Laos was still an unknown destination for us. The only thing we knew about Laos is that it’s know for its backpackers and nature lovers. We chose to explore the unique town of Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is a city in north central Laos that has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage since 1995. Given its rich history as a French colony, there are still some French influences in the lifestyle, the menu’s, the various French bakeries, … Every morning we had a fresh croissant, which is normally pretty difficult to find in Asia !
Popular Tourist Attractions in Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls
These waterfalls are located 23 km south of Luang Prabang and it takes approximately 45 minutes by tuk-tuk. The most common ways to go to the waterfalls are:
- rent a scooter and drive by yourself, this will cost about 80 000 KIP per day (be carful because tourist motorbike accidents are common!)
- a roundtrip tuk tuk ride should cost around 180,000 – 200,000 kip. The driver will wait for you to bring you back to the hotel (pay the driver when you return to town!)
Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center
After you paid your tickets, you’ll first enter the Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center which is a sanctuary for Asian black bears. These bears all have a history of abuse. In Chinese medicine, they believe in the healing effect of the bile fluid from the black bear’s gall bladder. The bears are locked up in tiny cages, so that the bile fluid can be drained, which is a very painful procedure.
Kuang Si Falls
The Kuang Si waterfalls are one of the largest and most famous tufa waterfalls in Southeast Asia! After our trip through Indonesia we had already seen some beautiful waterfalls, but this is pretty special! The good news is, you’re allowed to swim in certain places of these amazing waterfalls, but not everywhere. There are dressing rooms provided, so you do not have to wear your bathing clothes a whole day. If you walk a little further, you’ll first pass a restaurant and then a wooden bridge. This bridge is in front of the largest waterfall, which is 60 meters high! Really impressive !
Tip: We found the most impressive place above the waterfall, where you have a beautiful view! This spot is mainly known among the backpackers and can be reached if you go off road.
Opening hours: 8.00 am – 5.30 pm, the best time is around 11 am for all tourist buses arrive.
Entrance fee: 20,000 KIP for Kuang Si Waterfalls, Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center and Butterfly Park.
The night market takes place every evening on Sisavangvong Road, just behind the Lao National Tourism Office. There are more than 300 handicraft vendors who try to sell their products. If you’re searching for a souvenir, this is the place to be! Pay attention because not everything is hand-made, some products are produced in Thailand or China. If you’re not into shopping, just wander around, chat with the vendors and go for a snack in one of the cozy restaurants in Sisavangvong Road.
Opening hours: 17.00 – 22.00
Entrance fee: free
Mount Phu Si
The skyline of Luang Prabang is defined by a distinctive figure, the mount Phu Si. This 100-metre-high mountain with a 24-meter-high golden stump at the top, called That Chomsi. There are many Buddhist temples and if you’re tired you can rest under the shady trees and admire the magical views. The Phu Si Hill staircase consists of 355 steps, but you do not necessarily have to be in good condition to get to the top.
Tip: This place is perfect to fly with a drone. Go around sunset for the best pictures and videos!
Opening hours: there are no official opening hours, so let’s say 6.30 am – 7 pm,
Entrance fee: 25 000 KIP
Mekong river Sunset Cruise
Sunset cruises are often offered by hotels, as they have their own boat. The Mekong River is one of the most important rivers in Asia and runs through Laos, Myanmar, Cambodja, Thailand and Vietnam. Depending on which season you stay in Laos, the hour of departure is different. We left at 4pm, since the sunset was around 6pm. Usually you get some water and something small to eat, but you can always buy something on the boat.
It is a relaxing and fun evening activity. The sunsets that we had in Luang Prabang were really beautiful!
A Morning with the Monks
This morning ritual of the monks is also called the ‘Tak Bat’. The monks will go barefoot through the city from east to west around 5.30 am to collect their alms for the day, because the locals and tourists give them rice or other food. This is cited in every blog as a ‘must do’ when you are in Luang Prabang. If we are honest, we think this is a bit ‘overrated‘. Especially if you have no connection with Buddhism and it is still completely dark during the colder months.
Note: If you want to attend this religious occasion, dress respectfully and keep a distance from the monks (looking or touching them is strictly forbidden).
The Bamboo Bridge
This bridge often gets washed away by the rising water during the rainy season, so every year another local family rebuilt this bridge during dry season. There are several ‘bamboo bridges’, but they all cross the Nam Khan river. Now, I have to admit that I did not always feel safe or stable on this bridge .
This bridge is the perfect place to catch some beautiful sunsets! As I told you before, there are several bridges but the one you see below is just at the junction with the Mekong river. The perfect spot to take a nice photo and if you go early in the morning, there is a chance you will see the monks on their way to school.
Entrance fee: 10 000 KIP
Opening hours: no official opening hours
Read here all our practical tips about Luang Prabang!