Luang Prabang is the capital of the same named province and has about 50,000 inhabitants. It lies 700 meters above sea level, at the confluence of the Nam Khan and the mighty Mekong River. Luang Prabang is located approximately 420 km north of Vientiane.
For a long time it served as the capital of various kingdoms. Because of its extraordinary attractions the town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Luang Prabang is the figurehead of Laos and certainly one of the most charming cities in South East Asia. The varied color palette is the first thing visitors will encounter. The fragrant frangipani, also called Temple tree, line with various other trees and scarlet flowers the riverside, the gold- and burgundy-purple-colored temples with the hundreds of monks in their saffron-colored robes are absolutely photogenic. There are also mountains surrounding the area that are covered with evergreen jungle.
The old name of Luang Prabang was Muang Sua, given after the year 698 AD, when the Thai prince Khun Lo conquered the region. In the second half of the 8th century the Nan-Chao princes claimed possession of the area. During this time, the Khmers founded near Vientiane a base with the name of Xay Fong. Chanthaphanit, the local ruler of this base, pushed northward and was accepted as the new chief of Muang Sua. The city's name was changed to Xieng Dong Xieng Thong.
During 1128 till 1170 a tribal leader of the Khamu group ruled over the territory. At this time, the Theravada Buddhism was replaced with the Mahayana Buddhism.
In 1185 the Khmer occupied the area again. But due to the successful uprising in Sukhothai (Thailand) against the Khmers they lost the power over Xieng Dong Xieng Thong.
In 1353 it became the capital of the Lan Xang kingdom and was renamed to its present name of Luang Prabang. However, in 1563 Vientiane was chosen as the new capital of the kingdom by the king Setthathirath the 1st.
The empire was shattered at the beginning of the 18th century, and the independent kingdom of Luang Prabang emerged. This competed with the kingdoms of Vientiane and Champasak.
In 1945, when Laos declared its independence, the king of Luang Prabang, Sisavang Vong, was recognized as the leader of entire Laos. After his death, his son succeeds. But at that time the communist Pathet Lao came to power, and the kingdom was abolished.
Today the province is inhabited by Lao people and the minority groups of the Mon, Hmong and Thai Lu.
The city and surroundings have numerous historical, cultural and natural highlights. There are magnificent temples, museums, interesting French colonial style houses, Lao wooden houses and interesting markets. Outside the city are waterfalls hidden in the dense mountain forest and mystic caves.
The accommodation and food options are very diverse. Furthermore, it has many cafes, pubs and bars. If you like a good sandwich and bakery goods, it is also the right place.
The most convenient and fastest way is by plane. There are international flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Siem Reap and national ones from Vientiane and Pakse. For international flights, a tourist visa is on arrival available.
The airport is small and has a one-story terminal. There are shops, a restaurant, currency exchange and tour desk. Outside are plenty of taxis for the 4 km drive to the center.
Luang Prabang has three bus stations, all placed a little out of town. The tuk tuk and taxi drivers know which bus stand for which destination must be approached.
Over Vang Vieng to Vientiane it takes about 11 hours. Faster but more expensive are the mini buses which cover the distance in about 8 hours.
There are direct buses to various other destinations, including Xieng Khuang and Huay Xai on the Thai border.
A river cruise from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang or reverse, on the mighty Mekong River, is a very popular route. However, the journey takes 2 full days with an overnight stop in Pakbeng. There are also speedboats, which cover the route in 6 hours. But the slow way is preferable. The river cruise takes you past beautiful picturesque landscapes.
The small city center can be discovered best on foot. For the more remote places tuk tuks and taxis are available. There are also bicycles and motorcycles for rent.
The former Royal Palace was built in 1904 and is now a very interesting museum. The premises of the former royal family are beautifully preserved. The countless exhibits are often donations from different countries. The exceptional Phra Bang Buddha statue is probably the most enchanting exhibit. It is cast in gold, silver and bronze, 83 cm tall and weighs 50 kg.
Wat Xieng Toung
This is the oldest temple complex and also the most beautiful. The decorations are stunning and the roof extends almost to the ground.
Other temples in the city
Also worth seeing are the temples of Wat Vixunh, Wat Mai, Wat Sean, Wat Aham and Wat Visoun.
Phou Si Mountain
The little mountain Phou Si should be ascended for a fabulous sunrise or sunset. The view of the city and surrounding area is phenomenal. The Golden Temple of the Vipassana Mediation Center is highly visible.
Mekong River Promenade
The promenade along the mighty Mekong is another good place to enjoy the sunset with a drink and snack.
Night market & Shopping
A stroll through the night market should not be missed. There are many fantastic souvenirs to buy. The bed and pillow covers can be ordered in the desired sizes and the following evening ready.
In addition, there are several shops which may offer a better, but also more expensive quality.
There are two idyllic waterfalls. The Tad Sae is rather small, but certainly fascinating. There is an elephant camp nearby which offers jungle treks on the backs of those large animals.
The well-known Kuang Si has several steps and is a feast for the eyes. There is also a beautiful trail through the dense jungle. Both waterfalls are ideal for swimming, picnicking and relaxing.
On the way to Kuang Si Waterfall is the Bears Rescue Center. In the enclosure are rare Asiatic Black Bears kept and taken care of, which have been rescued from poachers.
Pak Ou Caves
A little further away are the mystical Pak Ou caves. They are located on the Mekong River and can be reached by renting a canoe, boat or by car. Inside are thousands of Buddha statues. The cave lying on ground level is illuminated. To reach the higher cave one must climb a steep path and inside it is dark. Therefore it is advisable to bring a flashlight. The climbing will be rewarded by the impressive cave and the overwhelming view.
Interesting village communities
On the road to the Pak Ou caves lies the village of Ban Xang Hai. Visitors can taste the locally produced rice wine. Here the wonderful traditional silk waving fabrics can be admired and purchased.
The community of Ban Sang Khong is also worth seeing. The residents produce classic fabrics and visitors can watch the production of the natural 'sa'-paper.
The Ban Phanom village is inhabited by the Thai Lu people who once migrated from southern China. They make beautiful hand-woven textiles. Nearby is another elephant camp and treks are offered with the pachyderms through the evergreen forest.
The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and the Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre are very interesting to visit.
A guided tour to the Living Land Farm is very informative and another great experience.
The climate in the region is suitable throughout the year for a visit. But the best time is during the cooler season from November to February. The temperature can fall over the night to 14 ° C and reach through the day maximum 29 degrees. In the rest of the year, the temperatures are between 20 and 34 degrees. During the rainy season, which lasts from April to September, it rains most in June and July. In the remaining monsoon months it rains much less and usually only for a short time in the late afternoon or at night.