Luang Prabang resembles a small village more than a city with 55000 inhabitants and it’s easy to be a tourist here.
You just need to head out into the small town with an open mind, and slowly you will be enchanted by the it’s charm and the slow rhythm of life.
The best way to explore Luang Prabang is on foot. You never know what to expect when wandering through the narrow streets and alleys in this incredibly exciting old town.
In 1989 Luang Prabang was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco for it’s outstanding cultural, architectural and historic values. We do get why, this fantastic place has to charm every visitor.
The architectural cornucopia is a mix of beautifully restored French colonial buildings, monasteries, temples and even a royal palace.
Wherever you go in Luang Prabang you will meet the Lao and Buddhist culture. Daily life unfolds in the streets. You also get a distinct sense of history as you move around the city. It’s former glory as the capital of the first Lao kingdom and the fact that France has played a role in this part of Southeast Asia are historical events that to this day are still visible in the city.
Once you have explored the city on foot and want to look at the surroundings further afield you may want to rent bikes or perhaps a long-tailed boat and sail up the Mekong River. There are also great experiences in wait outside the city limit sign.
We loved our time in Luang Prabang and we had many great experiences but what really charmed us was the city’s wet market which is held early each morning in the streets and small alleys of the old town. We have visited many different wet markets in Southeast Asia but this relatively small market takes the prize as one of the most exciting, authentic and evocative.
If you want to visit the market you need to get up early. On your way through the city in the early morning, you will see hundreds of monks dressed in their saffron robes walking in procession. This is an ancient Lao tradition where the locals prepare and hand over food like sticky rice and fruits to the monks.
After watching this beautiful old tradition of alms giving continue to the thrilling and interesting morning market. Here you will find food you never knew existed. There is nothing touristy about this market, here you get the real thing. If you are looking for a mix of souvenirs, handicrafts and Chinese knick-knacks then you should instead visit the Hmong night market.
The morning market is where the locals do their shopping. There are no supermarkets as we know them, therefore the main shopping opportunity for the Laotians is the wet market. Most of the vendors set up their stalls by spreading a piece of cloth or plastic on the ground and display their goods here. Many of the merchants come from afar, from the mountains and from the opposite side of the Mekong River. They sell everything that has or have had a pulse.
One must have a strong stomach when moving through such a market. Whats being sold and eaten is so far from what we are used to. The fruits and vegetables look fresh and delicious but given the lack of refrigerators, you should think twice before buying and eating anything meaty.
One of the specialities at Luang Prabang morning market and a very popular one it seemed were big chunks of jellied oxblood, bon appetite 😳. It’s obvious that everything is eaten, nothing is wasted. The animals are eaten from head to toe.
To walk around Luang Prabang’s morning market is a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse into daily life. It’s fascinating and quite different from our own everyday life. There is a brisk trade in the small alleys and a cacophony of voices from the merchants and their customers mingle with the city’s other sounds.
Luang Prabang is a treat 😀
Our Luang Prabang top picks
- Alms giving ceremony.
- The wet morning market.
- Long tail boat ride up the Mekong.
- Bike ride through the city and in the countryside.
- Climb the Mount Phousi at sunrise or sunset.
Luang Prabang gallery – just enjoy or click to go to next image