Hello and welcome to our Luang Prabang travel guide! We are Amelie & Victor – a French couple living in Paris who left everything behind to travel around the world in 2022. Amelie comes from Toulouse, the “Pink City”, in Southern France (so don’t be surprised about her southern accent) and Victor from Limoges (a quite small city in the center known for ceramics).
A few years ago, Victor lived in South America for a year and wanted to keep exploring. Amelie had already traveled a lot before we met. We quickly discovered a common passion: travel! Only three weeks after we first met, we visited Amsterdam and fell in love with each other in the canals. It was natural that the project to travel the world together came up.
Three Special Weeks in Laos
We visited Laos for three weeks, starting in Vientiane for two days – a strangely quiet city for a capital. Then we had four days in Vang Vieng where we rented a motorbike to discover the countryside and mountains. After that we went to Luang Prabang for 10 days. It’s easy to travel in this part of Laos as there is a fast train from Vientiane to the Chinese border.
Following those amazing experiences, we hopped on our motorbike to do the loops of Thakhek and Pakse where we rode through beautiful and authentic landscapes. Before leaving to go to Cambodia, we made a quick stop in the southern part of the country: Don Det and the 4,000 Islands.
Falling in Love with Luang Prabang
Culturally and spiritually speaking, Luang Prabang is rich. There are many temples, pleasant walks along the Mekong, a lively night market, an interesting Royal Palace and picturesque architecture. Around the city, from caves to waterfalls, there is something for everyone to enjoy. We should also mention the Tak Bat ceremony which is a morning procession of monks. It gives rhythm to the beginning of each day. Not to be missed!
As soon as we arrived in Luang Prabang, we were instantly under her spell. There is a gentle way of life here and this atmosphere makes it unique. We explored the city by strolling from the banks of the Mekong to the maze of small tree-lined streets, from decorated temples to colonial houses.
Once the sun’s rays vanish, the city becomes even more animated. The inhabitants wander along the main artery, which is now the epicenter of the city with its market, and the smell of the street food stalls completes the captivating setting. We were won over and loved this destination!
Top Highlight – The Festival of Light
Our stay in Luang Prabang coincided with a special event: The Festival of Light. The Lai Heua Fai, or Festival of Burning Boats as it’s otherwise referred to, marks the end of Buddhist Lent. At nightfall, people gather in the heart of the city which is adorned with thousands of colorful lanterns.
During the procession faces are revealed in the warm, flickering light of the lanterns. As spectators marveling at this parade, we shared in the emotion that emanates from it. It was incredibly beautiful and inspiring to share this moment with the Laotian people. An unforgettable experience!
Things To Do in Luang Prabang
- Discover the local markets
- Stroll along the Mekong River
- Wander around the city center
- Marvel at the city’s many temples
- Take in the views up Mount Phousi
- Attend the Tak Bat morning procession of monks
- Soak up the culture of the country at the Royal Palace
- Refresh yourself in the Kuang Si and Tad Sae waterfalls
- Book a sailing trip along the Mekong River if you have time
- Visit the Pak Ou Caves with its sanctuary of a thousand Buddhas.
The Generous & Kind Local People
The people in Laos and especially in Luang Prabang are kind, generous and welcoming. We made friends with the owner of our guesthouse (Boun) and he invited us to share dinner in honor of his son’s birthday. We met at the family farm outside the town, and shared a meal and festivities with Boun’s large family. Although not everyone speaks English, the smiles and laughter are a universal language. Another precious moment in Laos!
Delicious & Diverse Food of Laos
Food is a large part of Lao culture. The Laotians love sharing meals. At the night market of Luang Prabang, you will have a good overview of almost all the emblematic dishes of Laos. Sit at one of the large wooden tables, and share beers and food with the locals in a friendly atmosphere.
Lao cuisine isn’t too different from other Asian ones. We ate a lot of rice and noodles, but also some local BBQ. The national meal is Laap (salad of minced spicy pork served with sticky rice). It might be surprising for tourists to know that in Luang Prabang you can easily eat good French food – for example, Le Banneton Cafe French Bakery where we found fantastic French cheese and delicious croissants. Laos is a former French colony.
Where to Stay in Luang Prabang
To fully enjoy your stay in Luang Prabang we recommend staying in the center between the two rivers. It’s quiet and beautiful there. We stayed in Villa Kee Lee where we had a nice double room for $12 a day. If you want a fancy hotel but quite expensive, you should book a room at Manda de Laos. We only stopped for a drink here but the place was incredible. Speechless!
Tips for Visiting Luang Prabang
It’s easy to travel in Laos and especially in Luang Prabang. You will love the city and its atmosphere. The best time to go is during the Festival of Light, it’s the most important moment in the New Year. Rent a scooter to explore the countryside. This experience offers beautiful views with the scene of life along the way. You can take the train to reach the city: it’s fast and efficient.
Make sure you wake up early! An enchanting phenomenon starts at 5:30am every morning all across the city streets. The monks come to receive offerings from the faithful. You can stay on the sidewalk to observe this ritual but you have to respect certain rules – wear a respectful outfit, remain silent, no flash on your camera and keep a distance from the monks.