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- 07 Oct 2022, 3 nights
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Luang Prabang, an ancient city in northern Laos, is best known for its Buddhist temples and tranquil atmosphere. The centre is sandwiched between the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, with the forested Mount Phousi standing proudly in the heart of the old town. It's an enticing mix of French and Asian culture, with bustling street food stands sitting side-by-side with wine bars and pâtisseries in the UNESCO-listed town centre.
Luang Prabang hostels include traditional wood and bamboo homes, bungalows set in pretty gardens and French colonial townhouses. Most have free Wi-Fi and some offer free breakfast – you can usually expect a mix of French and Lao dishes. A lot of hostels in Luang Prabang have outdoor spaces. Read a book on a veranda with a river view, sit in the shade of tropical trees or chill out by the swimming pool before an evening at the night market.
Sisavangvong Road is the main street in Luang Prabang. This is where you'll find sights like the Royal Palace and the nightly market, where you can buy handicrafts made from bomb fragments and bottles of powerful Lao whisky. Walk along temple-lined Sakkaline Road at sunset and you'll hear the Buddhist monks chanting. This area also has some peaceful French-style bakeries. Across the Nam Khan River there's a more residential vibe, with a few treehouse restaurants overlooking the water and serving local barbecue dishes.
Watching the sun set over the Mekong River from the peak of Mount Phousi is a popular thing to do in Luang Prabang – get there early to grab a prime position with a good view (camera at the ready). The city is surrounded by beautiful nature, and it only takes 40 minutes to reach the Kuang Si Falls by tuk-tuk. The cool waters are perfect for swimming – and the stunning turquoise colour is unforgettable. Boat trips along the Mekong usually stop in at Ban Xang Hai, where you can try the local rice whisky, lao-Lao.
Luang Prabang International Airport is 4km from the city centre, and you'll find taxis at the stand in the arrivals hall. The city itself is compact and you can easily get anywhere on foot, but if you're in a hurry or feel like heading out of town you can jump in a shared tuk-tuk. Cycling is another great way to get around, as the roads are mostly quiet.