in Tak Bat.
The Luang Prabang National Museum
The other major attraction along the street is The Luang Prabang National Museum. It is also known as The Royal Museum or locally known as Haw Kham. This former Royal Palace offers entry to visitors by charging 30,000 Kip as an entry fee. It is open from 0800-1130 and 1330-1600 (the last entry should be at or before 1530).
Ensure to be dressed in a modest way (no sleeveless or shorts). Built-in 1904, this was the main residence of King Sisavang Vong. The architectural design of the museum perfectly blends traditional Lao and French beaux-arts style.
After an evening snack and a cup of famous Lao coffee in the Scandinavian Bakery. Phousi Mountain would be a terrific place to get a glimpse of the sun setting over the Mekong River.
Luang Prabang’s most prominent attraction; Phousi hill stands 100 meters high in the middle of the old town. That Chomsi is another Buddhist temple where a Golden Stupa sits on the top of the mountain. After climbing 329 steps exhaustively, the real grandeur isn’t that golden spire. It is the enchanting view, which stretches beyond the beautiful mountains and the Mekong river.
The north side of the hill descends down to the night market. It brings the entire street into life at dusk, making it a perfect way to end your day in Luang Prabang. This is the only place where tourists outnumber locals. People set tents on the street and sell various things like handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes, bags, etc.
Luang Prabang has a lot more to offer. I have just touched base on some of the major attractions in the city. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for, Luang Prabang will offer all of that to you with an open heart.