In charming Luang Prabang, it is no exaggeration to say that time seems to have stood still. Dotted with beautiful French Indochinese architecture and Buddhist temples, this Laotian city exudes a magical atmosphere.

Although an increasing number of tourists has started to add Luang Prabang to their bucket list, it is still less crowded compared to some of Southeast Asia's busiest cities, making this an ideal getaway for those who would like to escape the stresses of the urban jungle.

Explore the city’s cultural heritage

Even if you are not an early riser, make it a point to get out of bed just before sunrise to witness the daily traditional alms-giving ceremony, a unique tradition in Luang Prabang. At the crack of dawn, hundreds of monks clad in tangerine orange robes walk in procession around the old town to receive offerings of food from villagers.

Monks wearing their traditional outfits, walking down the street collecting offerings from villagers

Monks collecting offerings from villagers

It is a respectful ritual that is carried out in almost total silence, adding to the mystical atmosphere of the early morning. Tourists may join in if they wish, but do ask your hotel to recommend an appropriate place to buy food or to help you with readying the offerings.

Once the alms-giving ceremony is complete, take a stroll or leisurely bicycle ride around the old town to admire the numerous ornate Buddhist temples and monasteries. Standouts include Wat Xieng Thong, which features an exquisite ordination hall with a tree of life mosaic at the back, and Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, which many regard as the city’s most impressive temple. Interspersed among the temples are rows of French Indochinese shophouses and buildings, making for an interesting juxtaposition of cultures.  

In the evening, take a short climb up the 100m-high Phu Si hill to get a nice vantage point for sunset watching (tip: you may have to jostle for space as this is a popular activity, so be sure to go early) before wandering around the night market at the base of the hill to score good buys on arts and crafts, clothing and other souvenirs. After a day of sightseeing, reward yourself with a feast of local street food.

Discover Laos' many flavours

Just like many other Southeast Asian cuisines, Laotian food is characterised by its flavourful blend of spices, and features noodles and sticky rice as staples. Some unique finds in Luang Prabang include sai oua (Lao sausage) and khaipen (fried seaweed). 

You will also see some similarities between Thai and Vietnamese cuisines in dishes such as papaya salad, laap (salad with minced meat and herbs) and pho (noodle soup), but prepare to be pleasantly surprised by the versions in Luang Prabang.

A bowl of Pho accompanied by a plate of green vegetables and a small bowl of bean sprouts

Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup dish

For a meal in a nice setting, restaurants that come highly recommended by Tripadvisor include Dyen Sabai and Tamarind; the latter offers cooking classes for interested visitors. Otherwise, there are plenty of street food stalls to try when the munchies strike. Thanks to its colonial heritage, there is also a good selection of European fare in Luang Prabang. If you are in the mood to splurge on French specialties such as frog's legs and duck confit, head to L’Elephant Restaurant, which has a long-standing reputation as the best restaurant in town. Or head to Secret Pizza, which is run by an Italian expat in the garden of his own home, where you get to feast on wood-oven fired pizzas and homemade pastas.

Adventure's on your doorstep

There are plenty of short day trips you can make from Luang Prabang too. Enjoy a quintessential cruise down the Mekong River to enjoy views of the bucolic Laotian lifestyle such as water buffaloes grazing and children playing in the water. Do also make a stop at a Laotian village to admire artisans making arts and crafts such as silk and cotton weaving.

Mekong river, a few small boats by the riverside and Luang Prabang in the background

Mekong River at sunset

There are villages that produce the region’s traditional rice whisky. It’s not for the faint hearted though – some variations of the alcohol contain preserved scorpions or snakes – so sip some if you dare! Another worthwhile stop along a Mekong River cruise are the sacred Pak Ou caves, which houses thousands of Buddha statues that were placed by pilgrims over the years.

When the tropical heat gets to you, make your way to the Kuang Si waterfalls, featuring a cascading tiered waterfall and emerald blue waters to cool off in. There, locals and tourists alike frolic in the waters and enjoy a meditative view of the falls as they while time away. 

On the short walk towards Kuang Si, animal lovers may wish to make a quick pit stop at the nearby bear sanctuary, which is home to rescued Asiatic black bears that are hunted for their bile. Watching these rescued bears bask in the sun and munch on snacks will uplift and soothe the souls of even the most world-weary travellers. 

The adventure does not end here. There are many more fascinating sights and interesting activities to indulge in when you visit Laos. 

Hear more about them in the The Road Less Travelled video.  

The Road Less Travelled: Luang Prabang

In charming Luang Prabang, it is no exaggeration to say that time seems to have stood still. Dotted with beautiful French Indochinese architecture and Buddhist temples, this Laotian city exudes a magical atmosphere.

All set and ready to explore more of Luang Prabang? Fly from S$277 and redeem a $15 iShopChangi voucher for your online duty-free shopping! Promotion exclusively available on www.zuji.com.sg/changi only.

Best time to travel

The best time to visit is between November and February, when days are fresh and sunny, but it’s also the most expensive time. The rainy season (June–October) sees fewer visitors and prices are lower. March to May is the hot season, when humidity is high, so sightseeing can be a sweaty experience.

Tranportation

Tuk-tuks are the main form of transport around Luang Prabang, and a trip into town from the airport costs around 50,000 kip. Since the town is so small, hiring a bicycle is a pleasant way to get around.

Currency

Currency is the Lao kip. There are ATMs dispensing kip all over town and several banks will exchange foreign currency.

Book now

Fly directly to Luang Prabang via Lao Airlines and SilkAir from Changi Airport. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!