Now that you have the perfect place to stay while visiting Luang Prabang, Laos, what will you do while you are there? A host of varying activities, that is for sure. From the relaxing to the adventurous, Luang Prabang offers something for everyone.
No visit to Southeast Asia is complete without a visit to a spa – or multiple visits – for an incredible massage. Unlike in the States, the opportunity for affordable, quality massages and spa treatments are endless, and, after days of sightseeing, carrying luggage, and hopping on and off planes, we were ready to get pampered.
As a benefit of staying at 3 Nagas, we were able to visit Le Spa at the Sofitel Luang Prabang for 50% off. $25.00 US for an hour long massage? Yes, please! While this is still more than double the price you would pay at the many options you will find throughout Southeast Asia, private robes, showers, rooms and quality of service set it apart from the rest. Enjoying one of the best massages I have ever experienced, anywhere, it was definitely worth the “splurge.”
Now that you are relaxed and rested, it is time to see the sights. Luang Prabang is one of the most intriguing, magical and romantic cities in Asia. Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1995, the city is filled with fine old temples, and its quiet streets are lined with handsome colonial buildings. Getting around Luang Prabang is quite easy on foot or on bicycle, so take some time to stroll the main streets around town, stop in the local shops, and dine in the lovely cafes. The air conditioning will be a great break from the heat, and you may just find the perfect souvenir to bring home.
Close to the tip of the peninsula, on the banks of the Mekong, is Luang Prabang’s most renowned temple, Wat Xieng Thong, or Golden City Monastery. Built in 1560, the temple epitomizes classic Luang Prabang style, and combine gold and deep red that gives it a regal atmosphere.
Also in the compound are various monks’ quarters, a boat shelter, and a building housing the royal funeral carriage.
A cruise along the mighty Mekong River is not to be missed. The importance of this river to the Lao people and their country should not be underestimated. In addition to depositing fertile alluvial silt, the river is a major artery of trade and travel and source of fish, and the main populations of the country is located along the Mekong. While transport infrastructure in Laos has improved, the river remains a practical means of moving goods and people effectively and efficiently. It also provides a perfect view of the beautiful countryside and a taste of the daily life of Lao fisherman and children playing along the banks of the river.
From river to mountain, Mount Phu Si is a rocky 330 foot tall hill that dominates the center of Luang Prabang and provides the most magnificent views across the ancient city. Best at sunset, the steep hike up the 328 winding steps is worth it for the view of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers encircling the historic UNESCO-protected peninsula that lies at the heart of old Luang Prabang.
Perhaps the most remarkable site to be seen in Luang Prabang is the early morning sai baat, when devout citizens gather at dawn to greet lines of saffron-clad and barefoot monks receiving their alms. Lines of as many as 400 monks make their way around the narrow streets on a daily basis, collecting mostly sticky rice and sweets, which will comprise their one daily meal.
If you are lucky enough to visit Luang Prabang during its dryer seasons, take a walk along the bamboo bridge that stretches along the Nam Khan River. The bridge is removed during rainy season, as the tides become too high to safely cross, and is then again rebuilt once the tides recede. Remarkably, the bridge is quite sturdy, and makes a visit to the villages across the river an easy task.
Finally, several waterfalls are in the vicinity of Luang Prabang, allowing for a half-day excursion. Kuang Si Waterfalls are about 20 miles south of town, and are multi-tiered falls with limestone formations and crystal-clear pools, worthy of a refreshing swim.
Our three days in Luang Prabang were not nearly enough, but allowed a good taste of the culture and plethora of activities available to visitors. Even with the endless array of options, sitting at a streetside cafe and soaking in the people and the place is the best activity of all.