ActiveTravel Asia

Home > Destinations > Laos > Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

LUANG PRABANG province possesses one of Northern Laos' most diverse landscapes. In the west, the Mekong cuts through dense jungle and lines it with sandy banks. The south is dominated by awesome massifs climbing north from Vientiane and the Nam On (Ou River) voyages north from the city of Luang Prabang, humbled by sheer cliffs of karst around Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi Neua. In the east, Rte 7 ambles towards Xieng Khuang province and the scenery gives way to soft hills of tawny brown.

Travelers head here for a few days and end up spending a few weeks exploring the beguiling topography. Access through the Province is comparatively easy and all roads lead to and from Luang Prabang city, one of Laos's highlights. With Rte 13 almost fully sealed, putting the province within a day's drive of China as well as Vientiane.

Luang Prabang is well on its way to becoming one the country's richest provinces. Luang Prabang harbors 12 ethnicities, of whom nearly half are Lao Thoeng, 40% Lao Loum and the remainder Lao Soung. Colour is the first of Luang Prabang's virtues to greet travelers. Pearly frangipanis with heady perfume, banks of overgrown trees peppered with scarlet flowers, the burnt Siena robes of hundreds of monks and their novices, and resplendent gold and claret wats.

The scent of fresh coffee, river activity, produce mail and spicy food soon follows. And then the broader aesthetics begin to unfold. encircled by mountains, and set 700m above sea is the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan river and the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is now Laos foremost tourist snow piece.

The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multi-ethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travelers and the quiet benevolence of the city's residents lulls them into somnambulant bliss. Sealed highways linking Luang Prabang with Thailand and China have turned the city into an important relay point for corner between the three countries. City governor have wisely provided a road bypass system that gives the city centre a wide berth.

Thus the sense of calm antiquity that first brought visitors to the city when Laos opened to tourism in 1989 has been well preserved. Moreover, the city is UNESCO Heritage listed, which means a blessed ban on buses and trucks. Most road activity consists of bicycles or motorcycles, but an even score simply go by foot. Although the city teems with travelers, it is not a party destination, and the 11.30pm curfew silences the city by midnight and maintains its traditional disposition.

More photos of Luang Prabang