With its calm, quaint feel, meandering streets,
glittering temples, smiling locals and lush surrounding hills,
Luang Prabang is one of Asia's most alluring locales and an
absolutely essential Laos travel destination. Its small scale and
intimate feel make it a perfect place to wander-from temples to
handicraft shops, from the banks of the Mekong to a charming
French colonial, art-deco and northern Lanna Thai structures
comprise an exquisite and well-preserved architectural legacy: the
town itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Outstanding temple architecture abounds, and
stumbling upon a small shrine tucked away in an alley is one of the
joys of this town. The most imposing temples are Wat Wisounalat,
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, and Wat Xieng Thong, an exquisite
400-year-old royal monastery complex. Be sure to visit the former
Royal Palace, now the National Museum. The Lao royal family lived
here until 1975. Its collection includes lovely murals-in
shimmering mosaics and in oil-of Lao life, and gifts from heads of
state, including a moon rock from Richard Nixon, given in 1972
(ironically about the same time U.S. bombing of Laos reached its
For a truly extraordinary Laos travel experience,
rise before dawn for a chance to witness a moving ritual that
embodies the essence of Old Southeast Asia: as long lines of
barefoot monks walk silently along the streets on their morning
alms rounds, watch locals offer alms. This represents a symbiosis
in which rice sustains the monks' bodies, while the monks' prayers
nourish the spirit of those giving the rice.
Note: please observe a respectful distance and silence while
witnessing this ancient, sacred ceremony.
After a day of exploring, ascend the steps up Phu
Si Hill to view the sunset over the Mekong. After dinner, wander
through the bustling Night Market.