Nestled in Northern Laos amongst hazy green mountains and the majestic rivers of Mekong and Nam Khan, the charming ancient wonder of Luang Prabang was once a small royal kingdom before it became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Besides gilded temples, French-Indochinese architecture, a rich street food culture and the beauty of nature, there’s more to be discovered off the beaten track.
Start your day at the peak of Mount Phousi for a stunning panoramic view of the city as the sun rises from the jungle-clad mountains. Then head to the bustling Morning Market in the heart of Luang Prabang for fresh locally grown produce, street food and tasty snacks to take home.
Feed and walk with a group of friendly Asian elephants at the Mandalao Elephant Conservation, a non-riding elephant sanctuary focused on education and animal welfare. It rescues elephants from surrounding camps and treats them with respect. Tap into your inner farmer at Laos Buffalo Dairy Farm and milk the buffalos. The socially responsible enterprise takes pride in its sustainable practices and home-made cheese and dairy products including ice cream made from buffalo milk.
Soak up the picturesque views of the glistening Kuang Si Waterfalls. Don’t forget to pack your swimmers if you’re planning to take a refreshing dip in its electric turquoise waters (it’s cold – you’ve been warned). On the way down, drop by Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, home to wild moon bears rescued from poachers.
Follow the intricate makings of traditional sinhs and scarves, starting from the silkworm to the gorgeous end product at Ock Pop Tok. Try your hand at becoming a master weaver or batik painter at its classes.
Witness the spellbinding sunset during a leisurely Mekong Kingdoms cruise down the magnificent waterways of the Mekong River. After, make your way to Sisavangvong Road and satiate your appetite for Laotian bites a la sticky rice, barbecued chicken on skewers and soupy bowls of khao piak sen noodles at Food Street. Once you’re all fuelled up, put your bargaining skills to the test at the neighbouring Night Market, complete with all the usual suspects – trousers, pouches and totes adorned in elephant prints — as well as beer tees, magnets and bookmarks. You can also find traditional Lao crafts, screen- printed art, hand-woven items and antiques.
Get your caffeine fix at Saffron Coffee, a two-storey ‘profit- for-purpose’ cafe supporting Lao farmers. Coffees are made with quality Lao Arabica, shade-grown and roasted by northern Lao hill tribe farmers. Have your Lao latte with stacks of gingerbread pancakes.
Treat yourself to a fine-dining experience after a day of exploring at L’elephant Restaurant. Savour the flavours of France and Laos by digging into mok pa for (mashed fish and coconut steamed in banana leaf) or kroua prak lot meet (sauteed vegetables and mushrooms) and a selection of local and imported wines.
Smile Luang Prabang Hostel is a no-frills budget accommodation with air-conditioned rooms and private bathrooms. It’s also a stone’s throw away from attractions like Mount Phousi, the National Museum and Wat Xieng Thong.
From $14 a night.
Stay at Pullman Luang Prabang, surrounded by lush paddy fields and misty mountains. The family-friendly resort comes complete with three pools, a luxury spa and a lakefront restaurant. Each room is equipped with cool features including an Illy coffee machine and a Bose sound system.
From $121 a night.
Standing on a historic site that was once occupied by the French Governor, Sofitel Luang Prabang is a luxury hotel that combines traditional Lao architecture with the French colonial style. Each room opens into a garden with an outdoor gazebo and bathtub. Keep an eye out for the resident bunnies hopping around the manicured gardens.
From $304 a night.