Luang Prabang and the North
The curved roofs of ancient temples, resident monks in saffron coloured robes and golden Buddhist stupas characterise the serene charm of Luang Prabang. With more than thirty temples in this small riverside town, there is a sense of peace and tranquillity and this is a truly captivating place to spend time. Situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Mekong and the Khan, against a backdrop of lush green mountains, Luang Prabang enjoys a magical location and the surrounding countryside also boasts waterfalls, hill tribe villages and caves. Formerly the capital of Laos under the last monarchy, Luang Prabang is known for her many temples. Novice monks from across Laos come to study in this tranquil and holy Buddhist town and their orange-robed presence helps to create a strong sense of tradition and serenity. The most beautiful temple is that of Wat Xieng Thong, with its delicate mosaics, gold leaf stencilling and ornate interiors. Other stunningly beautiful temples include Wat Mai, Wat Ahan and the hilltop temple at Mount Phou Si. Climbing to the top of the mount to watch the sunset is the perfect way to end a day’s touring.
Luang Prabang is also home to the Royal Museum, formerly the palace of the royal family. Nearby Kuang Si waterfalls also make for a picturesque excursion and it is possible to swim there at certain times of the year, although the water can be cold! For those interested in the untouched surrounding countryside, there are hilltribe villages to be visited, one or two day trekking options and visits to local craft villages where they make mulberry paper and weave silk in the traditional way. Many of the villagers journey to the main street of Luang Prabang and participate in the regular and lively nightmarket. The temple caves at Pak Ou are also a beautiful place to visit. Around an hour by boat from the town of Luang Prabang, the caves have been a place of pilgrimage for local Buddhists for centuries. A collection of Buddha images of all shapes and sizes now resides in the caves and is added to yearly by Luang Prabang residents. One of the best ways to arrive at this peaceful riverside town is by boat, with a relaxing ride downstream along the Mekong River from the border with Thailand at Huay Xai. The slow pace of this two day journey is a fitting start to any stay in Laos, helping you to adjust to the unhurried way of life as you follow the meandering path of the Mekong. If time is of the essence, Luang Prabang has regular flight connections to Vientiane, Hanoi, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and seasonal flight connections to Siem Reap. For the more adventurous traveller, North of Luang Prabang has much to offer, including the tented camp at Kamu Lodge and the towns of Luang Nam Tha and Muang Ngoi. However accommodation and infrastructure are basic in these regions, although travel here can be rewarding.
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