My dear travellers, how are you today? Are you ready for a new adventure? Last week, you had the opportunity to see how looks like an unusual elephant shelter in Laos. Additionally, you have had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Luang Prabang’s nature, if you haven’t arrived to read my previous post or you might want to remind of some interesting details, you can do so now by clicking this LINK.
Today we continue our adventure in Luang Prabang and I will do my best to give you tips on what to visit in this city and to fill your time in the best possible way if you decide to visit this unusual country in Southeast Asia.
Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of Lao for the invitation, as well as Qatar Airways for a wonderful collaboration.
Luang Prabang, literally translated as “the image of the Royal Buddha”, is a city in north-central Laos, consisting of 58 neighboring villages, 33 of which are UNESCO-listed as Luang Prabang World Heritage Sites.
It was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995 because of the unique and “extraordinarily” well-preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage and mix of rural and urban parts of the city that survived for centuries, including French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The city center is located on four major thoroughfares and is located on a peninsula at the mouth of the Nam Khan River and the Mekong River. Luang Prabang is known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. The most famous of these is the Wat Xieng Thong Temple you see in the pictures. Every morning, hundreds of monks from various monasteries walk the streets of Luang Prabang collecting alms.
It is the famous Monk Parade, which I will detail and introduce to you in a future post. One of the major city attractions is Mount Phou Si, a large steep hill that is 150 meters high. There is also a steep staircase leading to the Wat Chom Si Temple with a beautiful view of the city and both rivers.
The city was formerly the capital of the Luang Prabang Kingdom of the same name. It was also known by the ancient name of Xieng Thong. It was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos until the 1975 takeover of Pathet Lao. The city is part of Luang Prabang district in Luang Prabang province and is the main and administrative center of the province. It is located about 300 km north of the capital Vientiane.
Currently, the total population of Luang Prabang District is over 400,000, while the city itself has a population of around 56,000 and the UNESCO protected site is home to around 24,000 people.
Muang Sua was the old name of Luang Prabang after the conquest of the Thai prince, Khun Lo in 698 AD. Khun Lo donated the city to his father, Khun Borom, who is associated with the Lao legend of the creation of the world. A legend that the people of Laos share with Shan and other nations in the region. Khun Lo founded a dynasty in which fifteen rulers ruled over independent Muang Su for nearly a century.
In the second half of the 8th century, Nan-Chao often became involved in the affairs of the principalities of the Mekong Middle Valley, resulting in the occupation of Muang Su in 709 AD. The dates of the occupation are unknown, but the occupation probably ended well before the expansion of the Khmer Empire in the north of Indravarman I (r. 877–89) and extended to the territory of Sipsong Panna in the upper Mekong.
Meanwhile, the Kmers established a new headquarters in Ksai Fong near Vientiane, and Champa expanded again in southern Laos, retaining its presence on the Mekong shores until 1070. Chanthaphanit, the local ruler of Xai Fong, moved north to Muang Sua and was accepted peacefully as ruler after the departure of Nan-Chao Administrator.
Chanthaphanit and his son reigned for a long time, during which the city became known as Xieng Dong Xieng Thong.
The dynasty eventually became embroiled in several principalities. Khun Chuang, the ruler who expanded his territory as a result of the war actions of these principalities and ruled from 1128 to 1170. Khun Chuang, the ruler of a dynasty that ruled over the territory and reinstated the 7th-century Siamese administrative system.
Luang Prabang was also involved in many various modern historical events during World War II and was occupied by several forces during the war (France, Thailand, Imperial Japan and China). Initially, the French controlled the city, but lost it to the Thai forces after the Franco-Thai War of 1940-1941. years.
On the early morning of March 9, 1945, the nationalist group declared Laos once more independent, with Luang Prabang as its capital, but on April 7, 1945, two battalions of Japanese troops occupied the city.
The Japanese tried to force Sisavang Wong (King of Luang Phrabang) to declare Lao independence, but on April 8 he simply declared an end to Laos’ status as a French protectorate. The king then secretly sent Prince Kindavong to represent Laos with the Allied forces and Sisavang Vatthan as representative of Japan.
Following the surrender of Japan to the Allies, the free French forces were sent to reconquer Laos and enter Luang Prabang, at which time the king assured the French that Laos remained a French colonial protectorate. In September, Chinese nationalist forces arrived to receive the surrender of the remaining Japanese forces.
In April and May 1946, the French attempted to conquer Laos by means of paramilitary forces to capture Vientiane and Luang Prabang and drive Phetsarath and the Lao Issar ministers from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
During the First Indochina War, Viet Minh and Pathet Lao attempted to occupy the city several times in 1953 and 1954, but were stopped before French forces could overtake it.
During the Laotian Civil War in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a secret US air base was located in Luang Prabang and was the scene of great fighting. Luang Prabang remained the royal capital until 1975, when the communist forces of Pathet Lao seized power with the support of North Vietnam and dissolved the ancient monarchy.
Luang Prabang has many natural beauties and historical monuments that are really worth a visit. Among the natural tourist attractions are Kuang Si Waterfalls, Tat Sae Waterfalls and Pak Ou Caves. Located in the city center, Phou Si enjoys sweeping views of the city and river systems, and is a popular place to watch the sunset over the Mekong River.
At the end of Luang Prabang’s Main Street is a night market where t-shirts, bracelets and other souvenirs are on sale at the stands.
The Haw Kham – Royal Palace Museum and Wat Xieng Thong Temple are the most famous historical sites. Every morning, at sunrise, the procession of monks in the procession through the streets accepting the alms offered by the locals, an event very popular with tourists.
Mountain biking is quite common and people often cycle around the city or waterfalls during the day. Down the Mekong River, there is one interesting spot which is about a 15 minute boat ride from Ban Chan (a pottery village).
Kuang Si Waterfall is a three-level waterfall, located about 30 kilometers from Luang Prabang. These waterfalls are a popular tourist spot in Luang Prabang. They are accessed by a specially designated path leading to the waterfalls themselves. The water flows into the turquoise blue “pool” before continuing downstream.
Tickets are paid, but all for the purpose of maintaining cleanliness and preserving the natural environment. Most pools are open for swimming (although at least one is closed as a sacred place).
There is also a bear shelter in the park – Tat Kuang Si. Here you can find Asian black bears known as “moon” bears are an endangered species. Although East Asian culture is believed, the millennial practice of traditional medicine has proven problematic for the bear population in this region of the region.
Laos is still a developing country, so adequate medical care is difficult or practically impossible to reach outside cities such as Luang Prabang or Vientiane. Most people in the more rural parts of the country are forced to rely (for lack of education and medicine) on traditional medical practices, and many come from traditional Chinese medicine or ancient Lao shamanism.
In Lao traditional medicine, bears are believed to contain certain magical properties, so they are considered to be some kind of miraculous medicine. Across the country, these rare and endangered species of bears are being captured by hunters, forced to live in tiny cages and given milk because of their medicinal properties. This type of bear was also brought to China, which unfortunately helps to stimulate the “industry”.
A breathtaking natural oasis. I encourage you to take the time to enjoy nature and dive into one of the many waterfall pools.
For the true adventurer, you can take one mini-tour walk for three hours through a minority ethnic village and forest before ending at the very top of the waterfall, enjoying magnificent views of the waterfalls.
If you decide to spend one afternoon freshening up at Kuang Si Waterfall, be sure that you gonna make a right decision. Just bring your swimsuit with you and that’s it, you can enjoy divine waterfalls.
After visiting this beautiful waterfall, it’s time for Mr.M to move on! Luang Prabang is still the most visited city in Laos today. 90 percent of the country’s people work in agriculture, and rice accounts for 80 percent of Laos’ agricultural production. This is an unexplored destination that has yet to be massively explored.
Some of the specific characteristics that make Laos unusual are the religions, cultures and traditions that persist. Surrounded by mountains, Luang Prabang is located at 700 meters above sea level at the mouth of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.
Old Luang Prabang’s city charm is made up of over 2000 monks living in 33 gilded Buddhist temples and monasteries. This city is rich in beautiful landscapes, sustainable programs for achieving a better life for the local community, rich in culture and local villas that have been renovated and revived to operate as a special type of “boutique” type of hotels.
Wat Mai Suvannaphumaham or Wat Mai (New Monastery) is one of the largest and most beautiful temples in Luang Prabang. Its central location (in front of the night market and next to the Royal Palace) makes it one of the most visited temples of this ancient royal city.
This temple was built by King Anourout in the late eighteenth century, and expanded in the 19th century. Its restoration, during the reign of King Manthatourat (1817-1836), was given the name known today to everyone – the “New Monastery”.
This temple is very important to the Lao people in Luang Prabang. After the Chinese destroyed the city in the last half of the 19th century, it served as a temple to the royal family and was also for a long time obscured by Phra Bang, which is a mystical emblem in this country. It was also the residence of the highest Lao Buddhist dignitary, Pra Sangkharat.
Wat Mai (New Monastery) is one of the largest, most picturesque and most photographed temples in Luang Prabang. Located close to the popular Sisavangvong Street Night Market and affiliated with the National Royal Palace Museum, it is important for both its religious and the aesthetic beauty of the city.
The temple, founded by King Anourout (Anurat, born 1795-1817), perhaps 1796/7, dates mainly from the 19th century. The rebuilding of the timber structure probably began in 1821 or 1822 during the reign of King Manthatourat. Work on the sim, library and other supporting buildings lasted until the 1890s.
Many other structures date from the 20th century. Major restorations were made in 1943 and 1962, as well as in recent times. The wooden sim is built in traditional Luang Prabang style with additional motifs on either side.
The monastery has special significance for a number of reasons. It served as a temple to the royal family and was for a long time the residence of Pra Sangkharat, the highest Laotian Buddhist dignity.
As a result of the raids of the Chinese who ravaged much of the city in 1887 (Wat was spared, perhaps because of its beauty), Wat Mai became the warehouse of the city palladium, Prabang. In 1947, the golden statue was moved to the royal palace, today it is the Royal Palace Museum.
During the Pi Mai, Laotian New Year in mid-April, a ceremonial washing of the Buddha figure takes place over three days and the opportunity for worshipers to pay their respects.
After visiting the Wat Mai Temple we had to hurry as we were in a hurry to make a special cruise on the Mekong River. For all those travelers who do not have time to travel on a long cruise to Thailand or other provinces. The best way to experience the Mekong in a few hours would be a cruise where you can enjoy the Mekong River at sunset.
Enjoy a relaxed and carefree time with Khopfa Sunset Cruise, enjoying the light breeze on your face and the warm sunshine. As you float towards the ever-growing rivers and mountains, the orange glow slowly fades in the background of the Mekong River. You don’t mind having coffee, tea or some refreshing drinks and some snacks along the way to make your mini cruise perfect.
I had the opportunity to finish my day in Luang Prabang with wine and a light dinner and I don’t think I could have imagined a better end to an exciting day in far-away Laos.
The next morning I started aboard again and embarked on a half day cruise. Mr.M set out to visit the most unusual temple in Pak Ou Cave. I have to admit that I woke up cheerfully that morning, it was all nice until I realized that the night before I did not put the appliance to charge. Fortunately I always carry more spare batteries, so some of them are charged.
Near Pak Ou Cave (mouth of the Ou River), Tham Ting (lower cave) and Tham Theung (upper cave) are caves overlooking the Mekong River, 25 km north of Luang Prabang. It is a group of two caves on the west side of the Mekong River, about two hours upstream from the city center, no matter what the distance, this is a great tourist attraction and believe me it is worth setting aside 4 hours of your time to visit this sacred place.
The caves are known for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures were placed over wall shelves. The figures occupy many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain and leaning (nirvana).
Before the caves were discovered by people from the region and tourists, during the Laotian New Year, the believers came to bathe in the caves in the hope of receiving a blessing in the coming year. Now that the caves have become a famous tourist attraction, visitors here have the opportunity to see something new and unusual.
The cat looks a little angry in this picture, I think she was more thoughtful. I realized that a few seconds after taking the photo, because it called (meow call) for me and set me up for a round of good pampering. Luckily I had enough time to play!
By the end of the day I was enjoying the beauty of the Mekong River and went to bed early as I needed extra energy for the next day as it had to get up very early. The next morning Mr.M was obliged to get up at four o’clock in the morning as every day the “Monk Parade” began at 5:20 it was necessary to prepare food for the monks.
Together with the staff at MyLaoHome, I prepared food for the monks and was ready to go. I will explain more about the procession of the Monks in the next post that will be dedicated to Buddhism, temples in Laos, as well as the procession of the Monks themselves, where they gather food every day.
After the Monk Parade, a team from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of Lao, together with a representative of MyLaoHome hotel and a tour operator specialized travel agency, took me to the famous morning street market.
This market starts from the early morning hours, just before 6am and lasts until 9am, sometimes until 10am. Unusual little center hawks become street counters where you can always find different types of food items from fresh fruits and vegetables to the most varied types of meat and fish. Everything is fresh and the Lao people respect this tradition and even tourists have become customers.
In addition to the food and drink at this market, you can find clothing and toys, so everything can be found here, as our people would say from needle to locomotive. I have to admit that I was most impressed by their temperament and cordiality.
On the other hand, as an economist and a person who has been in the business of marketing and marketing for years, I can tell you that they are sweet and good traders, so far as pricing is concerned. At the market it is important to sell the goods as soon as possible while still fresh, so a deal is always possible!
Since I was interesting to the locals, they were cordial so they offered me their specialties for free. I can tell you that “street food” is interesting to them and you won’t go wrong if you decide to taste some of the more unusual dishes. I’m sure you’ll find your favorite dish quickly!
After my visit to this unusual market, I had enough time to pack my suitcase and get ready for my flight home. Everything that is beautiful has its end, so is travel. That shouldn’t worry us, because it’s always the right time for a new adventure!
My dear travellers, once again we have come to the end post from special series of post from my Lao adventure. Time just flies so fast when you are having a good time! At the end of this post, I would like to thank my friends from Ministry of Information, Culture, Tourism of Lao DPR and Qatar Airways for this incredible adventure and MyLaoHome Hotel & Spa for their huge efforts to make our stay unforgettable and I felt like at home. Also I would like to say huge thank you for this great adventure.
This time, Qatar Airways recognized the quality of my work and they wanted to be part of this amazing project. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with companies that are at the top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank them for this incredible adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of Asia in a completely different way.
How do you like this story about Luang Prabang? Have you maybe had a chance to visit Laos? I would like to share with me your experience! See you next week with another interesting story from Laos and we will continue our adventure in Laos, where I will show you the most beautiful temples in Laos and TAK BAT, which is in Lao culture very important.
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This post was sponsored by Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of PDR Lao and Qatar Airways airline company. I would like to say thank you to MyLaoHome Hotel & Spa and Tours for having me. This trip was an extraordinary experience for me!