There are of course many places to go and see in Luang Prabang but here are some of the main ones you HAVE to see. I only went to three main places though since I skipped out on a lot of the temples (Wats) and the National Museum. My main focus was on nature and a lot of the temples are the same as Cambodia – and since I only had one full day in Luang Prabang, I wanted to see new things.
- Night Market: The night market isn’t anything different from going to the morning market in Vientiane but it’s pretty much the only thing to do at night and definitely worth dropping by and walking around. This is where you will see the most tourists in all of Luang Prabang. At around 6pm is when it starts to get really busy. It is definitely way bigger than the ‘night market’ I went to in Vientiane (Not sure if I can even call it that since it was just a row of 6 to 10 street vendors). The one in Luang Prabang had vendors selling all types of Lao arts and crafts but I also liked it that there were a lot of Hmong things there. Just be aware that unlike other countries like Thailand or Vietnam, the night market starts to close down around 9PM. There are also a lot of food and snacks on the street but everyone will be pretty much selling the same stuff. If you walk past the night market, you will see some nicer/fancy restaurants and wine bars. It can be quite expensive at times because they call ridiculous prices to tourists so try to negotiate the price before just paying for things. Also, one important thing to keep in mind is that they do sell some souvenirs made from endangered animals.
Do NOT buy rare pets, leather, bones, ivory, some suspicious jeweleries, fur, feather, teeth, wool and such – just for the sake of the environment and the animals PLEASE. It’s us tourists that cause the whole problem in the first place!
- Kuangsi Waterfall: This place is basically where I fell in love with Luang Prabang. First of all, I love waterfalls and streams so I was already really excited about it but wasn’t expecting too much but it was awesome! Not too big but pretty – nicely preserved. You can also go swimming. Be careful though! The water is a little milky so you can’t see the bottom and there are hidden rocks everywhere. So be cautious when you walk.
It’s 20,000 Kip per person to go in. I can see that it can get pretty crowded if it is the tourist season but it’s still fun! There’s a rope attached to the tree that you can swing off of. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
- Bear Rescue Center: The Bear Rescue Center is located inside the Kuangsi Waterfall trail. It is on the way to the waterfall so you can’t miss it! The bears are so cute – just lounging around and playing. You already paid the entrance fee to enter the Kuangsi Waterfall so don’t worry about paying again – you can always make donations though. Just remember not to feed the bears and just observe them quietly without disturbing their peace – thanks! Oh, and no littering!
- Pakou Cave (a.k.a Buddha Cave): Ok, gonna be honest here. I have been to better caves. The road to the cave is very bumpy – completely unpaved and there is nothing on the way so it kinda looks like the driver is taking you to the deep forest and who knows what they could do to you – just kidding. The road is pretty isolated and far though – for a while we thought we had gone to the wrong place. You end up in a village – I was still really confused but later on figured out that you take a boat across the river to a little hole in the wall of a mountain. Depends on your negotiation skills but we had 4 people on the boat – back and forth for 50,000Kip. I would say it was a rip off since the trip was what, 2 mins? But I was pretty much done with negotiating by then. The boat was falling apart and there were little holes everywhere – the water kept coming in and I thought we were going to sink – but we didn’t.
The cave is tiny – and you have to pay 20,000Kip per person. Rip off!!!! But I mean, if that’s the rule, whatcha gonna do, right? The first cave is small, has a lot of tiny Buddha statues and bats. Then, you climb up a bunch of stairs to the second cave where it is COMPLETELY DARK. Kinda scary but fun because it’s scary. You can get a flash light at the entrance but umm.. you have to donate first so I recommend that you take your own flashlight before you go to the cave. Well basically, I wasn’t told to do so .. so, I went inside in the dark, and saw… nothing. I tried taking a picture though – but it was kinda scary.
- Alms Ceremony: This is more a thing to see rather than to visit. It’s in the center of Luang Prabang on the main road and groups of monks come out from the different temples in a line, each with a rice bag. They walk around at dawn collecting alms of rice from kneeling villagers and sometimes early-rising tourists who want to participate. Be careful when participating though because some locals have tried to sell unsafe food to tourists to give to the monks and it has resulted in making some monks sick. :( So if you can, prepare your own food from the hotel or something. Also.. please, respect their religion and be polite. I understand that taking photos is why you woke up at 5:30 in the morning but don’t get in their faces, flashing at them in their eyes. Imagine what it feels like having to do your religious routine with tourists snapping photos of you away – it distracts them! And they’re marching so don’t stand in their way! The government apparently made it clear to them that if the monks ever stopped doing this, they are gonna hire and dress random people in orange robes to pretend to be monks in order to keep up appearances and maintain tourist revenue (bad. very bad.) – so don’t make the monks hate their own ceremony.
- Mekong River: Well, if you are there, it’s hard to miss but still go and take a look at it and walk along the river. It’s different from seeing the mekong river in the city like Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Ho Chi Minh city because the riverbank is just covered with the rainforest and trees. It’s worth the walk – DURING THE DAY. At night, guarantee you will not see anything.
After the 12 hour drive back to Vientiane, my last night in Laos was spent partying and having fun with my friends in Vientiane. Not much to document there apart from noting that alcohol is EXPENSIVE in Laos (well compared to Cambodia). Drinks are around 40,000 Kip which is about $5. You can get them for $3 in Phnom Penh and for $2 in Siem Reap. Anyway, it was a fun night out regardless!
It was fun Laos. Thanks for the awesome trip! Khop Chai Deu! :)