Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS- Going back in time

                                   SABAI DEE  LUANG PRABANG!!  
                                           ( WELCOME to LUANG PRABANG )

Luang Prabang is nestled in the valleys of the mountainous north with the mighty Mekong River in the west and the Truong Son Range mountains in the east offer natural borders to Thailand and Vietnam respectively, while Laos also shares borders with China in the north, Myanmar in the northwest and Cambodia in the south. It was the former royal capital and now a World Heritage Site listed by the UNESCO.

Today Oskie and I flew to Luang Prabang via Lao Airlines which we took from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our plane trip took one hour.  We stayed at Villa Treasure Guest House. It is a 15 minute walk to the city center. The main street is SISAVANGVONG.... this is where the night market is located and most of the tourist attractions of Luang Prabang.

It is not hard to imagine yourself in a time warp in the ancient city of Luang Prabang. Tourism in the formerly war-torn country is quickly picking up speed in the recent years, but the country has been able to cling to its laid back charm. The cultures and histories of some Indochinese countries --- Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are closely related. Their historical figures can be seen to don similar costumes and headgears.

There are 3 main ethnic tribes in Luang Prabang. They are the Lao, Hmong and the Khmu.

The Lao are the Buddhist monks.

The Hmong ( pronounced MUNG ) people originated from Mongolia and Tibet. They are usually found in the hills but  slowly the Hmongs have started to resettle in the lowlands. Their religion is a form of shamanistic animism , a cult of ancestors and spirit veneration. The Hmong women are renowned for their embroidery.

The Khmus are not Buddhist, but they practice their own form of animism. They believe in several protective spirits which should be respected. The house and jungle spirits are the most important to the Khmus. They have their own language. Their income comes from basket weaving, upland rice farming, hunting and fishing and raising small livestock.

This enchanting city is dominated by golden-roofed temples and bright saffron-robed monks which exudes a spiritual essence that will surely capture your soul. Luang Prabang is a very cozy town of about 100 thousand people, located on the banks of the Mekong River. It is a beautiful town with a dominating French colonial style. The relaxed atmosphere is quite dominating.

Unless one is well traveled or familiar with historical and cultural destinations in Southeast Asia, one might not have ever heard of Luang Prabang in Northern Laos. Laos was colonized by the French and Luang Prabang clearly shows this. The building with wooden shutters selling good coffee or baguettes even a wine bar give the feeling of being in a small French town.  Luang Prabang has a curfew at midnight for tourists.

First of all, one or two days are  definitely not enough time for exploring Luang Prabang. It is enough time to take in some of the major attractions like Wat Xiang Thong, Wat Mai, and the Royal Palace Museum, Kuong Si Waterfalls, the night market and the Pak Ou caves... to fully appreciate this city you need at least 2 - 3 days to leisurely stroll its streets and enjoy its rich cultural and historical heritage. 

Oskie and I stayed in Luang Prabang for four days --- all we did was to soak up that relaxed atmosphere and done next to nothing---- we just wandered around looking at the many temples in town, checking out the very nice night market and chilling in one of the cafes or bakeries.

Here is what we had for our first meal in Luang Prabang...

Luang Prabang Salad

Chicken curry with Basmati Rice

The food of Luang Prabang is simple, honest and earthy, relying much on the use of vegetables, herbs, game from the jungle and fish from the Mekong River. Lao food is always freshly prepared and usually is accompanied by JAEO- a spicy dip that comes in endless varieties. A few places in Luang Prabang serve vegetarian and western dishes.

Here are some phrases which I learned in order to get by in Luang Prabang.

Hello - Sabai Dee
Goodbye - Sohk Dee Der
Thank You - Khawp Jai
Please - Kalunaa

It was simply amazing in Luang Prabang!!! It was like going back in time. I enjoyed visiting the several cultural sights such as temples and museum. The daily Alms ceremony, where monks line up to collect food offering from kneeling citizens and tourists, is the perfect exotic photo-op.

Come and follow me as I discover Luang Prabang !!!!

                                                SOHK DEE DER !!


  1. i miss chilling out in luang prabang... :-)

  2. i hope it has remained the peaceful town that it is. it must have been hotter than hell though....

  3. It was H-O-T !!!! but moving around in Luang Prabang is not as scary knowing it is still a communist country. I just had to make sure every time I would move around I had my passport with me.

  4. i love your blog miss asunta....its travelogue with food, mouth watery native cuisine, unusual and i wish i could be at prabang,.....thanks for the cuisine share....!