Luang Prabang: A Tonic For The Soul
by Cecilia Yee.
Luang Prabang could not have been a more dreamy setting if it tried. Jungle-clad hills rise sharply around the city. Rivers meet on its doorstep and disappear off down valleys. Stupas are scattered around the landscape. Incense mixed with the strong aroma of coffee hangs thick in the air. Fishermen lounge around the banks of the Mekong, chatting. The setting sun envelopes the entire valley, bathing the city in an orange glow. All this conspires to make the city one of the best kept secrets of Indochina.
LEARNING ABOUT THE LAO TRADITIONS & CULTURE
Wake up early and experience a religious part of the Lao culture by giving alms to the monks. Their food for the day comes from this ritual, and they are only allowed to eat food given to them on the morning of each day, received either from this ceremony or from family.
Partake in one of the most fascinating of Laotian cultural traditions, the Baci Ceremony, in the evening. The ceremony is meant to bestow the protective power of the spirits on the visitor. During this ceremony, the selected individuals tie strings around the wrist, believing the strings will protect the wearer. The ceremony is highlighted by the accompaniment of music and a traditional dance.
WATCHING THE SUN SET
The timeless and incredible city of Luang Prabang is situated in the northwest of the country. It sits nestled in a steep valley at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Its superb location is what makes the city so special.
Phoussy Hill is right in the middle of Luang Prabang, where you can enjoy a beautiful view from the top. Hike up the hill and you'll be rewarded with an amazing sunset. You'll find monks just chilling, and feel free to have a chat with them. They use this opportunity to practice their English, and it's a good way to learn more about them and their lifestyle.
For a more laid back experience, head to one of the cafes and bars by the riverside. Spend the afternoon doing nothing but enjoying the slow pace of Laos while drinking a cocktail (or beer) and watching the sunset by the Mekong River.
EXPLORING THE CITY AND THE SURROUNDINGS
Apart from the old temples and pagodas, there are plenty to see and experience in Luang Prabang. Take a boat trip up the Mekong River to the caves at Pak Ou. The two caves in the lower part of a limestone cliff are filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes. Afterward, make a stop at a number of villages on the riverbanks to witness a slice of Laotian lifestyle.
For a day trip, head to the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. Hidden deep in a forest, this beautiful multi-level falls tumble down approximately 200 feet through a series of limpid pools. There are trails all around the falls, and visitors can swim in the lower pools.
Luang Prabang – this is the Southeast Asia you have always imagined... and more!