Senior travel consultant Charlotte Bower has lived and travelled all over the world. After returning from a mammoth trip around Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, she gives us the lowdown on how to spend the ultimate 24 hours in the UNESCO World Heritage Town of Luang Prabang in Laos.
Sunrise – monks collecting alms
Starting early, wake up for sunrise and head to the centre of the small town to watch monks collecting alms. Each morning saffron-robed monks from the nearby monasteries congregate in the main street to collect their daily food from the locals – an important religious ceremony.
Respecting the significance of this procession to the locals, find a quiet spot to perch and observe from a distance. Sometimes the procession can be small, but there is a magic to the sleepy riverside town this early in the morning that is worth rising for aside from the ceremony.
Morning – Kuang Si falls
After returning to your hotel for breakfast, head back to the main street to pick up a jumbo tuk tuk heading out of town to the Kuang Si falls. They are easily identifiable with signs on the top, and will collect 10 – 15 people for the 40 minute drive in the open-air flatbed of the truck.
On arrival, see the waterfalls cascading over multiple levels of rock. There are hidden walking trails so you can head up to the top, before returning to the bottom pools for a refreshing swim and a break from the building heat.
Lunchtime – Tamarind restaurant, Luang Prabang
Shake off the water and take a tuk tuk back into town. Head to the riverside and the Tamarind restaurant for lunch; try one of their Laos tasting platters or just plump straight for my favourite – the fresh and fragrant tofu laap accompanied by khai pene (deep fried river weeds) and a spicy papaya salad.
Afternoon – Luang Prabang Royal Palace
Return to the main street to visit the Royal Palace, now converted into a museum. Walk barefoot along the polished hallways to see the old living quarters of the royal family, as well as the crown jewels of Laos, learning about the history of the country along the way.
Built as recently as 1904 in the French Colonial era, there is a distinct French influence to the building in both the architecture and decoration. Heading out into the garden, you’ll even get to see the last king’s collection of classic cars.
Sunset – Mount Phousi
The sun sets early in this part of the world so make sure you are on the steps opposite the royal palace by 5pm, climbing up to Mount Phousi. The climb takes you to the highest point in Luang Prabang and you’ll be rewarded with views across the town and the Mekong River just in time to watch the sunset.
Head back down the long way of the back of the hill and you’ll pass by several monasteries, witnessing monks going about their evening chores. The path will bring you out at the end of the night market which, now the sun has gone down, will be in full swing.
Ducking your way between the gazebos and perhaps shopping for a few handicrafts, make your way to the start of the market, where you can find a string of sandwich shops serving tasty filled baguettes and a Laos beer or two to round off your night.
Longing to see Luang Prabang for yourself? Join our Indochina Encompassed or Cambodia & Laos Revealed Small Group Tours, check out our Northern Laos Explorer and Laos Overland Fully Tailored Journeys, or get in touch with our Southeast Asia experts for more information,