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Destinations

LUANG PRABANG

Luang Prabang, a province situated in the centre of Northern Laos, borders Phongsali Province to the north, Vietnam to the northeast, Houaphan Province to the east, Xiangkhouang Province to the southeast, Vientiane Province to the south, Xaignabouli Province to the southwest, and Oudomxay Province to the west.
Its capital, Luang Prabang, was the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom during the 13th to 16th centuries. It is listed since 1995 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its unique architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
 
Luang Prabang, UNESCO Heritage town - view from Phousi Hill
 
 
Area:16,875 sq.km
 
Population: 452,900 inhabitants including 12 ethnic groups. The Khmu are the largest ethnic group in the province (about 44% of the provincial population).
 
Topography: Luang Prabang  topography is made up of rugged highlands with elevation ranging between 500–2,257 metres and is drained by the Nam Khan and Nam Xuang Rivers, which flow primarily in southwest direction. Land distribution consists of 87% forest. The forest is of mixed deciduous and evergreen type with abundance of bamboo and grasslands resulting from shifting cultivation.
 
Administrative organization: 12 districts
 
Climate: Surrounded by jungle, with the Mekong River flowing through, Luang Prabang enjoys a tropical monsoon climate with two seasons: the dry season from November to May, the rainy season from May to October. Overall, the annual average temperature is approximately 250C and it is very humid most days, with annual precipitation of approximately 1300 mm.
The rainy season can be pretty cold and depending on the day and the altitude, there can be torrential rainfall. During this time, the Laotians anticipate the verdant fields and jungles to be replenished around then. However, for visitors, the monsoon season only has strong rain for small intervals of time. It can rain hard pellets for an hour and then the clouds will clear and the sun will shine. In Luang Prabang, August is the wettest month.
 
At coldest period in Luang Prabang, temperatures can rest at around 15.50C. During the colder months, it gets chilly at night and in the very early morning.
 
During the hottest time of the year in the dry season between March and May, temperatures can reach 32.2 to 37.70C. The best time of the year to visit Luang Prabang is between October to March when the temperatures are in the comfortable 210C.
 
 
Sights of interest
 
Situated in northern Laos the township of Luang Prabang sits on a peninsular at the confluence of two rivers, the Nam Khan and the famous Mekong. With its charming combination of timber Lao houses and European colonial architecture it is easy to see why UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1995.
 
Luang Prabang has both natural and historical sites.The Royal Palace now the national museum in the capital city, and the Phou Loei Protected Reserve are important sites. Notable temples in the province are the Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Wisunarat, Wat Sen, Wat Xieng Muan, and Wat Manorom.
 
The National Museum (Former Royal Residence)
 
The National Museum (Royal Palce Museum) in Luang Prabang (also known as “Haw Kham”) was once Laos' Royal Palace. It houses a lot of interesting historical items. Every item tells a story...so visitors can learn quite a lot about Lao history and about Laos' royal.
 
Built in 1904, it features a blend of Lao traditional and French style. It was built for King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era.  After the revolution in 1975, the building was taken over by the government. The palace was then converted into a national museum and opened to the public in 1995.
 
The palace building can be visualised in three main parts with different exhibits: the front wing, consisting of reception areas; the throne hall (in the middle) and the back wing that was once residential area.
 
National  Museum
 
Wat Xieng Thong
 
Built during the 16th century by King Saysetthathirath, Wat Xieng Thong temple is one of the most interesting examples of Buddhist art and architecture in Luang Prabang and definitely one of the most beautiful temples in Asia. The ornate carved and gilded funeral vehicle of the former king is kept in one of the buildings in the temple grounds. This temple was used for the the most important Royal ceremonies and houses the bones of King Sisavang Vong.
 
Wat  Xieng Thong
 
Phousi Hill, also called Phousi Mountain is a small mountain in the center of Luang Prabang, located on the peninsula between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.
 
Phou Si, which means “sacred hill” is about 100 meters high. From the top you will have great 360 degree views of Luang Prabang, the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers and the forested mountains.
 
On top of Phousi Hill is a narrow platform with a small Buddhist temple and a golden stupa. The hill is a popular place to watch the sunset. Two stairways lead to the top of the hill: one with 328 steps, another with 355 steps. To get the most of the views and shrines, take one up and the other one down.
 
On top of the hill is That Chomsi, a golden pagoda topped with a 7 - tiered parasol. The slender pagoda is set on a white painted, rectangular base. It was built by King Anourat in 1804. Next to the stupa is a small “vihan” (sermon hall) housing a large seated Buddha image surrounded by smaller ones. The golden That Chomsi atop the hill is visible glittering in the sun from much of Luang Prabang.
 
 
That Chomsi at top of Phousi Mountain
 
 
Wat Sene, also known as Wat Sene Souk Haram is a Buddhist temple, was built in 1718 by King Kitsarath with 100 000 stones from the Mekong river. It literally means "Temple of a 100 000 treasures". It was restored in 1957 commemorating the Buddha’s birth 2500 years earlier.
 
The temple is made up of a “vihan” (meeting room), a “that” (stupa), several “kutis” (Monks quarter), a pirogue shelter for a racing pirogue of extreme beauty and a drum shelter.
Wat Sene is the first monastery in town whose vihan was covered with yellow and red tiles in the modern Thai fashion.
 
 
                                          Wat Sene Temple                                                     Evening prayers at Wat Sene Temple
 
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, also Wat Mai, is one of the biggest Budhhist temple in Luang Prabang. The name Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham means “The New Monastery of the Golden Land”. It is located along Sisavang Vong Road, close to the Royal Palace Museum.
 
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham was built in 1796 by King Anourout. In 1821, King Manthathourat embarked on a thorough face-lift, restoring the “sim” (ordination hall) with its 5-tiered roof, adding a double colonnaded porch in front of the sim, and another at the rear. With a new look comes a new name: King Manthathourat gave it its present name, Wat Mai, which means New Monastery.
 
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, being next door to the Royal Palace, received royal patronage. An added significance of Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham is that it was once the residence of the Sangkhalat, a sort of the Buddhist Cardinal for Laos.
 
The Pha Bang Buddha Image, the most sacred Buddha image in Luang Prabang, and probably in Laos as well, was brought over from Wat Wisunalat to Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham in 1894, where it stayed until 1947, when it moved next door to the Royal Palace (now the Royal Palace Museum).
 
Every year, during Pimai (Laotian New Year), the Pha Bang Buddha image is brought over from the Royal Palace Museum next door. Over a period of three days, the image is given ceremonial cleansing. It is an opportunity for devotees to pay homage to it.
 
 
                              Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham                                                              Wat Wisunarat
 
 
Wat WiSunarat. Dating back to 1513 and the reign of King Wisunarat (Visoun), Wat Wisunarat is Luang Prabang’s oldest temple and was once home to the Prabang Buddhas. The temple was rebuilt after being burnt by a Chinese rebel group in 1887.
 
Over the years the temple has also acted as a Museum of Religious Arts and as such now homes to an array of religious artefacts and precious items relating to both Buddhism and the royal family.Restoration work was carried out in 1895 and then again in 1932.
 
One of the temple’s most unique features is its shaped stupa designed by the wife of King Wisunarat to be a lotus flower but referred to by locals as ‘the watermelon stupa’. Another highlight is the European-style roof which slopes in a manner not usually seen in Laos, due to the French architects who helped with the rebuilding in the late 1980s. The temple is still functioning today and is open to visitors with plenty of information available about its fascinating history.
 
 
Wat That Luang
 
Located out of town on the way to Kuang Si Waterfall, Wat That Luang was built on a knoll in 1818 by king Manthatourath. Before 1975, Wat That Luang was used to hold funeral rites and cremate the country‘s highest dignitaries.
 
Of historical interest is the central stupa containing the ashes of King Sisavang Vong, the final king of Laos, and his brother.
 
The larger stupa behind the “sim” (ordination hall) dates from 1818 and is said to contain a relic of the Buddha. The main attraction is the huge bronze Buddha image inside, which weighs some 600 kilograms.
 
 
Wat That Luang  temple
 
 
Sai Bat – Parade of Monks in Alms Giving Ceremony.
 
The parade of monks is an iconic attraction of Luang Prabang. Each morning at dawn, hundreds of resident monks in their saffron robes leave their Wats and walk silently down the streets in single-file to collect food offerings from the local people and early rising tourists.
 
Parade of Monks in Alms Giving ceremony
 
 
Kuang Si (Xi) Waterfall, situated 30km south of Luang Prabang, is the biggest in the Luang Prabang area with three tiers leading to a 50-metre drop into spectacular azure pools before flowing downstream. The pools also make great swimming holes and are very popular with both tourists and locals. The pools also have cascades of up to five metres high with deliciously cold water due to the shade given by the surrounding lush tropical jungle, if you don’t fancy a swim then you can relax in the shade. The weather at the waterfalls is noticeably cooler making it a really good place to escape the heat. There are trails allowing you to climb up to the top where you can see the stream feeding into the falls and enjoy some more natural pools. You can make your own way to the waterfall by hiring a motorcycle which means you can take in some scenic villages en-route. The roads however are rocky and can be hard going.
 
 
Kuang Si Waterfalls
 
 
Bear Rescue Centre
 
Located within the Kuang Si Waterfall precinct is the Bear Rescue Centre. This has an enclosure for endangered Asiatic Black Bears that have been rescued from poachers.
 
 
Bears at Rescue Center
 
 
Tad Sae Falls, 15 km southeast of Luang Prabang, is a series of cascading step waterfalls in natural surroundings and can easily be reached by taxi, tuk-tuk, bicycle or boat. The picturesque journey allows visitors to admire the countryside, while the falls themselves are small but impressive. You may find you have the Falls all to yourself! Swimming is possible in some of the tiered pools and at the base of the falls. The best time to visit is from June to October.
 
Tad Sae Falls
 
 
Ban Phanom weaving village
 
This village, located 4 km to the north of Luang Prabang, on the banks of the Nam Khan River, was a former royal weaving village.
 
The village is full of history, culture, and a weaving experience that you can still find in some other villages in Laos (Luang Namtha, Sam Neua...) where methods, techniques, and patterns are still those of old times. You can watch the women working on their looms, buy their products and stroll through the village.
 
The majority of the village’s production is done according to a technique that uses cotton and silk. The weave is done with thick cotton threads, that are often of different colours, which gives a shimmering effect, whilst the patterns are woven from silk.
 
 
Ban Phanom weaving village
 
Pak Ou Caves
 
The caves are located 25 km upriver from Luang Prabang right on the river bank at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. These caves are a well known Buddhist site and a place of pilgrimage with 5,000 statues and statuettes mainly of the Buddha in the traditional Luang Prabang style. To reach the cave, visitors can take a slow boat 1.5 hours upriver or a car/tuk-tuk for about one hour.
 
Inside  Pak  Ou  caves
 
Ban Chan Pottery village (also written Ban Tchan or Ban Tjan), is situated in Chomphet district,  just on the opposite bank of the Mekong River, at a 15 - minute boat-ride downstream from Luang Prabang. The 300 inhabitants of the small village have specialized themselves on manufacturing pottery and bricks as well as terracotta tiles. The village’s lamps and pots decorate the small streets of Luang Prabang’s old town and are known all over northern Laos.
 
The raw material is taken from the surrounding area, mixed, processed, handled, shaped and fired on the site. Everybody participates in this activity, even the children amuse themselves by creating small objects representing animals, vases and ash trays…
 
   
At Ban Chan pottery village
 
 
Ban Xang Hai
 
The village, 29km north of Luang Prabang, is famous for its Lao Lao, the local brewed alcohol. Some versions involve the fermentation of snakes and various insects. You are welcome to taste and buy. The village is a common stop on route to Pak Ou Caves, but can also be reached by car in 30 minutes. You will also see the locals weaving Lao silk and can purchase their fabrics and crafts here.
 
 
At Ban Xang Hai
 
 
Shopping
 
Luang Prabang has a rich offering of handicrafts such as hand woven textiles, silver work, wood carvings and mulberry paper. There are a number of upscale galleries in town that offer unique pieces of artwork and textiles. Beside are popular markets:
 
     + Night Market: open between 5pm and 10pm, the night market is set up on the main road between the post office and the museum, selling a large variety of local textiles and ethnic handicrafts, There is also a small lane with lots of food stalls located beside the Tourism Information Centre.
 
 
                                                Night Market                                                                         Phousi Market
 
     + Phousi Market, the largest market in Luang Prabang, has lots of fresh produce, meat, household goods and clothing. It is located on the road to Kuangsi Waterfall and is about a 5- minute ride by bicycle or tuk-tuk.Night market         
     + Dara Market is located in the centre of town, on corner from the public Health department and the formal Luang Prabang hospital which now is changed to the Top high star hotel. This market has a variety of products such as silk cloth, jewelry and traditional silk Lao skirts. Food is also available. 
     + Handicraft Market, on the corner of the Phousi Hotel and Post Office, is open during the day and is filled with ethnic handicrafts made mostly by the Hmong. The vendors then move to the night market after 5pm.
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