Last summer we spent just over a week in Laos, including 4 nights in Luang Prabang. We flew in from Bangkok and were already impressed by the views from our window seat on the plane. We touched down in the cutest little airport, a first indication of the size of this riverside town. Nevertheless, there are a bunch of fun and interesting things to do in Luang Prabang, and we weren’t bored for a second during our stay.
Here are the 7 best things to do in Luang Prabang.
Spend a day at the Living Land Rice Farm
The Living Land Rice Farm is an organic farm just out of the centre of Luang Prabang. Spending a morning as a traditional rice farmer there is one of the top things to do in Luang Prabang. You’ll get your hands dirty going through the 14 steps of turning 1 rice seed in your hand to a portion of sticky rice on your plate. Intrigued? I sure was and I can’t recommend this experience enough. We had a blast! Compared to other things to do in Luang Prabang it’s pretty expensive, but definitely worth the 345,000 kip (~$42) per person you’re asked to pay.
Apart from the fun it also makes you stop and think about the people who have to do this day in day out, probably barely making enough money to feed their families. The Living Land Rice Farm tries to make a difference though. They’re a community enterprise, supporting the locals and helping educate children from disadvantaged families. You can volunteer with them to give English lessons to children at night.
Go on a day trip to the Kuang Si Waterfall
Another one of the most popular things to do in Luang Prabang is a day trip to the Kuang Si Waterfall. So if you don’t plan your visit well, you’ll be sharing this wonderful spot with tons of other tourists. It really is worth a visit though, not just for the stunning waterfalls, but for the scenic drive over there as well. Note that the entrance fee is 20,000 kip (~$2.50) per person.
Observe Tak Bat
Each morning at sunrise, the alms giving ceremony, also known as Tak Bat, is held in Luang Prabang. A seemingly endless stream of resident monks of all ages leave their temple (or wat) to collect rice offerings from locals. The barefoot monks are dressed in saffron-coloured robes, with a lidded bowl hanging from their shoulder. Locals sit on one side of the street, putting rice in the bowls of the passing monks.
Tak Bat is a religious ceremony, not a tourist attraction. Dress appropriately, with shoulders and knees covered, and observe this sacred tradition with respect from the other side of the road. Don’t interact with the procession of monks in any way. If you wish to participate, ask your hotel or guesthouse to make arrangements. They’ll accompany you and inform you about how to engage respectfully. Don’t be one of those tourists we don’t want to be associated with.
We decided to just observe the alms giving ceremony. In August, while we were in Luang Prabang, sunrise was at around 5:45. We watched the monks pass from across the street, right around the corner of our guesthouse. There were no other tourists, except for the middle-aged couple taking part in the ceremony. It was a weird, but interesting experience. Everything was silent and we felt a bit like intruders, watching this sacred morning ritual. Do choose your observation spot right, because one block ahead, many tourists spilled out on the streets.
This is a hyperlapse we made of the Tak Bat Ceremony in Luang Prabang:
Climb Mount Phousi
We love viewpoints, and climbing Mount Phousi will grant you an impressive (almost) 360° view over Luang Prabang and surroundings. Entrance to the stairs leading up to Wat Chomsi at the top costs 20,000 kip per person. You can start the climb on either side of the mountain: from the Luang Prabang Night Market or from the parallel road on the other side. Dress appropriately, shoulders and knees covered, as there are several temples on Mount Phousi. I thought I had packed my scarf to cover my legs, but found out at the top I didn’t. Shame on me!
Watching the sunset from Mount Phousi is a popular thing to do in Luang Prabang among tourists, so be early for a good spot. We arrived at the top of Mount Phousi at about 17:30 and it started to get really busy around 18:00. Do note that we visited in August, not high season.
There is a great photo op on a rock with the view in the background, for which a line was already forming when we arrived. If you want a more peaceful moment on top of Mount Phousi, sunrise is probably a better idea. Most people are not prepared to get up that early.
Explore Luang Prabang by Bicycle
Due to its small size, Luang Prabang is very explorable by bicycle. Rent one at your guesthouse (we paid 20,000 kip (~$2.50) each) and just cycle around this cute town. Do some geocaching, find a great viewpoint of the Mekong, get a refreshing drink or some delicious food. You’ll definitely get some interesting shots!
Watch the sunset by the Mekong
A typical tourist day in Luang Prabang ends with watching the sunset from Mount Phousi. It can get busy though, so chances are you’ll be sharing this moment with a bunch of other tourists. For a more private and romantic sunset experience, we recommend finding a nice spot along the Mekong River. It’s just as beautiful and you won’t be bothered by reckless people flying their drone in irresponsible ways in the crowd at Mount Phousi. Even better, you can fly your own drone in a safe and responsible way for some stunning shots.
Wander around the Luang Prabang Night Market
A visit to any city isn’t complete without a market, especially in Southeast Asia. Every night around 17:00 locals start putting up their tents all along Sisavangvong Road for the daily Night Market. They put out all kinds of handmade things like scarfs, jewellery, paintings, a variety of interior decorations, and, of course, “Beer Lao” shirts.
We usually don’t have room in our backpacks for souvenirs, but love to wander around, drink a fruit juice and do a little window shopping. Well. Actually, that’s me. Brecht gets tired of it really quickly.
When visiting Laos, you should definitely stay in Luang Prabang for a couple of days at least. There’s a very relaxed atmosphere in this small town, no rush at all, and friendly people. It didn’t feel touristy to us, except for maybe at the Kuang Si Waterfall and on Mount Phousi. We actually saw the same couple of tourists several times across town, because it’s quite small.
Even though I enjoyed our entire stay, my absolute favourite thing to do in Luang Prabang was spending a day at the Living Land Rice Farm. It felt like such an authentic experience, and I was genuinely interested in the process, and fascinated by their methods. You should definitely visit the Kuang Si Waterfall as well, and get up really early one day to observe Tak Bat.
Have you been to Laos yet? What were your favourite things to do in Luang Prabang? Did we miss out on some awesome sights or activities? We’d love to read about your experience in the comments!
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