As the former capital of the first Lao Kingdom in the middle of the 14th Century, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Luang Prabang is probably the first destination that anyone considering a Laos tour would include. There are many things to do in Laos and visiting Luang Prabang is certainly a ‘’must.’’ Wanderlust’s annual travel awards regularly feature Luang Prabang in the Top City category; there is atmosphere and charm here that even the increase in tourist numbers has not damaged.
The setting is the confluence of the Nam Khan and the mighty Mekong Rivers. On high there is a temple looking down on the city composed of traditional Lao houses and old French colonial architecture. It survived the downfall of the kingdom and sacking by the Chinese before the arrival of the French but after their departure, it was fairly weak and in danger of decay. The revival came thirty years ago as tourism number increased. Many buildings were restored and refurbished as a result and in 1995 it received UNESCO’s recognition.
With time on your hands, here are a few recommendations of the things you might consider to pass the time:
• Everyone should take a cruise on the Mekong. There are several options each day including a BBQ as the sun sets, arguably the best alternative to choose.
• One of the genuine experiences of a Laos travel package is meeting the people and learning about their culture and skills. You can go to the Backstreet Academy where you will learn about carving, silk weaving, stencilling and the traditional musical instruments.
• Big Brother Mouse is an organisation whose aim is to improve literacy. You can volunteer to help with language skills and perhaps while you are there you can buy the books they publish in both Lao and English. They make great gifts.
• Music for Everyone School gives music classes to Lao children and tourists are welcome to come and help out.
• Mekong English Centre is another place where volunteers are most welcome.
• If you on a Laos vacation with kids, they will enjoy La Pistoche, a pool bar where there are toddler pools as well as proper swimming pools.
• Laos cuisine is interesting. There are several places in Luang Prabang where you can take cookery lessons to learn how to make a few of your favourites. You are likely to start at the market to buy fresh produce and obviously at the end you will eat what you have cooked. Some of the good hotels offer this service as well.
• You can learn about rural life by visiting Living Land Farm where you can see the rice and organic vegetables, the tools used by farmers to process the rice.
• The Night Market is interesting, even if you do not want to buy anything.
• It is perfectly safe to go exploring. If you rent a motorbike you can be out in the countryside in minutes and you will find very little traffic on the roads.