Luang Prabang is the most beautiful city in Laos. The atmosphere of this UNESCO Heritage Area makes it even more appealing and it explains the waves of tourists around.
Nevertheless, the city still bursts culture and history and is indeed an unmissable stop in your travels around SE Asia. But don’t come here expecting your average Thai party town. This place is different and the Laotian people work hard to keep it this way.
Before you get there there are a few things that are important to be aware and to understand. So we gathered the Do’s & Don’ts of Luang Prabang.
Do’s & Don’ts of Luang Prabang
- One of the main ‘tourist attractions’ of Luang Prabang is the Alms Giving Ceremony where the monks leave the monastery early in the morning to walk along the main roads and receive alms (or food) for the day. The ceremony is a sacred part of the daily lives of the monks and the buddhists that take part in giving them food as a good deed and part of their faith. If you are to observe it, please, please do so in a manner not to disrupt the monks and those who are faithfully offering alms. Many tourists decide to ‘take part’ on the ceremony without understanding if fully and end up hurting the customs and the meaning of this sacred act. Now, because of the touristic influx, there are many vendors selling cheap junk food so tourists can buy it and offer to the monks. Also, many uninformed visitors end up disrupting the passage of the monks just to take the ‘perfect’ shot. Screaming and shouting are also heard while the monks try to walk past silently. If you do want to witness the beauty of the ceremony, we’d highly recommend you do so quietly and in a reserved way in order to respect the monks and those who truly believe and are there to pay respect.
- Luang Prabang is also packed with many Buddhist temples, like in most of Asia, and if you are to visit them, respect their rules and obey the dress code. Man and woman are asked to wear long pants or skirts or shorts below their knees. Woman are not allowed to wear tank tops of any top that reveals the back or too much cleavage. Shoes are not allowed in any temples. No shouting and loud talking allowed either.
- The city has a curfew that requires all citizens and visitors to be back home by 11:30pm-12am. Some restaurants even close at 10:30pm to allow plenty of time for their employees to get back home in time. Nothing works after this hours and the locals oblige to the curfew very timely.
- Laotian people are very discreet and polite. They wouldn’t challenge tourists on their dressing attire but they are not used to the Western way of dressing. If you can, please avoid wearing really short shorts and skirts and wearing open/revealing tops. Men are also expected to wear shirts at all times (preferably not singlets).
- Visit the most beautiful waterfall around Laos: Kuang Si Falls. A set of breathtaking waterfalls that extend for a few meters down before going all the way up to an even more fantastic view above the trees. If you want to avoid the crowds, get yourself a bike (if you can) and ride up in the morning to enjoy less tourists around as it can get pretty busy over there.
- Stroll through the night markets and explore down the alleys near the main crossing. Tasty and delicious street food is scattered all over plus local craftsmen display their beautiful handiwork. Perfect place to find a few souvenirs to take back home!
- Climb the top of Mount Phousi to see the sunrise and lit the town to life. Or just check it out in the afternoon for sunset if it’s not too cloudy. Stop at some of the temples to enjoy the views or meditate in the peaceful temples.
- Walk over the bamboo bridges that cross over the Mekong River right by the city. The views are beautiful and you can stop by to see the locals going on with their lives.
- Explore the many shops and restaurants around the old city, the Heritage Area, which seems like it stopped in time and still holds its old and elegant charm.
- Rent a bike and visit the Paper Village, just off the city centre and into the dirty roads of Luang Prabang. Check out the careful and delicate work of the paper makers who sell their art for a very cheap price, worthy the dusty ride!
Luang Prabang is one special place that we would recommend to anyone looking for peace and relaxation. A place like no other in South East Asia and a must visit if you want to understand a little more of the Laotian way of life.
Have you been to Luang Prabang before? Did you enjoy your time there? Would you recommend anything else? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
Larissa & Jean