A weekend in Luang Prabang, Laos

Possibly one of the most beautiful towns in the world…. I first went to Luang Prabang by accident, after an ill-fated (my translator spoke no English…) undergraduate trip to study community tourism up in Luang Namtha in 2004. Back then the fancy magazines and newspapers weren’t waxing lyrical about Luang Prabang, but nor could I claim it was ‘undiscovered’. A few years later, I ended up writing my masters dissertation about tourists’ perceptions of authenticity in Luang Prabang, so I won’t write too much now. Needless to say, it has remained charming, despite my fears to the contrary when writing my dissertation. All new buildings and renovation work is strictly controlled as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (for more about the history from UNESCO please click here).

It remains a wonderful place to potter past temples and colonial buildings, while enjoying the stunning natural scenery that surrounds the town. Food is delicious – whether you want traditional Laotian fare involving copious lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf, or French or Swiss bistro food. Laotian silk textiles are also exquisite. Although there are many silk shops, OckPopTok is a great place to visit and learn more about the process as well as what they are doing to promote the industry and empower women. Although only one hours flight from Hanoi, Luang Prabang feels a world away from the hectic bustle. As the old adage goes ‘The Vietnamese plant the rice, while the Laotians listen to the rice grow.’ Laotians are incredibly laid back and friendly, and it is a lovely place for a relaxing few days.

Here is the link to my probably better pictures – including monks, temples, waterfalls etc. taken when I lived there for a month working on my dissertation in 2007.

Luang Prabang is located at the confluence of the Mekong and the smaller Nam Khan Rivers (photo taken from the other side of the Mekong looking towards Luang Prabang)

Old houses on the confluence peninsula

Another house with a typical picket fence

Many of the old houses are now boutique hotels – ‘The 3 Nagas Hotel’

Or cafes and restaurants

At out hotel – The Bellerive – rooms with their own entrances

The view towards the Mekong River

The view from breakfast across the Mekong towards a temple on a hill

Temples are everywhere

One of my favourite places  – Cafe Ban Vat Sen – A longstanding cafe with great food

Cafe Ban Vat Sen – when you feel the need for a deliciously fresh pizza or local buffalo pate…

Luang Prabang’s version of biltong – buffalo drying in the sun

Not all the architecture is ‘french colonial’ – a cute 50/60s house

A Mini a long way from Oxford…

More standard transport

Laotian food at the delicious Tamarind Restaurant

A view of the Nham Khan River from the other side of the peninsula

Beautiful Laotian silk boutiques are dotted about

An old lady making silk spools ready to weave

A view over the Mekong River

Bouganvilla and Plumeria at Ock Pop Tok

Off for a sunset boat trip for Piers’ birthday on Mr. Vanhsy’s boat

The Mekong River

Piers enjoying pink Champagne and a rather non-existent sunset for his birthday