Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is situated in the centre of northern Laos, bordering provinces of Oudomxay, Phongsaly and Houaphanh to the north, Vientiane and Sayabouly to the south and southwest and Xiengkhouang to the east.
Luang Prabang Overview

Population: Luang Prabang province has a total population of just over 400,000 that includes 12 distinct ethnic groups. The Khmu are the largest ethnic group in the province and make up the majority (about 44%) of the provincial population.

They are a Mon-Khmer speaking people known for their knowledge of the forest, and they are believed to be the original inhabitants of Laos. The Hmong are the second most populous ethnic minority (16%). Lowland Lao comprise 39% of the population and live mostly in lowland valleys and Luang Prabang Town.

11 Districts: Luang Prabang, Xieng Ngeun, Nan, Pak Ou, Nambak, Ngoi, Pakxeng, Phonxay, Chomphet, Vieng kham and Phounkhone.

Capital: Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang History
Archaeological evidence suggests that Luang Prabang has been inhabited since at least 8,000 BC. The first Laos kingdom, Lane Xang, was founded here in the 14th century by King Fa Ngum after he conquered and unified the lands of modern-day Xiengkhouang , the Khorat Plateau and Luang Prabang. 
The city was first reffered to as Muang Swa and by 1357 the name was again changed to Muang Xieng Dong Xieng Thong by local inhabitants. Shortly thereafter, King Fa Ngum accepted a golden Buddha image called the Pha Bang as a gift from the Khmer monarchy and the thriving city-state became known as Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang was the capital of Lane Xang until moved to Vientiane in 1545 by King Setthathirath (although Luang Prabang remained the country's main religious centre). The city's first contact with western emissaries occurred in the mid 17th century during the reign of King Surigna Vongsa. After his death in 1694, Lane Xang broke up into three separate Kingdoms; Vientiane, Champasack and Luang Prabang.
By the late 19th century Luang Prabang was under attack by marauding Black Flag bandits who destroyed many sacred Buddha images, temples and historical documents. Under King Sisavang Vong (1904-1959) a number of restoration and beautification projects were launched, many of which are still evident today. French influenced buildings began to appear in the later 1800's, adding to the mixture of Lao, Tai-Lue, Burmese, Chinese and Tai architecture. 
Luang Prabang climate and best time to visit
By Air

There are domestic flights to and from the Laos capital, Vientiane into Luang Namtha Airport. There is a bus service direct from China taking around 4 hours plus the time at the border crossing. There is also a service to and from Vietnam and Thailand. It means that overland options exist for Indochina tour packages.

By Bus
Luang Prabang is up to 10 hours away depending on the condition of the roads. Their general condition is never more than fair and in the monsoon season, the trip is not for the faint hearted.
There are no scheduled boat services, and only occasional cargo ships so you would have to charter a boat to come and go on the river. If you are traveling in an organized party then all transport will be arranged for you.
Luang Prabang Transportation
By airplane:
Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ) is located 4 km from the center of Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang International Airport serves domestic and international flights. Several international and domestic airlines operate scheduled flights to/from Luang Prabang Airport, including Lao Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, China Eastern Airlines and Vietnam Airlines. Luang Prabang Airport Terminal provides various services, shopping, restaurant, information, currency exchange, ATM and transportation options.
By bus from either Vientiane 
From the north, travelers can arrive by boat or bus, depending on the origin. From Nong Khiaw, buses are 40,000 Kip and minivans are 50,000; both take about 4 hours. Boats are 110,000 and take 8 hours.
Things to do and see in Luang Prabang
Vat Xieng Thong Temple: 
Built during the 16th Century by King Saysetthathirath and completed in 1560. 
Wat Xieng Thong temple is one of the most interesting examples of art and Buddhist architecture.The ornate carved and gilded funeral vehicle of the former king is kept in one of the buildings in the temple grounds. It is well worth visiting and paying your respects to this temple while in Luang Prabang.This temple was used to organize the highest Royal Ceremonies and houses the bones of King Sisavangvong. 
The intricate golden facades, colorful murals, glass mosaics and unique three-layered roof make this one of the most beautiful temples in Asia.
Vat Visounarath: 
This is the oldest surviving temple in Luang Prabang, originally erected in 1503 by King Photisarat and rebuilt in 1898. The carved wooden railings in the temple's windows are reminiscent of those found in the Vat Phou temple in southern Laos. Inside you can admire ancient statues and steles. Also located on the grounds of this temple is That Pathome, also known as that Makmo (watermelon stupa) because of its shape. 
Vat Mai Suwannaphumaham: 
Built in 1796, Vat Mai (New Monastery) was given its present name following the restoration was undertaken in 1821 by King Manthathourat. 
Notice the four-tiered roof when visiting the temple, as well as the scenes from daily life and the legend of vessantara on the bas-relief walls.
Vat Chomphet: 
Located across the Mekong river to the north of Ban Xieng Mene, Vat Chomphet is built on the top of a hill, and offers stunning views of Luang Prabang town and the river. The temple was built in 1888, and although currently undergoing renovation, the dragon and bird designs on the ceiling still retain their mystical power. 
While in Luang Prabang, you may observe the morning alms giving ceremony where monks walk through town in single file carrying their alms bowls to give laypeople the opportunity to offer alms and gain merit. Offerings by the people are usually comprised of sticky rice, fruit or simple traditional snacks. 
Known as Binthabat in Lao, this is a sacred religious ceremony. Tourists may participate and photograph the ceremony. However, the people of Luang Prabang, especially the monks, ask that this is done is a respectful way and visitors do everything they can not to disrupt this ancient tradition. 
National Museum:
The former Royal Palace, which was constructed between 1904 to 1909 during the reign of King Sisavangvong, has now been converted into the National Museum. A collection of personal artifacts belonging to the former Royal Family, historical photographs, musical instruments and gifts to the nation from foreign countries are on display.
Vat That Chomsi Temple: Located at the top of Mount Phou Si in the heart of the town, this delightful stupa was built in 1804 during the reign of King Anourouth. Wat That Chomsi has become a symbol of Luang Prabang's spiritual significance to Laos. The view of the Mekong and the city from the hilltop is superb, especially in the evening. However, you must first climb 328 steps to see the 20m high Vat Chomsi Stupa - please dress accordingly and be aware that the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited. 
During the Pimai Festival, woman carries flower offerings up the stairs and leave as offerings at the foot of the stupa. A spectacular view is afforded from the top of Mount Phou Si.
In the foreground, the National Museum and gabled roofs of the many Buddhist temples can be seen scattered around the palm-tree label urban landscape. In the distance, the Mekong and Khan rivers are set against the dramatic mountain backdrop. 
Tad Sae Waterfall: This waterfall is accessible by car, tuk-tuk, bicycle but during the rainy season can be reach by boat only. It is divided into three limestone steps and is ten minutes ride up the Nam Khan River from Luang Prabang. This waterfall is perfect for picnicking, swimming and relaxing. 
Tad Kuang Si Waterfall: 
This impressive waterfall is located about 28 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. You can take a tuk-tuk from the center of the city or rent your own transport. Several villages inhabited by people from ethnic minorities can be visited along the way to the waterfall. The scenery on the way to Tad Kuang Si is beautiful featuring fresh air, flowers, and wild animals. 
Tham Ting Cave (Pak Ou Cave):
The caves are located 25km upriver from Luang Prabang, at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. These caves are a well known Buddhist site and a place of pilgrimage with 5,000 statues-mainly Buddha images in the traditional Luang Prabang style. To get to the cave, take a slow boat 1.5 hours upriver or a car/tuk-tuk for about one hour. 
Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi Gao:
Nong Khiaw is a small district capital bisected by the Nam Ou River north of Luang Prabang, famous for its dramatic limestone cliffs and lush vegetation. From Nong Khiaw take a boat one hour upriver to Muong Ngoi Gao, where you can get a taste of traditional Lao village life and relax in riverside bungalows. 
Trekking-Chomphet & Muang Ngoi: In Luang Prabang, two community-based treks have been supported by the Mekong Tourism Development Project. One trek begins just across the river from town in Chomphet district; the other starts in Muong Ngoi. Both are 2-day. 1-night treks where you can enjoy nature, interact with local people, and be confident that you are contributing to the sustainable development of tourism in Laos. More details are available at the Tourism Information Center. 
Ban Phanom: This village located 4km to the north of Luang Prabang was a former royal weaving village. You can view women working on their looms, buy their products and take a stroll through the village. It can be reached by bicycle or tuk-tuk. 
Ban Long Lao/Ban Nong Heo: A Hmong and Khmu village one hour's journey from Luang Prabang (travel by car or tuk-tuk). This village is located in a beautiful valley is the starting point for a three-hour trek that finishes at the Kuangsi waterfall. Local guides are available to lead you to the falls (note they speak only Lao). You can also begin a longer five-hour trek to Kuangsi Waterfall from Ban Nong Heo, which has a spectacular view over the valley and river. Ban Nong Heo is 20 minutes from town by tuk-tuk.
Ban Xieng Mene: Located across the Mekong from Luang Prabang Town in Chomphet District, Ban Xieng Mene is part of the World Heritage Site and offers a glimpse into Lao village life. There are several temples worth visiting in the village, including Vat Chomphet (visible up on the hill) which offers a spectacular view of Luang Prabang Town and the Mekong. 
Ban Xieng Mene is also the starting point for several short walks and bike-rides in the district, as well as longer two and three-day treks. 
Ban Chan: This village is famous for its traditional pottery-making, where you can watch pots being hand-thrown and fired in old ovens. The village's lamps and pots decorate the small streets of Luang Prabang's old town and are known all over northern Laos. Ban Chan is located in Chomphet District, across the Mekong River, and to the south. It can be by boat in 15 minutes, or by taking a boat across to Xieng Mene and walking downstream along the river for 25 minutes. 
Luang Prabang Travel Tips
+ Preparation for trip
Dress decently, especially when visiting temples and mosques. If you wish to wear khakis, they should be long enough to cover the knees. A hat or umbrella is useful against the sun. Put on sun block and moisturizer before leaving your hotel. A good pair of shoes is recommended, if you wish to explore on foot.
+ Things Not to Miss in Luang Prabang
Our Luang Prabang travel guide will help make the most of your visit to this tranquil city. Some of the most popular activities for tourists include:
• Swimming in the turquoise blue pools of Kuang Si Falls
• Taking in Laos’ Buddhist culture at the Golden City Temple
• Visiting the Luang Prabang Night Market to buy handmade local crafts
• Enjoying a relaxing massage at one of the many spas in the city
+ Eating.
Luang Prabang has restaurants in all price ranges. The best deals on local food can be found at the stalls lining an alleyway between the Mekong River and the market end of Sisavangvong Road. The street food market east of the tourist information building is often highly recommended (PBS Gourmet.
come even named it one of the must-see street food markets in Southeast Asia). In reality, it’s nothing special. If you’ve been to any real market in Southeast Asia, you won’t be impressed by the bland overpriced food on.
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