24 Hours in Luang Prabang, Laos
By Kerris Ursell
If you are seeking a relaxed pace of life and a warm welcome, there’s no better place than Laos; golden temples, saffron-robed monks, rusty old bicycles meandering down crumbling colonial boulevards, and a scattering of river islands upon the mighty Mekong River. Follow our whistle-stop guide for a magical 24 hours in Luang Prabang…
Sunrise: Alms Ceremony
Start early, waking up for sunrise, to meet your host and travel like the locals by Tuk-Tuk to the Peninsula where you will witness and attend the alms giving ceremony, known as ‘Tak Bat’. Every morning yogi-robed monks from the monasteries congregate in the main street to collect their daily food donated by the local villagers.
Morning: Rosewood and Royal Palace
Return for breakfast at The Great House, Rosewood. With the cuisine having a strong influence from Laotian regional specialties, one can embrace local culture or opt for a simple egg’s benedict.
After breakfast, wander down the main street to visit the former Royal Palace, now converted into a museum. Built in 1904 French Colonial era, there is a distinct French influence about the building in both the architecture and decoration. Walk barefoot along the polished hallways to see the old living quarters of the royal family, as well as the crown jewels of Laos.
Afternoon: Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
This afternoon, stop by this eccentric museum dedicated to the various ethnic groups that inhabit Laos. It is a non-profit centre featuring religious artefacts, clothing, traditional household objects and various handicrafts practiced by the different groups. There is a focus on the Hmong and their New Year Celebrations; the Khmu, their baskets and the art of backstrap looms; the Mien Yao embroidery and Lantern Taoists religious ceremonies; the Tai Dam bedding and Tai Lue culture. A large proportion of the profits from the shop go directly to supporting ethnic artisan communities.
Sunset: Mount Phousi
The sun sets early in this part of the world so make sure you climb the steps opposite the Royal Palace by 5pm up to Mount Phousi. This is the highest point in Luang Prabang and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across the town and the Mekong River, just as the sun dips below the horizon. On the way back down from Mount Phousi you will pass by several monasteries, witnessing monks going about their evening chores.
Evening: Night Market
Back at ground level the path will bring you out at the end of the night market, which, now the sun has gone down, will be in full swing. This is known as the awakening Hmong minority people night market. Huddled between the gazebos and shopping for a few handicrafts, make your way to the start of the market, where you can find sandwich shops serving delicious baguettes.
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