One more of my bucket list has been checked (√). Yaay!!
Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved 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 (1).
It was Pchum Ben season (Buddhist ceremony) in Cambodia which was a good holiday for a trip, so I grabbed my passport and got it tattooed. Lao visa stamped!
From Cambodia, there are Lao Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Bangkok Airways which have air route to Laos. I took Vietnam Airlines as it was cheaper at the time, but to get directly to Luang Prabang, I needed to take flight from Siem Reap as flight from Phnom Penh would be to Vientiane only.
Arriving in Luang Prabang in the evening, yet the sky was still bright enough to get me impressed by the scenery of the area from the airport view. My first impression of Luang Prabang is mountains. Watching from plane’s window, the city is surrounded by mountains. Left, right, behind, front, mountains after mountains, and the view got my eyes healthy.
The airport is not large though (most backpackers prefer coming from Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang by night bus or minivan).
The hotel we booked is Namkhan Riverside (address: 20 Phousi Road Ban Aphay) which, as its name, is along Namkhan river. The location is just perfect for me as it is within the walking distance from tourist attractions in the city, and just 3 km away from Luang Prabang International Airport.
Pak Ou Caves
In the first morning, it rained since dawn. Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are known to be in rainy season during this period (around May/June to October/November). But it did not stop our journey. We bought boat tickets to Pak Ou Caves. FYI, buying the ticket from local tour agent is 80,000 kips/ticket (US$ 1 = 8,180 kips at that time), and you can choose either to go at 8am or 1pm, but at the booth near the river (Mekong river) it is sold at just 65,000 kips. Per machine boat, it can load up to 8 persons (6 persons were on the boat I took).
It was still raining but still safe though to travel along the river. Again, I was amazed by rows of mountains and fog along the way. You will be stopped for a short visit at Whisky village before reaching the cave. The village mainly produces whisky and silk products such as sinh (a traditional garment worn by Lao women) and scarf.
It took about 2 hours to reach Pak Ou caves. The caves are known for having many of their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana) (2).
There are 2 main parts of the caves, the upper called Tham Theung and the lower called Tham Ting. The lower cave is the first to be reached and can be seen with sunlight. The upper cave is dark which you need torchlight.
Wat Xieng Thong
Wat Xieng Thong means the temple of golden city (Wat refers to a Buddhist temple) which was built in 1559-1560 by King Setthathirath, located near the joint of Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. The temple was famous for its location for the coronation of Lao kings and some other significant festivities.
Entrance fee : 20,000 kips
For better photo taking, you should visit the temple in the early morning or evening just before sunset.
Mount Phousi rises above the center of Luang Prabang and is most popular for sunrise and sunset sighting. On the hill, there are many stops to see places of attraction such as temples and Buddha statues. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of steps to deal with, but I guess it is worth a try for the sky view of Luang Prabang.
I regret for not getting to the statue of the reclining Buddha and the top of the hill as I went there a bit late. (And the hotel I stayed is just behind the hill)
Luang Prabang Night Market
It is the only place in Luang Prabang that I find crowded at night. The market starts at 5pm till 11pm, along Sisavangvong road to the town center (Settathilat road). The market is prone to rain though. Once the sellers hear thunder sound, they start collecting their stuffs as usually they sell in open space without roof.
The road is open for traveling at day (though the traffic is not busy), but closed off in the evening for the night market.
There are various products such as sinhs, scarves, bags, T-shirts, bamboo speakers, handicrafts, ceramics etc. Make sure you bargain or walk around first to know price range or you will be overcharged.
Day 1 ended with exhausting yet exciting mood.
(To be continued…)
(1) as sited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luang_Prabang
(2) as sited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pak_Ou_Caves