Luang Prabang is a city of contrasts, a place where Laos’ Colonial past converges with its colourful present in a burst of sights, sounds and smells.
The former Laotian capital is a designated UNESCO World Heritage city and one of the most charming in all of Asia thanks to its long history and well-preserved colonial architecture. While it is easily accessible by bus from other destinations in both Laos and Thailand, by far the most exciting approach is by boat. A two-day trip up the Mekong River from the Thai border finishes with a flourish as you round the final bend, the exotic temple roofs and colonial buildings rising above the river to meet the clear blue skies above.
The beauty of Luang Prabang lies not just in its architecture and delightful natural setting, but also in its unique atmosphere. Despite its popularity amongst western travellers and tourists, it retains an air of distinguished elegance and peace, helped in no small part by the 11.30pm curfew that is strictly imposed on its bars and restaurants.
Nightlife here consists of a laid-back stroll through the winding streets where traditional Laotian wooden houses, grand French Colonial buildings and exotic golden-roofed temples sit gracefully side by side in unity. Be sure to reach the river in time to watch the sun sink into the water with a flurry of pink and orange, best enjoyed over a cold local beer or freshly squeezed juice from one of the many cafés that line the riverbank.
Every night local entrepreneurs sell their wares from a series of stalls. Buy or simply admire the traditional crafts and hand-made jewellery at prices far below those in neighbouring Thailand.
With late-night revelry off the agenda in Luang Prabang, a long, relaxed meal is the order of the day. Many delicious restaurants can be found amongst the bars along the banks of the Mekong and Kahn Rivers, with another batch found in the centre of town, along the length of the Sisavangyong Road. The local cuisine is a delightful fusion of traditional Laotian and French dishes, offering a feast fit for the senses every single night of your stay. For something a little different try a traditional Laotian hot roll or a piece of buffalo sausage for a real taste of the country.
Luang Prabang makes the perfect spot for exploring the natural beauty of the local area. If you have just one day to fill, head for the Kuang Si Falls and nearby bear rescue centre, some 30 kilometres from town.
There is a wide variety of accommodation in Luang Prabang, from boutique-style luxury hotels to low-cost hostels perfect for a relaxing long-term visit. A trip to this enthralling city is the stuff that the best of travel memories are made of, making it a must-visit destination for any tourist looking to head off the beaten track without leaving behind the security of a well-trodden travellers’ trail.