Luang Prabang is best known for its well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage which made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting more and more tourists each year. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, it is one of the most important cities in Laos and the heart of the Laotian culture.
Visa for Vietnam in Luang Prabang
We ended up staying a whole week in the city, as our plans to continue overland till the northern border of Laos and cross after into Vietnam forced us to extend our stay while having to wait for the visa applications to be processed. We could have gotten our passports stamped earlier but we opted to wait and pay the smaller price, which helped to cover for the expenses of the extra days in the city. Besides the financial aspects, Luang Prabang didn’t feel like a place that we wanted to leave too early. The visa process went smooth and fast, although it was a pricier option than applying for the visa on arrival. But the latter option would have forced us to arrive in Vietnam by air and we wanted to continue our journey overland.
What to do in Luang Prabang?
Laotian cuisine enchanted our taste buds and we enjoyed every opportunity to try new local dishes and snacks. Various noodle soups, grilled fish, fried Mekong River moss and tasty fresh fruits were our favorites. And because Laos is a famous destination for coffee lovers, we spoiled ourselves with delicious coffee at some of the terraces in the city center.
The place had a warm and welcoming vibe that we could continuously feel throughout our stay. We enjoyed walks along the riverside, hiking to the Buddhist temple at the top of the Phou Si Mountain and cycling around the city. After watching the sunset from the peak of Phou Si, visitors can climb down to the city’s main street and explore the colorful night market and the evening view over the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum.
Travelers that like to wake up early can watch the procession of Buddhist monks at sunrise, collecting alms offered by locals.
Another spot that we found interesting, mainly for its story, is the bamboo bridge across the Nam Khan river. The bridge is being washed away every year by the rising floods and rebuild later by a local family that also charges a small fee for walking to the other side of the river.
If you are interested in history, you can visit the UXOLAO Visitor Center to find out about the devastating events that marked the country since the time of the Vietnam War till the present day.
The Kuang Si Falls & the Tat Sae Waterfalls near Luang Prabang
We reserved one day for exploring the Kuang Si Falls. The place can be reached by tuk-tuk or van, but we decided to rent scooters as prices were low and we had more fun driving by ourselves. We arrived at a busy parking space in an area crowded with people, restaurants and kiosks selling snacks, drinks and souvenirs. After paying the entrance fee we walked along multiple shallow turquoise pools and later hiked up to the source of the stream, where we chilled for a while and where Miriam even went for a swim.
The place is large and we found many quiet spots away from the more crowded areas. We went there to see one big waterfall but saw also many beautiful smaller ones and enjoyed the cooler air in the shadows of the surrounding jungle after driving under the hot sun of the afternoon.
At the end of the day, we realized that we could have spent much more time at the waterfalls because of the large area that they cover, but the early sunset and the long ride home forced us to leave before dawn, as we wanted to reach the city during daylight.
But instead, we started early on the following day and cycled to the Tat Sae Waterfalls that were closer to the city, but equally beautiful to the Kuang Si Falls.
The Tat Sae Waterfalls near Luang Prabang
The area where the waterfalls are located is reachable only by boat, after crossing the river and we found it to be very well organized.
Visitors can swim in the water or enjoy a drink with a view over the turquoise landscape. It is also a spot to watch elephants which, unfortunately, are used as an attraction for tourists that fancy elephant riding.
We decided to rent bikes that day and cycle to the waterfalls. The distance was short but the ride quite challenging due to the many slopes and the hot temperatures. Still, we enjoyed the views along the way and rewarded ourselves with a swim in the refreshing waters at the destination and a coffee before we cycled back to the city.
Luang Prabang has been a place that we enjoyed very much and just the first stop on the route that brought us one week later to Nong Khiaw.
See more pictures from Luang Prabang here.