36 Hours in Luang Prabang

36 Hours in Luang Prabang

Friday

5 p.m.
1) FIND UPTOPIA

After what may have been a long and cramped slow boat ride to Luang Prabang relax along the Mekong at the garden restaurant and bar of Utopia.  The name says it all, plenty of cushions to lounge on and take in the view of the mighty Mekong.  The cocktails are sublime and the Beerlao is cheap.  They have games to play and even a sand volleyball court if you are so inclined.  You may not want to leave Utopia once you have discovered it.

7:30 p.m.
2) HMONG MARKET

After a few Utopian cocktails you’ll need to eat, so head to the night market on Sisavangvong Road where you’ll find a buffet of noodles, rice, grilled fish, beans and even Mekong river weed.  Grab a plate and pile it high for only 10,000 kip, which is about $1.50.  Once you are full you can browse the vibrant textiles and paintings of the local Hmong vendors selling their wears.

Saturday

6 a.m.
3) MAKE MERIT

Each morning at dawn orange robes fill the streets of Luang Prabang as the monks walk single file through the street collecting alms.  Monks are only allowed to eat what is provided for them through the alms giving in the morning or what family provides for them.  They only eat twice a day and the alms provide much needed sustenance while giving Buddhists an opportunity to earn merit, much the same way Catholics might recite several “Hail Mary’s” for their sins.  It is a beautiful ritual to observe even if many tourists have taken to collecting merits for themselves as well.

7:30 a.m.
4) CHOCOLATE AU LAIT

At least one benefit to French colonialism is the wonderful French food available throughout Luang Prabang.  After giving alms to the monks it’s time for you to enjoy a hot chocolate and pastry.  Head to the Luang Prabang Bakery on Sisavangvong Road where you can choose from a large array of croissants, cakes and pastries.

9 a.m.
5) DISCOVER HIDDEN ALLEYWAYS

After breakfast take some time to stroll the streets of this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city before it gets too hot.  Enjoy the narrow flower lined alley ways with hidden treasures such as little galleries or small inviting cafes.  If you are up for it rent a bike and enjoy the breeze as you pedal past gold wats, colorful colonials and the orange robes of monks.

One of the beautiful little alleys of Luang Prabang

11:30 a.m.
6) ROYAL TREASURES

Built by King Sisavangvong in 1904, the Royal Palace was the home of the royal family until the monarchy was abolished in 1975.  It houses a copy of the Pha Bang, a golden Buddha that is Lao Buddhism’s most reverred image and rightfully so as the real Pha Bang is 50 kg of pure gold.  It is kept in a bank vault in Vientiane, but the copy is worth a visit.  Inside the Royal Palace is the National Museum, which is worth your time to look around at the Lao art.

1:30 p.m.
7) MONK CHAT

Visit Wat Xieng Thong, also known as the Temple of the Golden City to see the elaborate golden reliefs and a mosaic of the Buddhist Tree of Life.  The pagoda on your right as you enter houses King Sisavangvong’s funeral chariot, used to transport the funerary urn after his death and is very impressive.  Once you have explored the temple grounds take a seat in the shade and chat with the young novice monks eager to practice their English.  If you come prepared with an English book they will be especially grateful.  You can pick up books to share with your new friends or to give to village children if you go on a trek at Big Brother Mouse.  Even if you are not planning a trip to Laos I recommend checking out Big Brother Mouse and the things they are doing in Laos.

4:30 p.m.
8) HIKE WITH A VIEW

Start to make the climb up to Mount Phousi for the sunset and stop at the Buddha’s footprint along the way as well as the rotund golden Buddha hidden in a cave.  Once you have made your way up all 329 steps join the crowd as every tourist well knows that the best view of the sunset in Luang Prabang is over the Mekong and best viewed from Wat Chom Phousi.

6:45 p.m.
9) STEAMY GOODNESS

After sunset head to the Lao Red Cross for a rejuvinating herbal steam bath and then treat yourself to a massage while you are there too.  The massages are heavenly even though the surroundings may not be.  Close your eyes and enjoy, your hour massage will also do great things for Laos and the efforts that the Red Cross is making in nearby villages.

9 p.m.
10) EDUCATIONAL FASHION

The Hive Bar fashion show is both an enjoyable and educational experience. Grab a pitcher of BeerLao and sit back and watch as the costumes of all 42 tribes in Laos parade before you in all their bright colors.  It is a well choreographed show and worth your time for a quick lesson in Lao tribes.

Sunday

10 a.m.
11) PAK OU CAVES

Hire a tuk tuk and wear your padded shorts for a bumpy 25 km. ride out to the Pack Ou Cave on the Mekong River.  The cave is packed with more than 4,000 Buddha images of all shapes, sizes and colors.

Buddha images in the Pak Ou Cave along the Mekong River

12 p.m.
12) LAO BBQ

For lunch grab a seat at Lao Lao Garden for their famous Lao BBQ, which is a cook at your own table experience.  Don’t worry the staff is helpful and will walk you through the process of cooking your meat, making soup and adding veggies.

Lao BBQ allows you to cook meat, veggies and a noodle soup at your table

IF YOU GO:

Rent bikes, Luang Prabang is a small city and you can get everywhere you want with the exception of Kuang Si Waterfalls and Pak Ou Cave on a bike.  Enjoy the slow pace of life in the city by strolling through the streets discovering your own hidden alley ways.

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Comments

» Kate C :
Apr 1, 2011

Ah, Utopia Bar. There should be a place like that in every city. I spent a few great evenings there. I spent Halloween at Hive bar ;-) Did you go bowling? I didn’t, but many I know did.

I thought Wat Xieng Thong was great, but there were no monks around when I went. I had the place completely to myself as I explored, which I actually really liked. Same thing at Mount Phousi, but that’s because I went in the middle of the day.

Glad you guys enjoyed the place!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Kate, I totally agree about Utopia- what a great hang out! We didn’t go bowling, but enjoyed meeting travelers at Hive Bar. Sounds like you lucked out with Wat Xieng Thong and Mount Phousi, it is rare to have either of those places to yourself.

» dad :
Apr 4, 2011

we love the comments!!!….it is amazing and always fun to hear from all of your friends who have had similar experiences….kind of reminds me that love is not love until you share or give it away…..similar to travel moments; as they are so much better to be shared, sometimes through common experiences, sometimes vicariously and of course best shared with someone you love…..i love you guys..be safe…..dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

I agree whole heartedly, travel moments are definitely better shared! Miss you, glad you are following us vicariously.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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