Put simply, the riverine town of Luang Prabang is the jewel in Indochina’s crown. Invariably cited as the highlight of travels in the region, nobody departs ever wishing they spent less time in this enchanting town. Our advice is to first consider how long you intend to linger in Luang Prabang….and then simply add an additional couple of days. Itinerary permitting, it is a decision you will not regret.
The historic town is situated on a peninsula formed by the confluence of two rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Ou, and is a heady mix of palm-lined riverbanks, ochre daubed houses with terracotta roofs, tranquil temples and bustling monasteries. It is the idyllic picture-postcard realisation of Southeast Asia. Luang Prabang is as compact as it is atmospheric and is best explored either on foot or by bicycle.
However, the peaceful laid-back vibe masks its fascinating history of conquest and recapture and only hints at the intricate culture and complex traditions that still underpin every day life. Luang Prabang was once the ancient capital of northern Laos and was designated a UNESCO protected site in 1995, with more than 30 beautifully gilded Theravada Buddhist temples helping retain much of its majesty and tranquillity. To this day the town remains the religious heart for the entire region and anyone fortunate to be staying in the sleepy centre of town should rise early to take part in the ‘Tak Bat’, when the saffron-robed monks stream through narrow streets and alleys between buildings dating back to the French colonial era, collecting alms from their neighbours in the early morning light. This really is a historic capital in which time stands still – languid and lovely, imparting an especially unique vibe.