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* <see name="The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre" alt="" address="" directions="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="" hours="" price="">A small but perfectly formed museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos. Find out more about the groups that make Laos unique and so enrich your visit to Luang Prabang. Sometimes closed for exhibitions, so please check in advance.</see>
 
* <see name="The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre" alt="" address="" directions="" phone="" email="" fax="" url="" hours="" price="">A small but perfectly formed museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos. Find out more about the groups that make Laos unique and so enrich your visit to Luang Prabang. Sometimes closed for exhibitions, so please check in advance.</see>
 +
 +
Project Space • Luang Prabang is a non-profit multifunction space for producing exhibitions, events and objects in the cultural capital of Laos that opened in December of 2010. Our building with three floors and a rooftop terrace with stunning views is in the centre of Luang Prabang and will host several exhibitions per year and collaborate with other cultural institutions in Luang Prabang and elsewhere on joint events and projects. We have four exhibition rooms, a studio for artist residencies and a rooftop terrace for projections and functions.
 +
 +
Project Space • Luang Prabang is an initiative of Jean-Pierre Dovat, interior architect and designer and Rik Gadella, publisher and creator of amongst others Paris Photo, Parcours des Mondes and the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden in Luang Prabang.
  
 
=== Do ===
 
=== Do ===

Revision as of 06:27, 4 January 2013

Wat Sen, Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang (ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ), also Luang Phabang, Luang Phrabang and Louang Phrabang is the former capital of Laos and is now a UNESCO World Heritage city.

Contents

Understand

Set at the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town, and beneath a temple-topped hill, Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture, reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. Golden-roofed wats, decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha, sit under the gaze of wrap-around teak balconies and 19th century shuttered windows. All of this is set against a backdrop of verdant greenery and rugged mountains.

One of those small cities with atmospheric and charming personalities, Luang Prabang is now on the radar screen of most tourists who have been or dream of going to Venice, Salzburg, Dubrovnik, Ubod, Hoi An, Cuzco, San Miguel Allende, Guanajuato, Puebla, Morelia, Oaxaca, Napier, or Santa Barbara.

As a visitor, you cannot help but be amazed by the tidiness and cleanliness of perhaps the most charming city in all of Southeast Asia. With UNESCO so closely involved and a largely responsible group of local business owners, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, but for how much longer remains to be seen. Restaurants along the main street tend to be expensive and aimed at luxury tourists, whilst lower cost venues are along the banks of the Mekong.

History

Luang Prabang rose to prominence as the capital of the first Lao kingdom (Lan Xang - land of the million elephants) from 1353 onwards. The city owes its present name to the Pha Bang, a revered Buddha image (now in the Royal Palace Museum) which was brought to the city by King Visoun during the golden age of Lan Xang in the early 1500s.

The fragmentation of the Lao kingdom at the end of the 16th century saw Luang Prabang become a militarily weak independent city state paying tribute to the surrounding kingdoms. Ultimately the 1887 sacking of the city by the Chinese Haw led the Luang Prabang monarchy to accept the protection of the French, whose influence led to the construction of the many fine colonial villas that sit harmoniously alongside the traditional Lao architecture.

The city fell into decline in the latter half of the 20th century following the reluctant withdrawal of the French, and the 1975 revolution which brought an end to the Luang Prabang monarchy. The relative poverty of newly-independent Laos perhaps helped save Luang Prabang from the ravages of 20th century city planning.

Haw Kam, Luang Prabang

The reopening of Laos to tourism in 1989 resulted in a remarkable turnaround in the city's fortunes, as crumbling timber houses and colonial mansions were sensitively restored and transformed into immaculate guesthouses and boutique hotels. In 1995 the city was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Get in

By plane

The airport is just north of town and has scheduled flights from/to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Jinghong, Pakse, Siem Reap, and Vientiane.

  • Bangkok Airways [1] offer flights from/to Bangkok.
  • Vietnam Airlines [3] offers flights from/to Hanoi and Siem Reap. Vietnam Airlines' pricing scheme is somewhat questionnable, with tourists paying higher prices on last-minute tickets.

Visa-on-Arrival is available at the airport. The price is variable based upon your nationality, with US$35 being typical, with an additional US$1 processing fee. You need a passport picture to obtain a visa. If you don't have one, they'll scan your picture from your passport and charge you an additional US$1. Ensure you have US$ otherwise you will need to negotiate getting to the exchange bureau in the airport which is a hassle and offers a poor rate as they know you have a problem.

ASEAN nationals do not need a visa to enter Laos for stays not exceeding 30 days.

Visa extensions are possible at the Immigration Office opposite the Rama Hotel. The cost is US$2/day plus a US$2 form fee. The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form (in Luang Prabang they do this for you) and come back in the afternoon for your extension.

Exchange rates at the airport are reasonably competitive with the prevailing outside rates unlike in other international airports.

Taxis into town cost about US$6, whether you are by yourself or with 3 other people. There is a taxi counter just outside the arrival hall.

By road

Highway 13 connects Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane in the south and via Highway 1 to the north. Highway 13 is asphalt and in relatively good shape during dry season all the way to Vientiane. Simply put, it is long, bumpy, and winding road trip. The road resembles of a lunar landscape and there are endless potholes due to poor quality surface, the top layer eroded to reveal the gravel underlayer, which causes a bumpy ride. Though there have been incidents of violence along this stretch of road in the past, although at present it is safe.

Upon arrival at a bus station, there will be tuk-tuks that will cram in as many tourists as possible for a flat 20,000 kip to the city centre, which is near the Royal Palace. Many tourists alight here, but if your hotel is not nearby you can request that the driver take you to your hotel at no extra charge, as long as it's within the historic part of the city.

There are three bus stations, each a little bit out of town, which serve different directions. Tuk-tuk drivers know which bus station to go to for which destination. Ask around for bus schedules.

Tickets can be bought at every travel agent in town, which makes more sense than buying them at the bus station as there is only a difference of roughly 20,000 kip, which pays for the the tuk-tuk from place of accommodation to the bus station (impossible to walk), so it nullifies the gain. Pick those agencies which absorb the shuttle ride from the fare quote as others do not. Compare first before biting the quote. Book tickets in advance, particularly for "VIP" buses as they have reserved seats, and you don't want to end up sitting next to the toilet. If you have a preference for aisle or window seat, ask for a seat before the toilet (i.e., between the toilet and front of the VIP bus) where the seat numbers are predictable. The seat numbering jumps a couple seats after the toilet (which is located in the middle left of the bus), and what should have been an aisle seat number becomes a window seat number and vice versa.

By boat

Boats ply the Mekong to and from Huay Xai at the Thai border, stopping in Pakbeng where you can catch overland connections towards the northeast and the border with China. The trip takes 2 days (both days about 9 hours) by slow boat, or 6 bone-rattling hours by speedboat. There are also operators now offering 2-day "luxury" cruises.

Expect to spend the night in Pakbeng if you're taking a slow boat (the safest option), or to arrive in Luang Prabang deaf, shaken and either exhausted or exhilarated from six hours in a speedboat. There is also a twice-weekly "one day comfortable boat" between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai, but the cost is significantly higher.

Slow boats leave every day, the last one at 11:00. The trip from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai costs at least 250,000 kip. The trip to Luang Prabang from Huay Xai costs around 900 baht/220,000 kip or 110,000 kip to Pakbeng. Be sure to retain your ticket stub as they check again when you board again at Pakbeng.

The slow boat leaves Luang Prabang at about 08:30, from the middle of the town, and arrives around 18:00 at Pakbeng.

Make sure you stock up on food and drink before travelling as the on board prices are practically double (20,000 kip as opposed to 10,000 at a restaurant). Many guest houses at Pakbeng sell small, but somewhat pricey, packed lunches for the onward journey.

In Huay Xai it's best to take a tuk-tuk from the border crossing to the boat landing (or about 15 min walk) and purchase your tickets at the boat landing because all the tour agencies in town charge a commission, and agents usually don't have reliable information about the quality of the boats. It is common to have to switch to a different boat in Pakbeng, so you may end up in a boat of higher or lower quality for the second half of the journey. The two day boats have nice comfortable car seats, and so it is no longer necessary to purchase any cushions.

The slow-boat is generally packed, so much so that there may not enough seats to go round. Arriving early will mean a longer day, but most likely a better seat, towards the front and away from the engine. The best seats are located near the captain as they allow access to large open 'doors', however, this area can get cramped with locals and their belongings.

The slow boat trip proceeds at a pleasant 20-30 km/h and offers nice views to the nature and village life on the banks of the Mekong river. Most of the passengers are foreign tourists. Occasional locals take the boat only for short hops between the river side villages, but prefer to take the bus for the full distance from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. So you won't be able to observe any local boat travellers, as the boat ride offers just the usual sight of tourists drinking Beerlao but is a great way to meet other tourists and discuss route plans and travel info.

If you choose to travel on the speedboat (a light canoe with a very powerful engine), a crash helmet and life-jacket will be provided, but once you have taken the trip you will realise they are mostly show only and will not help you if something goes wrong. Regardless, it is not recommended you travel in a speedboat without this safety equipment. It is also recommended that you make your bags as waterproof/water-resistant as possible and wear a rain jacket. The boat can generate quite a bit of spray, plus any showers you might encounter along the way will sting like needles against any exposed skin. On sunny days, sunscreen is invaluable as there is no roof/shade on these speed machines. The journey to Huay Xai can be reduced to as few as 4 hours in the wet season, with a lunch stop at Pakbeng. However, some consider this means of transportation less safe, especially in the dry season when boats travelling at 80 km come within a few metres of exposed rock. Earplugs are strongly recommended. Those concerned about their environmental impact may want avoid speedboats, as they are heavier polluters than the slower options. Speedboats run on LPG with boats stopping regularly to get supplies (8 bottles required per trip) and it is not overly comforting to the weak-hearted to have two full bottles at the front of your boat as you negotiate 3 m diameter whirlpools to avoid 6 m rocky outcrops almost close enough to touch. Travel agents in Luang Prabang will sell the tickets for 320,000-370,000 kip, you will need a minivan to take you the 10 km north to the fast boat pier. Unless you're an adrenalin junky, look for other transport options.

The third option is to take a "luxury" cruise. The major operators are Luang Say [4] and Nagi of Mekong [5]. Both operate two-day cruises to Hauy Xai that stop in Pakbeng for the night. A third player, Shompoo Cruise, has now entered the market. Although the journey takes as long as taking the slow boat, these operators offer vastly superior facilities and equipment than public slow boats, and you should be prepared to pay a premium for it. Tickets for all three operators can be bought at most travel agents in town.

Prices are approximately 220,000 kip for a slowboat, 280,000 kip for a speedboat. 3,000,000 kip for Luang Say, 1,200,000 kip for Nagi of Mekonand (both including a night in a hotel) and 640,000 kip for Shompoo. There are reports that prices for Luang Say and Nagi of Mekong can be bargained down.

There is no public boat service to Vientiane, but it may be possible to do the trip by private tourist boat when the water levels are high enough. Read more about fast and slow boats in the Laos country guide.

See

Alms Ceremony, Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, taken from across the street in early May 2011.

Local landmarks and culture

  • Alms ceremony — monks at dawn (06:00) collecting alms of rice from kneeling villagers and tourists, who form the majority, along Sakkaline Road near Wat Sensoukharam. Just look for the long row of rice baskets and stools that have been laid out for tourists who have paid for the privilege of giving alms. Seeing these tourists, who make up the majority of the alm-givers, seated on plastic stools participating out of fun rather than sincerity definitely reduces the authenticity of the moment. To make things worse, some are dressed inappropriately: please, if you want to give alms, at least cover up and do not show the monks your cleavage! Ask your guest house host to assist you the day before in preparing if you'd like to get up and give alms in the morning. Please note that the alms giving ceremony is one which, while picturesque, is not without its detractors. Unscrupulous local merchants have used the eagerness of tourists to participate in a local tradition as a means of making easy money, and sometimes sell unsuitable, stale and even unsafe food. This has resulted in monks falling ill after having consumed the offerings, and resistance to continuing the tradition. However, the government has made it clear that the monks have to continue the tourist pageant or risk being replaced with lay people clothed in saffron robes in order to keep up appearances, and thereby maintain tourist revenue. So if you wish to participate in this ceremony, prepare the food or fruit yourself, and avoid giving food of unknown quality. Another problem is the photography: while it looks nice on your collection, think about how it must feel for the monks to have hundreds of tourists photographing them every day. Some lowlifes even stand right next to them, flashing them in the eyes! Strongly consider only watching this old tradition from a distance instead of using it as a tourist attraction, as this may detract from the beauty of the ritual - both for locals and tourists alike. You can always download a picture of it somewhere on the net for your collection.
  • Haw Kham — the former royal palace and now national museum, 30,000 kip, no photo/video/bag/shoes allowed, free locker. Open 08:00-11:30 and 13:30-16:00 every day except Tuesday. There's also sometimes local drama or dance performances in the adjacent theatre. In August 2011, on Mon./Wed./Fri./Sat., there was a performance at 18:30 of "Search of Princess Sida", a royal ballet, with prices from 80,000 to 150,000 kip. It is important to check the timings and plan the visit accordingly.
  • Phou Si — the main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It's not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are the most sensible and rewarding times to go up. There is a near-panoramic view from the top. There are 2 entrances from ground level: 1 on the north along Sisavangvong Road, facing the Royal Palace, and another one on the East, on Sisavang Vatthana Road. The northern entrance has about 130 steps up to the ticket counter, and another 190 steps to the top. Even folks with low fitness levels should be able to complete the climb, although it can be tiring for the unfit. The eastern entrance is longer than the northern one by a factor of 2 or 3, and is hence less steep and has more points of interest along the way, which are perfect excuses for stopping for a breather on the climb. Entrance fee 20,000 kip.
  • Sunset on the waterfront — take a walk along the Mekong, or sit and enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants and watch the sun sink into the horizon. If having dinner, make sure to bring some mosquito repellent or wear long trousers. Mosquitoes love stationary targets.
  • Vat Xieng Toung — the oldest monastery in town and one of the most beautiful. Opens from 06:00-18:00. Entry fee 20,000 kip. One entrance on the road along Mekong river, the other on the by-lane off the main road.
  • Vipassana temple and park — this golden temple, highly visible from Phou Si, is a shrine for Buddhists who practice Vipassana meditation.

Out of town

  • Bear Rescue Centre, (on the way to the Kuang Si Waterfalls). The Bear Rescue Centre has a enclosure for endangered Asiatic black bears that have been rescued from poachers and bear bile farms.
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
  • Kuang Si Falls. Closes 17:30. A large multi-stage waterfall, accessible by boat or truck hire, some 29 km south of Luang Prabang. You can rent a motorbike to transport yourself there. There are food and tourist stalls outside the waterfalls. It is worth putting a whole day or more aside for seeing this because it is a great place to relax and meet others. There are multiple pools at different levels, all of which are reportedly safe to bathe in, and are extremely picturesque. Shared tuk-tuks to go there charge about 30 to 50,000 kip. The cheapest seems to be near slow boat pier, though you can get them for 40,000 kip near JoMa Bakery. You may have to wait until the tuk-tuk fills up. Tuk-tuks are legally only allowed to take six people, and there is a checkpoint at the falls, so some drivers may try to get a 7th person in the front seat. A private tuk-tuk will cost you around 150,000 kip after some haggling. Drivers will try to show you some documents that quote 200,000 kip or more. Ignore it and insist on your price. Try and go with 5 people and insist on 30,000 kip each. Drivers should wait for 3-4 hours for you at the waterfall gate area. Make sure your 150,000 kip includes transport there and back. Bargain, bargain, bargain. Just remember that there are dozens of tuk-tuks around, so you have the advantage. If on your own, propose 30,000 kip, and if you have the patience wait until he finds more people. A seat in a mini bus costs 40,000 kip, more if booked through travel agent. Admission, 20,000 kip.
  • Pak Ou Caves. The famous "Buddha caves" are north of town on the Mekong and can be reached by road (approx 1 hr) or river boat (around 1.5 hrs). Alternatively, you can hire canoes and a guide for the day, which will allow you to view the beautiful scenery and visit the caves without throngs of other tourists. It's also possible to finish the trip at the "whisky village" where the local Laolao rice spirit is made. There are two caves: one on the entry level and another, the upper caves, on top of the hill. A very steep climb, but worth the effort. A flashlight is recommended to see the upper cave. Simply cross the river for for 3,000-5,000 kip, walk up the hill and turn to the right crossing the primary schools to find your way to the caves.
  • Tad Sae Waterfalls. Stepped waterfalls which are not as big as Kuang Si, but very beautiful. You can bathe there, and elephant rides are also available. You must take a river boat to reach the place. Admission, 15,000 kip.
  • Tad Thong Waterfall and Nature Trail, (6 km from town centre, off Route 13 south to Vientiane). The waterfalls are not as spectacular as the Kuang Si but there is a paved 50 minute walk through the jungle through a forest of huge trees dotted with picnic areas. Closed for many years but now open. Water from the falls cascades into a big lake that you can swim in. A natural location with not many tourists, but there is a restaurant. Go by tuk-tuk, minivan, or rent a scooter or bicycle.

Arts and crafts

  • Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre. On the banks of the Mekong just 2 km south of Luang Prabang town, it offers an informative free tour to all visitors. Operating as a fair trade traditional weaving centre you can take classes in bamboo/textile weaving, dye your own silk, draw your own batik, or just relax at the Mekong garden cafe. Free tuk-tuk departs daily from both Ock Pop Tok shops in town: 10:00,12:00 & 14:00.
  • The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. A small but perfectly formed museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos. Find out more about the groups that make Laos unique and so enrich your visit to Luang Prabang. Sometimes closed for exhibitions, so please check in advance.

Project Space • Luang Prabang is a non-profit multifunction space for producing exhibitions, events and objects in the cultural capital of Laos that opened in December of 2010. Our building with three floors and a rooftop terrace with stunning views is in the centre of Luang Prabang and will host several exhibitions per year and collaborate with other cultural institutions in Luang Prabang and elsewhere on joint events and projects. We have four exhibition rooms, a studio for artist residencies and a rooftop terrace for projections and functions.

Project Space • Luang Prabang is an initiative of Jean-Pierre Dovat, interior architect and designer and Rik Gadella, publisher and creator of amongst others Paris Photo, Parcours des Mondes and the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden in Luang Prabang.

Do

  • Big Brother Mouse. A helping organisation devoted to encouraging literacy in young adults and has premises off the main street, down a side street next to 3 Nagas restaurant. Depending on sponsorship and volunteers, it welcomes tourists Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00-11:00 to help with English conversation and reading practice. They publish and distribute books in Lao and English. Consider buying some books to take as gifts to village children as you travel through Laos. They also have a branch in Vientiane.
  • Fair Trek Project, [6]. People who love activities and treks may find some interesting interactive tours which are designed to support villages outside of Luang Prabang, and in the north of Laos.
  • Lao Red Cross Massage, (Wisunarat Road, in front of Wat Wisunalat.). Massage, 09:00-21:00; Sauna, 16:00-20:00. A traditional Lao sauna and massage that is popular with locals in the afternoon. 1 hour massage, 40,000 kip; sauna, 10,000 kip.
  • Lenou's Library, [7]. Lenou started a library and children's English tutoring centre in his house a few years ago and since has been steadily expanding services with help from some volunteers. Lenou sometimes organises dinners on the NumOu river by request and generally seems to appreciate a helping hand. This is a good way to experience the local culture and experience the Laos village life without a tour bus.
  • Rent a Motorbike. At US$20-25 per day the price is high for SE Asia, riding around the surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is a fantastic way to see the countryside. Fuel for the whole day will cost around 15,000 kip. Typically, they will keep your passport so make sure they know when you are leaving and how to recover your passport.

Learn

Cooking classes

This is an enjoyable way to gain insights into Lao culinary methods and traditions. There are three substantial cooking class providers in town, all attached to popular restaurants, using Lao chefs/instructors. They differ somewhat in style and content, but all start with a tour of the local food market and include transport and copies of their recipes and other information about Lao cuisine. Participants sit down to eat their dishes afterwards.

  • Tamnak Lao is situated in premises to the side of their main-street restaurant. They offer both day and evening courses (10:00 to 17:00, 250,000 kip, and 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm 200,000 kip). Contact details:[8], tel +856 71254670. For day class, there are 2 mandatory plus 5 optional dishes to choose from (choose only 3) for a total of 5 dishes plus demonstration only on how to cook sticky rice and Lao chilli paste. Variation is not much as 4 of the 7 dishes presented require eggs. Instruction is no-nonsense and very fast paced but Mr. Lee, the instructor, is very helpful if you need help. It starts with demonstration then hands on. All the dishes done are to be eaten, so be sure to bring along a cooking-eating partner.
  • Tamarind: a taste of Laos has a restaurant along the Nam Khan river, but you are taken to and from the rather lovely gardens by the water a short ride from town for their classes (09:00 to 15:30, 250,000 kip). Contact details: [9], tel +856(20)77770484.
  • Tum Tum Cheng, whose restaurant and open kitchen is also on the main street towards the end of the peninsula, offers a half-day course for $US38. Classes have more of a demonstration orientation, with participants helping instructors with various tasks. Tel+856 71252019. All courses can be booked at the relevant restaurants.

Some of the hotels and guesthouses in town also offer small or private cooking classes for their guests.

Panorama of Luang Prabang. This view features the Nam Khan river on the left, and the Luang Prabang airport on the very far left

Farm Visit

  • Living Land Farm offers a "Rice Experience" Tour, or you can just stop by this farm, which is right outside of town on the way to the waterfall. If you stop by without a tour, they will still show you around the farm, pointing out the organic vegetables and rice and showing you the old-school instruments they use to process rice. Contact details: [10].

Buy

Thai baht and US$ are widely accepted but the exchange rates vary. There are some ATMs accepting Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and Eurocards. These ATMs are situated mostly in Sisavangvong Road near the end of the Night Market. The ATMs dispense currency in Lao kip and generally allow a maximum withdrawal of 1,000,000 kip with a charge of 20,000 kip. Multiple withdrawals are allowed to a daily maximum of 5,000,000 kip. If you arrive by plane, there is an ATM and a money changer at the airport which is open for a few hours of the day, so don't count on changing there. Also, their rates are significantly worse than the banks in town.

Money Changers/Exchange

For Malaysians, it is best to change money to baht, where the rate is RM 10 = 100 Baht or more, then change the baht to kip in Laos. This is because they give not so good rates in laos for Malaysian ringgit.

There are a number of money changers who generally do not offer good rates, and are located either on Sisavangvong Rd or in the permanent markets further east. One is next to the ATM near the Night Markets, another is about 50 m further north along the street, located out the front of one of the first restaurants (looks like a little tollbooth). The rates offered may vary, so shop around before you change. It maybe better to stick with official money changing services at a bank which are easily found. There are reports of scam by using money changers to take cash advance. They will charge you more in US$ with different exchange rate than written, and even after complaining it's not possible to cancel the transaction.

Beware also of money changers giving you 1,000 kip notes instead of 10,000. The notes look similar.

The Night Market (on Sisavangvong Road) caters to tourists with every kind of souvenir you could want and closes at about 22:00. Particularly good are the duvet covers, cushion covers, and pillow sets. They will custom manufacture one to your dimensions in one day. It is well worth a look and the hawkers are very pleasant to deal with and amazingly non-pushy by Asian standards. Traders range from young children to the elderly who usually make the items they sell. Good-natured bargaining is advisable, but don't obsess over this and ruin your experience as well as giving the trader a bad day. It should be understood that the quality and design of goods is lower in the market than in the legions of increasingly chic stores in the town.

There may well be some souvenirs available made from endangered animals. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (starfish, etc.), fur, feathers, teeth and other products. This is the best place to buy lower end souvenirs and hone your bargaining skills.

The Lao aesthetic sense is quite evolved in its own way, and this can be seen in the higher-end shops:

  • Ock Pop Tok, 73/5 Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang, plus 2 other shops in town, +856 71 253219, [11]. An ethical trading company with superb galleries. Also runs classes and visits to village weaving facilities.

Books

Several book shops sell photocopied books, and so it's worth checking the copies as pages can be unreadable or even missing. Also, such copies may be illegal in your country.

  • Book Exchange The Tamnak Lao Restaurant Book Exchange has a very good selection of books. The exchange operates on a "one for one" basis plus 20,000 kip, and all books are also available for purchase. All of the money raised by the book exchange goes to buying provisions for the Luang Prabang Government Orphanages and ethnic high schools [12]. It is located in the lane next to the Tamnak Lao restaurant.

During lunchtime, which is around 12:00 to 13:30, the dry summer sun can be scorching. To spend time comfortably while waiting for the sun to mellow at around 15:30, hang around at the public library across from the national museum about 4 or 5 buildings along. There are English language newspapers issued months ago still in circulation. Or surf the net for free from the six Internet stations.

Eat

There are no McDonald's restaurants or any other multi-national fast food outlets in Luang Prabang, or elsewhere in Laos.

Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the roads along the Mekong and Nam Khan. Food runs the line from standard SE Asian backpacker fare to more traditional Lao dishes, including buffalo sausage, right up to very high quality French cuisine.

There are also numerous market stalls for cheaper food, including baguettes, crepes, and pancakes. Stalls along an alleyway between the night market end of Sisavangvong Road and the Mekong offers superb Lao street food at bargain prices.

The much recommended street-food market located east of the Tourist Information building as posted on PBS Gourmet.com, said to be one of the must-see street food markets in SE Asia is quite disappointing though. A dozen or so buffet dishes per table-stall is offered at 10,000 kip per plate. They are displayed in aluminium basins with no warmers and by the time it's 20:00, the food is cold. The taste is also bland, nothing outstanding or super noteworthy more than any indifferent buffet offerings in other parts of the world. Also, one must contend with a barrage of flies. Basically, if one sees one table, one has seen it all.

While the buffet tables are the cheaper way to eat, be wary of the hygiene. You'll never encounter fatter flies elsewhere in SE Asia. For a bit more, a tasty alternative are the grilled fish, chicken legs, and buffalo sausages sold just before the main "buffet" area. Delicious and worth every overcharged kip. Even tastier if you are tired of fried rice from the dozens of cafes that have sprung up on every corner.

A large Beerlao should not cost more than 10,000 kip, and 8,000 kip for the small dark variety, pretty much standard throughout the country. Most riverside places offer the same prices for beer and generally the same foods. Prices of food can vary wildly, though. Shop around and don't be shy about asking prices directly if anything is unclear.

Probably the one dish most recommended is the Lao version of fried spring roll: vegetarian at 3,000 kip, or pork at 5,000 kip per piece.

Be careful of buying the bundles of dried seafood snack unless you have experience with it. The texture is like chewing salty paper.

Local specialities include:

  • French baguettes and other bakery items.
  • Local watercress, which is very peppery.
  • Fried dried seaweed with sesame seeds dipped in a chili sauce.
  • Buffalo steaks and sausages.
  • Luang Prabang Khao Soi: spicy clear mince and noodle soup which is very different from the Chiang Mai version

Cafes and restaurants

  • Le Banneton - Opposite Wat Sop, Sisavangvong Road. Authentic French bread, tarts, pastries and cakes. Their pain au chocolate is buttery and delicious.
  • Big Tree Cafe - Consistently well-prepared Western food and authentic Korean food. Under the big tree on the Mekong River. Good service and free Wi-Fi.
  • Blue Lagoon Restaurant, (beside National Museum), 856 (71) 25 36 98, [13]. Offers Luang Prabang-Lao highlights and Swiss classics as well as a variety of snacks and fresh salad.
  • Boulevard Restaurant - A new al fresco-style restaurant under the same wing of New Daraphet Villa behind JoMa Bakery. For those wishing a quiet meal be warned the owner has recently brought in sound equipment and a new acoustic guitar for music enthusiasts to jam. The restaurant has 2 sides for both proper dining and casual drinking. Serves decent draught Tiger beer and a good atmosphere..
  • Eisgarten German Cafe - Owned by a German couple, the cafe is a nondescript house with a tiny sign board. It is easy to miss but do look out for it. The homemade ice cream is absolutely divine at 10,000 kip per scoop. The apple cinnamon and coconut flavours are particular stand outs. Customers dine al fresco in the yard, so bring adequate protection from mosquitoes particularly in the evenings. Near the old bridge on Phommathat Road. Near Ban Meuanna, opposite Visoun Namsok Hotel.
  • L'Elephant- Around the corner from Saffron Cafe. A lovely restaurant with a unique mix of Laotian and French cuisine. The food is extremely good, but has its price. It is directly in front of a small guest house, and not far away from Les 3 Nagas hotel and Villa Santi Hotel. The ingredients are of the highest quality, ranging from French Camembert to Laotian lemon grass and river weeds. Has a great ambience, but the menu is both pricey and some items do not justify their price tag.
  • Hmong Night Market (Vegetarian + Vegan) - One food stall says vegetarian and the other "végétalien" (vegan). Approximately 5,000 kip for a plate. Popular with budget visitors but not an option for those looking for tasty food. Cash only. Eat at your own risk as hygiene standards are questionable. Market is open 17:00-22:00.
  • The House - Luang Prabang's only Belgian restaurant and bar. Excellent price-quality cuisine. It has an appealing range of Belgian beers, cocktails, and wines. Known for its lasagne, beef stews and curries. Recommended for vegetarians. Conveniently situated at the Nam Khan riverside of Mount Phousie, a few minutes away from main street and night market. A green bamboo garden with fairy lights: very popular and good ambience. Staff are very attentive. [14] +856(0)71.255.021 [thehouselaos@gmail.com]
  • Indochina Spirit- Excellent Lao and Thai cuisine. Great value. Everything is tasty but try the minced fish and aubergines. Has old, stuffy, and not so pleasant odour in the interior tables, so be warned.
  • Joma Bakery Cafe - The best cafe in Luang Prabang. Enjoy their original Bagel Egger (bagel, egg, ham, cheese and mayo), Oat French Toast, the best Reuben in SE Asia and best coffee in Lao. Offers free Wi-Fi, air-con on both floors and free full-menu delivery service from 07:00-19:30. Great music and very friendly staff. Price range: 8,000- 43,000 kip.Near the post office at the end of the night market. Phone: 071-252-292. Operating hours: 07:00-21:00.
  • Lao Lao Garden - Attractively designed bar/restaraunt notable for its Lao-style barbecue, in which you and your friends cook pre-prepared meat on a barbecue mounted in the centre of the table. A backpacker favourite and becomes busy in the evenings with loud club music. If you prefer to cook your barbecue in an atmosphere of quiet contemplation there are other BBQ options along the riverside.
  • Nava Mekong Dining Cruise [15]- Nava Mekong is the exquisite dinning cruise of Luang Prabang. Dining on the on the side of the mighty Mekong is a recommended thing to do when visiting Luang Prabang.
  • Un Petit Nid - Biblio Bistro. Very relaxing bistro serving excellent Lao and Western food in nice atmosphere. Watch out for the kittens. Try the Orlam with spicy wood. Good vegetarian menu. (19.894717149999998,102.14083575000001)
  • Riverloft Restaurant, (down the road from Tamarind), [16]. 030 200 5228 [17] Reasonably priced, high quality foods. Superb breakfast. Or for lunch or dinner you could do Lao with Northern treats like "Orlaam" or Mok Pa (steamed fish in banana leaf) or have a salad and sandwich. The highlight is the 10 kip bottomless coffee which is true Lao Arabica unlike many other places that serve Nescafé. Free fast Wi-Fi with purchase. Fantastic place to hangout for an afternoon; do ask for the manager if there is something wrong with the food, as she will discount or redo the order.
  • Rosella Fusion Restaurant - Clean and well-cooked food. A small place (blink, and you'll miss it) that looks like a fruit shake place. Locally owned by a Lao who trained at Amantaka Restaurant. Possibly the best steaks in town, certainly great cocktails. Slow service, but worth it.
  • Saffron Café - (around the corner from L'Elephant restaurant in Wat Nong village) - The best coffee in Luang Prabang, which comes from the surrounding mountains. The banana shake macchiato is also recommended. Delicious fresh baked goods such as their cinnamon swirls and banana muffins go quickly. The granola and salad wraps are good.
  • Sala Café-Nice place with a view on the Nam Khan river. This restaurant-bar offers an open air terrace where you can relax while trying home-made Vietnamese, French and Lao specialities. Some people think it is a little bit expensive, but this quality comes at a price.
  • Scandinavian Bakery- Serves Western quality breakfasts, burgers and pizzas. Food must be paid for before eating. Delicious Italian-style pizzas.
  • Shakes & Crepes- a no name place serving delicious shakes for 5,000 kip and fantastic sweet crepes starting from 7,000 kip. In front of Croissant d'Or on the main street.
  • Tamarind - On the banks of the Nam Khan river next door to Apsara, specialises in introducing Western tourists to Lao food, so the dishes are offered with explanations and the menu is full of information. Traditional Lao food in sampler format. Platter combinations of dips,salads etc as well as set menus. Only a small wine list but good range of fruit drinks. Popular cooking classes in a garden setting. Sells food products, recipe books etc.

Hydrating

Be sure to buy a small (or big depending on your needs) backpacking-sized plastic bottled water. Bottled water is cheap, but of especially good value are the locally branded white 1 litre bottles of wate at only 2,000 kip each. They are commonly seen bundled 6 to a plastic bag, but they are available for sale individually. To reduce plastic waste, you can refill your bottles as you go along from your hotel's/guest house's or tour agent's office water dispenser. They are ubiquitous and one should not consider water expenses in the budget.

If you can't find one along the backpacker's area, go to the lobby of the Phra Lang Phra Lao, a separate building besides the National Museum, beyond the huge King Sisavangvong statue, and re-supply. The water dispenser is at the righthand side at the far end of the corner from the entry door. There is also an available toilet with no charge. Or ask at any shop or agent.

Drink

There are a number of places to drink around Luang Prabang, though the late-night club scene is pretty much nonexistent. The liveliest and busiest bars are in a small cluster between Mount Phousi and the Nam Khong.

Luang Prabang's status means that curfews are strictly enforced here: bars start winding down at 23:00 and close at 23:30 sharp. The only permitted late-night options are outside the main part of town: a discotheque patronised mostly by locals and bizarrely, a ten pin bowling alley.

If you do plan on staying out after hours, check the arrangements with your guesthouse first to avoid being locked out.

If you're simply looking to relax and enjoy the river views, most riverside restaurants have tables outside where you can sit back with a beer or two.

  • Books and Tea L'Etranger - downstairs is a book shop/swap and upstairs is a bar selling drinks and cake in a room covered in cushions for lazing around and reading. Movies everyday at 19:00. A tad greedy and unfriendly on the book exchange business.
  • The Bowling Alley on the edge of the town is the unlikely centre for after-curfew revelry. Serves Beerlao and whisky well into the early hours of the morning to a raucous backpacker crowd, and also happens to be a bowling alley (20,000 kip per person per game after midnight). Even the addition of lanes doesn't seem to have dented the emphasis on drinking. This is invariably reached by crowds of people sharing tuk-tuks, which cluster around the bottom end of Phousi Rd around the time the bars close.
  • Hive Bar, Phousi Rd.. closes 11:30pm sharp. Established and highly popular watering hole, with cosy brick-lined rooms and an outside terrace. Notable for their ethnic fashion shows at 19:00. most days of the week and their range of Lao Lao cocktails.
  • Lao Lao Garden and the adjacent Lao Lao Bar, Phousi Rd.. closes 22:30. Popular with the backpacker crowd - in addition to their acclaimed food, it is marketed as a place to "drink like a fish for the price of water".
  • Mekong Sunset Beach Bar - The place to go to watch the sunset. Located at the river mouth of Nam Khan and Mekong, you have to cross the bamboo bridge behind Wat Xieng Thong and walk 3 min. Very simple but unbelievable. Floods in the wet season.
  • Morning Glory Cafe - On the quiet end of the main street, after 3 Nagas. Run by a laid-back couple. Thai and Western food, Good wine, by the glass. Garden seating. Temple in front and street life can be seen.
  • Utopia, (by the Nam Khan river - follow the signs from near Hive Bar). 08:00to 23:00. Aims to be a relaxing garden by day and tropical jungle lounge by night, when it fills up with backpackers. Gorgeous views along the Nam Khan River. Caters to backpackers wanting to chill, but other than the beer there is nothing Laoatian about this place with a clichéd backpacker facilities including board games, scatter cushions, giant Jenga and volleyball court. Free Wi-Fi.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 120,000
Mid-range 120,000-400,000 kip
Splurge Over 400,000 kip

Luang Prabang has the best selection of accommodation in Laos, with something to suit every budget. There is everything from tent sites under a roof for 20,000 Kip per night up to super luxury hotels at US$1,500 per night.

Don't expect that the alll the facilities which can be find in Vietnam or Cambodia - aircon, cable TV, internet - can be found in Luang Prabang for US$12.

While the big chains have yet to make an appearance, there's plenty of "boutique" accommodation, although this heavily overused word runs the gamut from quirky to luxury. Most of the lanes and alleys all through Luang Prabang have places to stay, with a large selection also found in the lanes south of the Post Office. Free WiFi is quite commonplace in Budget guesthouses.

Budget

  • Chitlathda Guesthouse has two parts with decent clean doubles 40,000 and triple room 50,000 kip. Free Wi-Fi and water.
  • Cold River Guesthouse. run by a local family. It's directly on the Khan River. Low-season cost is 80,000 kip per night. Free filtered water and bananas are available. On Saturdays they'll serve free home-cooked dinner.
  • Halolao Backpackers, 222 ban that luang. basic clean rooms with fan, cold and warm water, good window mosquito nets. Staff is friendly and helpful. Free coffee and tea in the morning. Free WiFi in lobby and sometimes in rooms (bad coverage). Double room with bathroom for 100,000 kip per person. A bit hard to find, near to NamPhou, behind of Suvarnaphoum Hotel, in front of Muong Thong Hotel. If you come from main road Sisavangvong Road, leading the way to Joma Coffee, passing by this coffee shop and then you will see Suvarnaphoum Hotel and Nam Phou, turn left into the second small street count from Suvarnaphoum Hotel main door, and you will see Halolao backpackers after 2 minutes walk.
  • Luang Prabang Backpackers Guesthouse, next to the Nam Khan river's motorcycle/bicycle bridge (a 10 minute walk away from the bustle of the night market). It offers clean and comfortable dorm beds for 40,000 kip per person (includes free breakfast and coffee). The guest house is run by a nice local family who, if you're lucky, will provide you with delicious Lao BBQ and Lao whisky now and then. Free Wi-Fi, cable TV and filtered water.
  • Levady Guesthouse in a lovely side street 50 m off the main street. Nice family, wooden rooms and floor, bike rental, absolutely tidy. Double rooms with fan and private bathroom US$7, no Wi-Fi.
  • Mala Dressmaker & Guesthouse [18]. This is a traditional Lao-style home which has 3 rooms upstairs all with self contained bathrooms and a new cheap room downstairs with a shared bathroom. Free Wi-Fi, drinking water and regularly bananas or other fruit. Price is 50,000-120,000 kip per room. Washing, coffee, breakfast and bicycle rental. There is a dress shop in front where you can have clothes made, repaired or modified. Located close to the Mekong River and short walk to the night markets. 2/16 Wat That Road. email: chanmalaphilaphuangphet@gmail.com Ph: (+856-71) 254-859 and (+856-20) 5567 1180.
  • Merry Guesthouse has rooms for US$3 with bathroom outside. Free filtered water and bananas are available. Not so merry though, the options further down the alley (Cold River and Sysomphone) are more appealing.
  • Meunena Backpacker Hostel, On the right just after the bridge which crosses to the old part of town. Dorms for 30,000 kip. Lockers, free Wi-Fi, Lao whisky, coffee, tea and bananas. Ph: (+856-71) 260-851, email: pbounleua@hotmail.com
  • Mojo Cafe and Guesthouse, offers rooms for 2-3 people with air-con and Wi-Fi included in the deal. The cafe plays hosts to jazz and blues every night from 20:45-22:30 and provides a classy, upbeat environment to listen to have a glass of wine or a the classic tall-boy of Beerlaos.
  • Nur Aisyah Guesthouse [19] is run by locals and lodges up to 20 people. The place is clean, spacious and comfortable. There are house rules governing noise, fighting and bringing girls into the rooms.
  • Phasith Guesthouse Rooms from 80,000-120,000 kip a night for a large room with air conditioning. Rooms feature an en suite balcony. Located right around the corner from Utopia Bar, Lao Lao, the Hive lounge Bar in the upscale nightlife area. Five minutes walk from the Night Market. Free Wi-Fi, free coffee/tea. The large almost verandas make it decent for what you pay, but better value and service can be found elsewhere.
  • Sean Sa Ngop Guest HouseBasic double bed rooms with hot shower, fan, sky TV, mosquito net. Have the school on your right hand side.(School near the Dara Market) then take the first right turn and walk down. Bounchaleurn Guest House on your right hand side (it's a landmark). 60,000 kip for the double room.
  • Somjith Guesthouse, (856-71) 252 756; (856-20) 7777 4883 (). Clean room, attached, or shared bathroom, fan or air-con, free Wi-Fi (but a bit unreliable sometimes), laundry service 8,000 Kip/kg starts at 50,000 kip s/d.
  • Spicylaos Backpackers Hostel 4/4 Ban Thongchalern, 300m south of Dara Market. Phone 856-71212500. [20]. Backpacker-friendly hostel with 5 clean dorms and shared bathrooms. Free computer with Wi-Fi, free refilled drinking water, free movie room, free snake whisky, cable TV and common area, free games and table tennis, showers. Good place to meet other backpackers and friendly staff. 30,000 kip per person. They also run a reputable tour agency for the areas around Luang Prabang.
  • Sysomphone Guesthouse [21] (+856-71) 252-543 Located in Banvisoun 22/4 street, off Vatmou-Enna Rd. Have the Lao Development Bank on your left, walk straight till the T-junction, turn right, then take the second left into the small street and Sysomphone is at the end. Has a good view of Nam Khan River behind the guest house and is just around 10 min walk to Sisavangvong Rd. Friendly and helpful family/owner. Free bananas, water and Wi-Fi. Owner has good information, prepares free dinner once a week for guests, has sticky rice if you stumble across dinner, collects guests' photographs in an album, and shares his knowledge of the Lao people and the country if asked. Rooms with shared hot-water bathrooms 40,000-50,000 kip. A newer, cleaner building in the back has fresher rooms for 70,000 kip.
  • VannaPhone Guest House located 10 minutes away from the airport and about 4 minutes from the city. Ranging from US$10-US$15 (depending on what room you choose). Acceptably sized rooms with fairly small bathrooms. Noisy if you choose the rooms located close to the street but if you choose one of the new back rooms it is OK.
  • Vong Champa Guesthouse. centrally located in a small alley on the Mekong river front near the night market, cheap (double 80,000 kip), quiet, brand new and spotlessly clean.
  • Vongphachanh Guesthouse, in a side street off Wisunalat Rd near Wat Wisunalat. Nicely decorated clean rooms at a decent price, free Wi-Fi, pretty quiet.
  • Xayana Guesthouse and X³ Capsule Hotel [22]. Guest house in a Lao-style villa in the protected zone. Dorms from US$4 or 30,000 kip, rooms from US$8. Clean dorms with bathroom/showers inside. Movies are shown in the evening. Extra services are quite expensive. (valuable storage in safety box for 20,000 kip, laundry service 18,000 kip. There are cheaper laundry services nearby though).

Mid-range

  • Prasith Guest house. Local family run guesthouse in a well kept restored old building. Located on Chaosisouphan Rd. Between Mt Phousi & Nam Kham River. Building faces back stairs/entrance of Mount Phousi. Central location. The nicely decorated clean rooms have ensuite bathrooms with either balconies or gardens attached. Free wifi, bottled water, bananas provided. Family is friendly and invites guests to join them when they make family trips to local attractions. Email - kolawy@hotmail.com. Tel - +856-71-260-420
  • Soutikkone Guest House. Central location near the night market and an Indian Restaurant. Large, clean rooms with a very hot shower, good Western-style toilet, and mosquito netting on the windows/door. Very nice wooden floorboards as well. The staff speak English. A room costs US$25.
  • Bouakham Chanthasack Guesthouse. A brand new, beautiful high end guesthouse on the Mekong riverfront near the night market. All rooms have bathrooms and air conditioning, clean and nice, double rooms for $US45.
  • Hotel De Lyon, out of town near the airport, [23]. New 24-room hotel built in "Lao-Colonial" style. Free airport and city shuttles. $US45-60.
  • Jade Hotel, Phu Vao Rd, [24]. Modern hotel in an old protected Chinese-style building. Flat-screen TVs, free airport transfers. $US30-70.
  • Manichan Guesthouse, [25]. Near the Night Market, centrally located, new and clean in green, peaceful environment. "Lao-Colonial" style house with wooden floors and homey feel rooms. Private and shared bathrooms with hot, separated showers. Free coffee corner. Has a balcony with city view. Belgian-Lao management. Low season: US$7–15, high season: US$12–30 (including breakfast buffet). Air-con an optional extra US$4.
  • Merry Swiss Lao Located near Mt. Phousi not on the main street side, but the other side. Room was $US35-40 per night. Rooms have private bathroom and air conditioning.
  • New Daraphet Villa, [26]. Traditional Lao villa in the heritage zone which has been turned into a boutique hotel. Large terraces and lots of flowers. Airport transfer included. $US30-60.
  • Rama Hotel A recently renovated higher end guesthouse. Hot water shower and air con if you need it. Rooms in February 2008 were $US30 per night and included a decent breakfast. This hotel was fairly quiet with a little bit of traffic noise until about 11PM.
  • Sabaidee Guest House.[27], 70 Thammikarat Road. There are lots of good guest houses along here this one is good value around $US25 for a double en-suite room with breakfast included. There's a good laundrette just opposite the entrance.
  • Thony 1 Guesthouse. This converted family villa located along the banks of the Nam Khan river. Only 10 minutes walk to the night market and historic centre. Address: Ban Visoun, Chao Chomphou.Rd. (Just head for Wat Visoun Temple which is very close by. From the temple just look towards the Nam Khan River and you will see the guesthouse). Ranging from $US22-$35. Rooms with riverview & family rooms available. E-mail: thony1@laotel.com Web: [28]
  • Villa Kiengkham. Nice, clean, comfortable hotel with friendly staff. $US25. Note that it is not where shown in the 2007 Lonely Planet Guide to Laos but further north in the same street near the Rama Hotel.
  • Villa Meung Lao. Guesthouse located in the city centre, close to the Royal Palace and the morning market. Rooms offer air-con, television, wifi (that is sometimes unreliable) and free water. Doubles from $25-30.
  • Tha Heua Me Guest House : This family guesthouse is located in the city centre, close to the main attractions. Each morning at dawn, the orange-dressed Buddhist monks walk just a few metres away from the terrace for the alms giving ceremony. Newly opened in October 2011. website

Splurge

  • Amantaka. [29] Luxury Resort of the Aman Group. Set on a large garden estate, Amantaka is housed in graceful French colonial buildings just south of Phousi Hill. Airy and elegant throughout, the décor and furnishings reflect the town’s French colonial history. Rates from US$650 per night.
  • Ancient Luang Prabang.[30] In main st next to night market. No room numbers - names like "tiger room". Rooms not quite up to standard for this price - no shower curtain and cleverly designed taps to ensure a wet floor, no bedside table, no reading light. However clean and comfortable. Friendly staff and no cost for airport transfer. Wifi is free in the hotel and downstairs cafè.
  • The Apsara, +856 71 254670 (), [31]. A quite wonderful hotel in a restored colonial building overlooking the Khan river on Kingkitsarath Road. All rooms are decorated with local fabrics and furniture and very much in keeping with the hip and funky image of the hotel. Try to stay in the original building if you can. Superb French/Asian restaurant in the lobby. US$ 75 to 120.
  • Kiridara. [32] Beautiful hotel on the outskirts of town, with views overlooking Mt Phou Si and the hills surrounding Luang Prabang. The relatively large rooms offer very comfortable beds. The infinity swimming pool has great views, and sometimes masseuses from the spa will offer complimentary 5 minute massages to people lounging by the pool. The spa itself offers a range of massages and herbal steam baths. Small gym onsite. Double rooms start at $112/night.
  • La Residence Phou Vao.[33] Amongst the town's prime hotels, this resort nestles amongst landscaped grounds and gardens, and has picturesque views over Phou Si and the World Heritage town. The property has a traditional Lao spa and a restaurant offering both indigenous and French cuisine. Regular shuttles are provided and boat trips arranged. An Orient-Express Hotel.
  • Les 3 Nagas Hotel. a nice colonial hotel with 7 rooms on one side and 8 on the other. The restaurant is fairly cheap, but the rooms are rather overpriced. There are a few executive suites, the most costly coming with their own set of stairs. But beware: your nights may be troubled as there is a cockerel that sings every morning at the hotel at about 3AM.
  • Lotus Villa, +856 71 255050 (), [34]. A 15 room Laos-colonial villa in the quiet area of the UNESCO precinct. The clean rooms, decorated by local artisans, are centred around a lush tropical garden, includes breakfast and internet/wifi. US$ 60 to 180.
  • Sala Luang Prabang. fine restored colonial villa with comfortable rooms, but it has its price. It has been ordered to change its name as "sala" is considered inappropriate by the local and UNESCO authorities, representing the Buddha.
  • The Grand. an atmospheric set of comfortable neo-colonial buildings on the site of Prince Phetsarath's old residence. Many rooms have idyllic views of both the Mekong River and the hotels gardens and ponds. Located around 4 km from town (a regular shuttle boat and bus service runs for guests), this hotel is enables the discerning tourist to escape from the hum of the city. During the winter season, breakfast is served outdoors on a terrace with spectacular views of the Mekong River and the surrounding hills that emerge from the morning mist.
  • Villa Santi Resort - villa-style resort, good restaurant, (unfortunately) terrible mosquito infested pool, massage and spa service.
  • Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel is an old palace transformed into a hotel, with the "Angsana Spa" within the hotel. Spacious rooms with great amenities. Each room with a balcony. Small but clean swimming pool, hearty breakfast, all staff know you by name as there are only 24 rooms. Within walking distance to all the attractions.
  • Santi Resort & Spa, Villa Santi Hotel & Resort, Sakkarine Road, PO Box 681, Luang Prabang, Laos, (856-71) 252157, [35]. This boutique hotel features 23 rooms and 2 suites, all decorated in a royal Laotian theme.
  • Villa Le TamTam, [36]. Superior Guest House conveniently located in a quiet steet just a minute walk from the city centre. Excellent service and peaceful atmosphere. Full breakfast included. $US55-80.
  • Villa Maly. [37] Another Luxury Boutique Hotel in Luang Prabang. Villa Maly was a former Royal Residence. The property is a blend of traditional Laotian architecture with echoes of its French colonial past. Internet and Breakfast included. US$ 190-300.

Eco-friendly

  • Kamu Lodge. [38] This lodge is situated in a remote location on the Mekong River north of Luang Prabang in an ethnic Kamu village. It offers a sustainable and socially responsible tourism concept.

Get out

You can buy the ticket to Hanoi from a tour agent, or you can walk to the Southern Bus Station (30 mins walk) and buy it yourself for cheaper. You shouldn't buy the ticket at the station itself, but opposite the station you'll see some buses waiting and there will be an office of the Naluang Travel Company. They are the ones that operate the buses, so if you buy anywhere else the ticket will be more expensive.

Also note that they claim to sell a ticket to Hanoi at the Northern Bus Station and for only 150,000 Kip, but this will take you only until the border and then you'll be left at the mercy of the local drivers who can charge you any amount, since you're in the middle of nowhere. Don't mistake the Northern bus station with the Southern!

It is preferable to buy tickets to next destination, say Vientiane at tour agents (12-hr trip and not 9-hr as what agents are touting, a total of 13 hours including the 1-hour meal time and as quoted as of Feb. 12 at 150,000 kip for a seating bus and 165,000 kip for a sleeper bus - both include air-con and meals). For seating buses, there is no built-in toilet and so it's advisable to go before the journey as the stop-over at the restaurant is 4 hours away, and the last, the destination station. Check though, because not all tour companies offer free pick-up from a passenger's residence in the quote price. The southern is about 3 km away from the tourist area, and tuk tuk costs about 20,000 kip. The northern bus station is about 5 km..

When on a night trip to Vientiane, it is preferable to bring along a neck pillow to lessen the impact of the rough trip.

  • Nong Khiaw minivans with hotel pickup cost 65,000 kip from agencies and would likely be cheaper (40,000 or 55,000) when buying directly at the bus station.
  • Chiang Mai - this new bus direct to Chiang Mai started on 20th January 2012 and costs 1,200 Baht one way. The journey is via Udomxai and Luang Nam Tha before being transported across the Mekong by boat and continuing to Chiang Mai. Total journey time is 18 hours. From 2013, the bus will use the new Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge from Huay Xai to Chiang Kong and the fare will rise to 1,500 Baht.
  • Vang Vieng - the air-conditioned so-called VIP bus costs approx 150,000 kip, and is the same price as the Vientiane bus. Mini-buses leave from Vang Vieng at 09:00 and cost 100,000 kip. The mini-bus station is just north of town. The trip takes 6-7 hours (not the 5 that travel agents advertise). Route 13, along which the bus travels, passes through the mountains and twists and turns uncomfortably for most of the journey. This is not a trip to make on a full stomach or if you are feeling queasy.
  • Vientiane - air-con VIP reclining seats bus costs 150,000 kip while air-con VIP sleeper bus costs 165,000 kip if booked through an agent. VIP bus takes 11-12 hours, not the 9-10 hours claimed by many dishonest travel agents. Hotel pickup 1 hour before departure is usually included, but do double-check. Express bus (no aircon) bought at the station is at 110,000 kip. Tickets purchased in Vientiane to Luang Prabang are more expensive than those purchased in Luang Prabang.

The bus follows via routh 13 south is a relentless bumpy ride because the road is curvy and potholed. Comparing pluses and minuses for VIP sleeper/VIP seat to Express for night trips, not much difference. At night there is no need for air-con, and it will be unlikely you can sleep, even on a sleeper bus because of the shaking and rattling as the bus drives along rough, rocky roads. Those prone to motion sickness should know (or better avoid) that this trip travels a winding, mountainous road.

  • Muang Xay - takes about 5 hours. Costs 40,000 kip and points onwards, such as Luang Namtha, is done by public minibus only. Big backpacks are carried on the roof. Reservations are usually not necessary, just take care to go early in order to secure a good seat.
  • Luang Namtha - takes 8-9 hours and costs 90,000 kip. Parts of the road leading from Oudomxay (intermediate stop between Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha) are still under construction and are quite bumpy (as of Nov 09). Direct local bus via Muang Xay at 09.00. Otherwise take bus to Muang Xay and change there.
  • Nong Khiaw - 3 hours away by public bus from the Northern Bus Station or 8-10 hrs by boat for about 110,000 kip. From there boats connect to scenic Muang Ngoi Neua.
  • Huay Xai - up to 15 hours away. Public buses leave at 09.00 (arrive 12 midnight) or 17.00 (arrive 08.00, normal sleeping bus, not sleeper). Costs 135,000 kip. VIP buses leave on alternating days, tickets purchased at the Northern Bus Station will cost 35,000 kip less than those purchased at an agent in town.
  • Phonsavan - bus takes about 8 hours and costs 100,000 Kip leaves Southern Bus Station around 8.00am. Minibus takes around 6 hours and leaves at 09:00. You should be able to buy your ticket at your guesthouse and arrange to be picked up and taken to the minibus station. You can stay on the minibus until it unloads the local people in the centre of Luang Prabang though tuk-tuk drivers may try to make you get off earlier at the bus station.

BanNaluang Bus Station (South Bus Station)

The south bus station is located approximately 3 km from town on Road 13 , just after the stadium and the chinees Market. facing to it there is a Bcel ATM, and a second privet bus station- Naluang Travel Company - from there the minibuses depart - and you can buy a ticket.

To Departs hours Approximate price (Kip) Duration (Hours) Comments Last update
Sainyabuli 9:00,14:00 60,000 Kip 5 Hours Bring a dust mask! June 2011
Phonsavan (Local bus) 8:30 80,000 Kip June 2011
Phonsavan (Air-con bus) 8:30 95,000 Kip June 2011
Phonsavan (VIP bus) 8:30 105,000 Kip June 2011
Vang Vieng (Air-con bus) 9:30 90,000 Kip 6-7 Hours June 2011
Vang Vieng (VIP bus) 9:30 105,000 Kip June 2011
Vientiane (Local bus) 6:30, 8:30, 11:00, 14:00, 16:30, 17:00 , 18:30 110,000 Kip June 2011
Vientiane (VIP bus) 8:00, 9:00, 19:30, 20:30 130,000 Kip 11-12 hours Don't believe travel agents who claim 9-10 hour journeys. The VIP buses are huge, and crawl along the mountain roads at 25km/hr, crank along flat roads at 40km/hr, and make numerous stops for various reasons. Mine took 11.5 hours. Honest agents will tell you the truth, but many will dishonestly claim 9-10 hours. Travel agents will include a mini-bus/tuk-tuk hotel pickup 1 hour prior to departure, but best to double-check. June 2011
Vinh (Vietnam) Wed And Sat - 18:30 200,000 Kip June 2011
Hanoi (Vietnam) Every day except Thursday - 18:00 360,000 Kip 24 hours May 2012

North Bus Station

To Departs hours Approximate Price (Kip) Duration (Hours) Comments Last update
Luang Namtha 9:00,? 90,000 Kip 10 Hours The road to Huay Xai is in a bad condition, and mostly not paved Sep 2012



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