Luang Prabang, Northern Laos

April 12, 2014

In Northern Laos, the remnants of colonialism stands strong in Asia. French mansions turned into boutique hotels and delicious restaurants dot the Mekong River, while golden roofed monasteries gleam in the sunshine. The pace is slow, and the scenery is stunning. Luang Prabang is the perfect city for adventure, sight seeing, and whiling your time away in the warm weather.

Partake in the Morning Alms

Laos is a predominantly Buddhist country, and that presence is incredibly strong in Luang Prabang. In the wee hours of the morning, you are able to experience the giving of the Alms to the local monks. If you want to participate, please remember that this is a daily religious ceremony, and not just a photo op. Dress should be modest, as if you were going to a temple. This means shirt that covers shoulders and the chest, and pants to the knees.

The faithful line the streets as the orange robed monks make their morning trek through the streets. Each person places a bit of food in each monk’s silver dish. It’s tradition to sit on the ground, or at the least bow your head in respect, as monks are seen as higher in the literal and figurative sense. If you’d like to participate, talk to your guest house owner to help you arrange some rice or another offering. If you’d like to just observe, treat it like you would like someone to treat your own religious rites. Try not to interrupt the procession with picture taking, but rather, take in the beauty and simplicity of the morning alms.

Kuang Si Falls

Hop on a motorbike, or take out a tuk tuk to make the 30 kilometer trip to some of the best swimming you could get. Broken up into several sections, Kuang Si first takes your breath away with its stunning turquoise waters. You might expect this from a beach, but against the green, lush background of the jungle, this could be paradise. The large fall cascades down, slowly making its way down into pools that you can swim in. Clear and cool, a nice dip in the hot afternoons here are perfectly refreshing.

Pak Ou Caves

Follow the Mekong a bit of a ways out of town, and you’ll come across a cave that is truly special. Though the two caves, an upper and a lower, are not in themselves particularly memorable, it’s what’s inside that makes them so unique. In Buddhist tradition, you cannot throw out anything with His likeness on it. Broken or damaged Buddhas then occasionally need a new home. Now housing over 5,000 statues, ranging from as big as a coin to some a meter or more in height, it’s no wonder this place is nicknamed the Buddha Caves. Bring a flashlight for the upper cave, and you can try your luck with traditional fortune sticks. You can also place offerings of flowers and candles for a small donation near the statues.

For the more scenic route, you can rent a boat for the journey, taking you up and down the river to Pak Ou, as well as stopping at a local ‘whiskey village,’ to try some Laolao rice spirits. For an option that’s a bit cheaper, you and a few friends can also hire a tuk tuk for the day.

As you bike through the city, the smells of crispy baguettes and crepes waft side by side with khao soi noodles and crispy fried rice. Grab a bite as you stroll around the night market, browsing through local wares. Luang Prabang is quaint and quiet, but with many things to do for those who wish to seek them out. Start planning your trip to Laos today with Trekeffect!

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Maria Tugayeva
Mariya is a Marketing guru and writer, with a world experience from living and growing up in different countries. Her work quote is: "In a word: pleasure. It's like, my pleasure in other people's leisure." -Daniel "Spud" Murphy, Trainspotting
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