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Luang Prabang Laos What to See and Do

Updated on August 12, 2014

Visiting Luang Prabang

The UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang is a former Laotian capital. Today, the city attracts backpackers and travelers for its laid back vibe, authentic character, charming people, and architectural relics. These top 5 sites offer a wonderful introduction to the city of Luang Prabang.

Royal Palace Museum

The former Royal Palace grounds have been turned into a museum that provides an informative eye into the old monarchies of Laos. The Royal Palace Museum also houses the Pha Bang, the sacred bronze and gold Buddha image that gives the city of Luang Prabang its name. Annually, the Pha Bang is processed and washed during the Lao New Year celebration.

Other Royal Palace highlights including the stunning architecture, which is a combination of French and Lao styles, the royal artifacts inside, and the inlay tile work. Note there is no photography allows inside the Royal Palace Museum.

Phabang, Luang Prabang Laos.
Phabang, Luang Prabang Laos. | Source

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong means "Temple of the Golden City." This temple is widely-acknowledged as the best one in Luang Prabang, and is one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in the country. View the Buddha statues (including a rare reclining Buddha), funerary chapel, devotional alters, and carved door displaying scenes of the Buddha's life.

Don't miss the chance to wander around the scenic gardens or take in the intricate mosaic work on the temple exterior. It showcases different Lao legends.

This temple has had a number of recent renovations, so it is in excellent shape and should not be missed during your visit to Luang Prabang.

Phu Si Hill

Phu Si Hill or Mt. Phu Si (or Phou Si) lies adjacent to the historic district in downtown Luang Prabang. It offers amazing views of the city center, especially at sunset.

Climb the hill via a series of 329 steps or by paths that wind around the hill side. On your way up the hill, stop into the temples and monasteries that dot its slopes. The smaller temples you'll see offer an interesting counterpoint to Wat Xieng Thong.

Traditional Lao Dance at the Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet Theater performs the Lao version of the Ramayana three nights a week. On Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 6:00 p.m. during high season (and 6:30 the rest of the year), you can watch classically trained Lao dancers perform in the Royal Palace Garden.

Traditional Lao dance costumes.
Traditional Lao dance costumes. | Source

Artisan Night Market

Don't miss Luang Prabang's night market, which takes place along Sisavangvong Rd and starts at 5:00 p.m. Highlights include artisan works by weavers from a nearby village, mulberry paper lanterns, silk scarves, and Buddhist art. The night market here had had an influx or Chinese and Vietnamese products, but you can still find authentic Lao merchandise for gifting. Shops here typically close around 9-10 p.m.

Night market Luang Prabang.
Night market Luang Prabang.

© 2014 Lindsey D.


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