Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer and photographer who has been based in Luang Prabang, Laos for the last couple of years. Here are her top recommendations for places to stay, places to eat and things to do on a trip to this fascinating UNESCO World Heritage town.
Located on a promontory of the Mekong River and surrounded by the mountains of Northern Laos, Luang Prabang is famed for its ancient temples, its deep connection to Buddhism, French colonial architecture, stunning natural beauty and laidback, friendly people. A journey to Luang Prabang is like stepping back in time.
Once the residence of a Prince of Laos, the historic Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel by Angsana blends French colonial architecture with traditional Lao motifs, old-world charm and modern comforts. Surrounded by large tropical gardens, with a spa and swimming pool, the 24-room hotel is an oasis. It has the best location for discovering Luang Prabang – within short walking distance of all the sights and the river, but away from the crowds and the noise.
Set on a quiet section of the Nam Khan river, the 21-room Burasari Heritage is ideal for those looking to stay in the heart of the peninsula. Fully renovated in 2012, the hotel is a contemporary update on a heritage building with stunning decorative details.
Intimate and refined, Le Tangor impresses with Asian dishes and local flavours, but with a French twist. Here, Indochine is chic. Old maps, antique Buddhas and vintage posters of women in cheongsams adorn red walls. The restaurant’s prime location in the heart of the main street means it’s the perfect spot for a drink while people watching.
The baguettes and croissants of Luang Prabang rival those in France. Coffee is also one of Laos’ main agricultural exports – needless to say, you’ll find an excellent cup at one of the towns many sidewalk cafes. The Café de Laos is charmingly decorated and a great spot on the main street, and the only place in Luang Prabang serving siphon-brewed coffee and TWG tea.
Things to do
– Swim at Kuang Si Waterfalls
– Take a banana boat tour on the Mekong River
– Cycle through town stopping to admire some of the 34 UNESCO-protected temples, the French colonial architecture, then relaxing with a coffee at a sidewalk cafe or on the riverside with a Beer Lao
– Watch the sun set (or rise) from the top of Phosi Hill
– Learn to cook Lao food with a cookery class at The Terrace Restaurant
– Bathe elephants in the river at The Elephant Village Sanctuary
– Respectfully observe the morning alms (where hundreds of monks walk through the streets collecting rice)
– Learn all about growing rice at Living Land Farm
– Relax and be pampered at Angsana Spa
Caruso Lao: fine carved-wood housewares
Matesai: Fair Trade products, textiles and handicraft from all over Laos
Naga Creations: jewellery and handicrafts
Aman Boutique at Amantaka Hotel: shop at Luang Prabang’s most expensive hotel
Passa Paa: hand-printed textiles by a British designer
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