What To Do in Luang Prabang, Laos
Colour is the first of Luang Prabang’s virtues to greet travellers. Pearly frangipanis with their heady perfume, banks of overgrown trees peppered with scarlet flowers, the burnt sienna robes of hundreds of monks and their novices, and resplendent gold and claret wats. The scent of fresh coffee, river activity, produce markets and spicy food soon follows. And then the broader aesthetics begin to unfold. Encircled by mountains, and set 700m above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River, Luang Prabang is now Laos’ foremost tourist showpiece. The brew of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multiethnic inhabitants captivates even the most jaded travellers, and the quiet benevolence of the city’s residents lulls them into a somnambulant bliss.
Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang's best-known and most visited monastery is centred on a 1560 sǐm that's considered a classic of local design. Its roofs sweep low to the ground and there's an idiosyncratic 'tree of life' mosaic set on its west exterior wall. Inside, gold stencil work includes dharma wheels on the ceiling and exploits from the life of legendary King Chanthaphanit on the walls. During 1887 when the Black Flag army sacked the rest of the city, Xieng Thong was one of just two temples to be (partially) spared. The Black Flag's leader, Deo Van Tri, had studied here as a monk earlier in his life and used the desecrated temple as his headquarters during the invasion.
Laung Prabang night market is something not to be missed when visiting this charming city. It's an amazing sight and offers the most extensive collection of handicrafts in the country.
The market is open daily from 5pm to about 10pm. It is located along Sisavangvong Road from the Royal Palace Museum. Every evening a kilometre-long stretch of road is closed to vehicle traffic and turned into a walking and shopping street while the market takes place.