Traveling from Thailand to Laos felt like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years. After spending a few weeks in Bangkok and then Chiang Mai, the chilled-out ambience of Luang Prabang, also known as the jewel of Laos, was so laidback in comparison. Plus a few lazy days of soaking up the natural beauty and bingeing on croissants in Luang Prabang was very much needed after my nightmare journey here from Vang Vieng.
Luang Prabang, the Buddhist heartland of Laos, is Unesco-protected and has a very long history. In the 14th century Luang Prabang became the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (meaning the Kingdom of a Million Elephants). It then came under French colonial rule and to this day remains a charming fusion of traditional Laos architecture and colonial, Indochinese and French architecture and influences.
As ancient as it is chic, Luang Prabang has 33 Buddhist temples, newly renovated boutique hotels and an abundance of bakeries selling every freshly baked pastry you could wish for, mainly thanks to the French influence. If it’s beginning to sound expensive, fear not, because it really doesn’t need to be.
I found that some of the best things to do in Luang Prabang cost little to nothing. From chilling on the river bank, temple-hopping, browsing the night market to watching the Monks go by from a shaded spot in a Gallic-style cafe, this small town in northern Laos is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
One things for sure, you will get a strong desire to switch your phone off. Disconnecting from the outside world feels like the natural thing to do while here.
How did I spend my 3 days in Laos?
My first morning was spent wandering around to get my bearings, with no particular plan. Actually, there was no plan for the 2nd day either and on the 3rd day the plan was to do the same as on the 1st and 2nd days (ie; nothing much) and then at some point leave.
The first thing I stumbled upon after leaving my ambitiously named hotel The Legend was a random street market selling fresh produce, pottery and a few touristy souvenirs. If you’re visiting Luang Prabang you’ll probably walk through quite a few of these small markets which are held daily on various streets around the place.
I spent a lot of time on the main road in Luang Prabang called Th Sakkarin, this is where a lot of the chic cafes, boutiques and spas are. It’s very laidback here during the day and gets a bit busier after dark, but still, there’s a totally chilled out vibe 24/7.
Three days was the right amount of time to explore this small town and browse pretty much every boutique here. There’s some very nice items for sale in Luang Prabang’s markets too, compared to Chiang Mai’s markets and Bangkok’s Koh San Road for example, everything here seemed better quality. What’s great about this, is that the higher quality of items for sale in Luang Prabang wasn’t reflected in the price.
So while doing nothing much at all except wandering around the quaint, charming streets I saw all of this…
Trending Tours In Luang Prabang
Then of course, there was a lot of eating action. I spent at least half of each day lounging around in the Scandinavian Bakery and the other cute cafes dotted about.
I did opt for a continental breakfast one morning and got this;
If you like very strong coffee, your mornings will get off to a great start. Then around midday, I would find a French cafe (there’s many) and refuel (walking around can be exhausting) with some crepes like this;
So damn tasty. Anyway, a stroll along the river looks something like this;
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My evenings in Luang Prabang involved three very important activities. Firstly, although not at all hungry after several crepes daily and a ton of Laos coffee I would have to visit the night market and eat random barbecued meat and fish on skewers. A lot of it.
If one of your life skills, like myself, is munching while meandering then you can simultaneously stroll around the night market stalls with skewer in hand. Just don’t trip and lose an eye or worse, drip chicken grease (from your chin) on their beautiful arts and crafts.
Then I would have a Laos style massage, which is very similar to a Thai massage and costs about the same. I got my nails done while here too. There’s an 11.30pm curfew, but you can get a few drinks in at Utopia and Hive Bar before the days over.
Besides strolling about and eating croissants there’s so much to do here. Climb Mount Phousi, witness traditions such as Tak Bat, visit Kuang Si Waterfalls, the Royal Palace Museum, the Pak Ou Caves and take cooking and yoga classes. You could easily spend a few weeks exploring everything Luang Prabang has to offer.
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Check out the Jetset Bunny Guide To Laos including the basics, things to do, eat, stay and plan: Laos Travel Tips