Laos: Things to do in Luang Prabang

By Cubie - March 09, 2019

Here are the things we have done when we were in Luang Prabang, so they are not in any particular order. Here's a map for orientation.

1. Luang Prabang Night Market
The evening or night market operates every day and takes place from 17:00 to 23:00. The night market runs at Wat Mai and all the way till Sisavangvong Road to the town centre (Settathilat Road).

Vendors sell various of goods like clothes, bowls made from coconut shell, teas, etc. You can find different things for souvenirs but remember to shop around and haggle.

Opening hours: 17:00-23:00, daily

2. Morning market
The morning market is the usual wet market but with local produce so there are some products on sale that I am not familiar with.

Opening hours: Morning hours

3. Palace Museum/Haw Kham
Royal Palace Museum is located off one of main boulevards. The current main building dates from the early 20th century after the previous palace was destroyed by invaders in 1887. Current museum exhibits from several centuries back and include royal religious objects, paintings, gifts from other countries, etc. The palace was converted into a museum in 1995.

On the grounds of Royal Palace Museum also houses Haw Pha Bang, the "Royal Temple" as well as a lotus pond.

Opening hours: 08:00-11:30 and 13:30-16:00 every day except Tuesday.
Entrance: 30,000 kip per person

Royal Palace

Royal Temple

4. Phousi Hill and Wat That Phousi
It is more often referred to as Mount Phousi but the height probably is more of a hill, if any a small mountain. There are 2 ways to get to the top, opposite Royal Palace Museum and the other is on Thanon Phousi. At the top of the hill is Wat That Chomsi, a golden pagoda.

The stairway from Thanon Phousi has a few viewpoints along the way, including Wat Tham Phousi if you have time for stops on your way up, can consider this way to go up and come down the other way. However, we noticed that most tour buses arrange to go up this way as well (i.e. via Thanon Phousi) so it could be a bit more crowded this way.

We went up stairways across from Royal Palace Museum as we went after visiting the Royal Palace for sunset view. There was already a fair of people sitting around waiting for the sun to set.

Opening hours: Can climb the mountain from 06:00am.
Entrance fee: 20,000 kip per person

5. Tak Bat / Alms giving ceremony
As the sun rises in Luang Prabang, Buddhist monks depart from their various temples to gather their daily meal. It started off with ringing bell from the temple.

Locals prepare the food for the monks and quietly wait by the roadside. Men could stand but the women kneel down, to keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms. There are "rules" (so to speak) but it all stem from respect.

We stood from across the street, I haven't got a camera and only use my phone so the photo is blurry due to low light.

6. Wat Xieng Tong
One of the most historic and enchanting Buddhist monastery in the country. The main temple of Wat Xieng Tong or known as the Golden City Monastery, was built in 1560. It is said that the curving lines of the roof evoke a bird with outstretched wings like a mother hen sheltering her broad. The walls of the temple are elaborate and decorated with stencilled gold motifs.

Opening hours: 08:00-17:00, daily
Entrance fee: 20,000 kip per person

7. Bamboo bridge
The bamboo bridge is only available 6 months of the year. The bridge is removed during rainy season due to strong current and will be washed away when the water rises. Bamboo bridge is located over Nam Kham River, off Kingkitsarath Road. There's a booth to collect a fee for those who crosses the bridge to support the Lao family that build the bridge. We walked across the bridge and continue till The Weaving Sisters, a weaving workshop/class. We didn't do any class or buy anything but there was a lady half way into her weaving lesson. We went again at night when it was lighted up to some photos, yup, the one below taken using mobile phone too.

Bridge fee: 5,000 kip per person

8. Hiking at Chomphet District
Part of the attraction is the ferry ride from Luang Prabang's main boat landing behind Royal Palace Museum. We took the vehicle ferry to cross over to the Chomphet District and wanted to do the 5 temples hike but only managed to visit 2 temples and saw one from the entrance.

The main temple that we wanted to go is Wat Chomphet but on the way, we stopped by Wat Xiengmenesaiyasettharam. I'm not sure if this one charge an entrance fee as there was no payment booth like the one at Wat Chompet. Nobody approached us to pay for entrance ticket but an elderly monk beckoned us to follow him to one of the building. It looked like their living quarter, and he went inside a room which we think is his room and took out a box. He told us to kneel down and started to pray and then tied a yellow blessing string on our left wrist. We put a little donation inside one of the box that he has. We were the only visitors at that time. There was another visitor when we first arrived but he left not long after.

We then continued our way to Wat Chomphet. Wat Chomphet is perched above 123 steps. It was built in 1888 but not very well maintained. Due to it's location, it has great view of the surrounding area, Mekong river and Luang Prabang town.

We left Chompet almost during sunset time in hope to catch the setting sun on boat but it was hidden from behind a hill. Good colour, nonetheless.

Ferry: 5,000 kip one way, per person
Wat Chompet: 10,000 per person

9. Mekong River cruise
Lucky that there are many cruise options along Mekong River and engaging a boatman by ourselves aren't too expensive so that was what we did. In fact, many would approach and ask if we wanted a river cruise. We went around mid morning and the cruise went for an hour.

Mekong River cruise: 80,000 kip per boat

10. Lao cooking class
We did a cooking lesson in Laos and it was fun. Initially we wanted to enrol with another school, Bamboo Tree & Vatsene Restaurants & Lao Cooking School but they don't run cooking lessons on Monday which was the only day we have left. We contemplated for awhile before deciding wanting to do the lesson so we only registered ourselves the same morning. Despite the website mentioned that lessons are available daily but it wasn't on the Monday that we want to join. So we registered with Tamarind and did the evening lesson because morning lessons usually includes a visit to the market and more pricey.

We went to Tamarind Restaurant just before 4:30pm and paid the balance as we had to pay a deposit upon registration. While waiting, we were served a welcome drink. Then we were brought to their offsite cooking school by van. The class we attended had 7 pax including my sister and I. We really enjoyed ourselves, it was a fun activity! I definitely enjoy this one much more than the one I did in Sri Lanka. This one allows hands on experience.

We made 2 types of jeow (Lao spicy dipping sauce), mok pa (steamed herbed fish wrapped in banana leaves), lemongrass stuffed with chicken and herbs and a black sticky rice pudding dessert topped with fruits. Then we had them for dinner, along with a soup and 2 different salads (one was laab) and we were also given a recipe book to bring home. Now I just need to find some motivation to cook them again. :P

Lesson fee: 215,000 kip per person

11. Ock Pop Top
Ock Pop Tok is a centre that curates hand loomed textiles by village weavers or ethnic group in Laos, providing them with the ability to earn a livelihood; also workshops in weaving, etc. It is also provide colourful background for photography.

12. Big Brother Mouse
Big Brother Mouse was set up to promote literacy in Laos. We swang by and thought we could volunteer a couple of hours with younger kids as we are worried that we can't hold a conversation for up to 45 minutes as we are bad in small talks. However on the day of our visit, the volunteer work was done off site at their new school, Big Sister Mouse and we needed to get to the airport by noon time so we didn't.

13. Just random walkabout
There are many other temples dotted around the old city that are worth a visit, or shops that are going in just to check it out.

This is Utopia

Wat Choumkhong Sourin Tharam

14. Others
Outside of Luang Prabang, many make a trip to Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. We didn't visit either despite we were there for 5 days. Hahaha.

Side note: What camera do you use?

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  1. I'm intrigued now. How many days would you recommend in Luang Prabang? And did you find any worthwhile day-trip attractions nearby?

    1. mm.. I think a full 4 days in Luang Prabang would be also enough time to include Kuang Si Falls. If we have at least another full day, we would want to do Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi but Nong Khiaw it is about 3-4 hours by road and 6-7 hours by boat. A bit too long for a day trip.
      Muang Ngoi is an hour away from Nong Khiaw by boat.