Luang Prabang is a truly fascinating city. The whole darn thing is a UNESCO World Heritage Center. It’s situated between 2 rivers (the Mekong and the Nam Khan). It contains 32 temples. We were there during the local New Year’s celebration in April. The festival is called Songkran. They celebrate by throwing water at each other. This started with a tradition of sprinkling some water one people to wash away the previous year’s sins so you can start fresh. Now, though, it has turned into a massive 4-day-long water fight. I thought it was fun for about 2.5 days. Then I just wanted to see some temples and walk down the street without getting wet and dyed a new color. I did enjoy the parade though!
We walked up hill from the middle of the town, called Mount Phousi, to the temple at the top. There’s an amazing panoramic view up there! On the other side of the hill there is a temple with Buddha’s footprint!
We also went on a short day-trip to ride elephants, bathe them in the Mekong, and visit the Kuangsi waterfall. Elephants are such big, majestic beasts. Some still run wild in the mountains in Laos. The ones at the camp we visited were all females that were rescued from loggers. It’s cool to feel the beast sway side to side beneath you as it walks. Riding bare back is supposed to be better for the elephant, fyi.
We enjoyed washing the elephants in the cold Mekong. The animals clearly loved it. The waterfall is a surprising aqua color. There are several small cascades you can swim in on the way to the big one.
Sunsets in Luang Prabang were gorgeous every night. Pink glow stretches out in all directions. The mountains are beautiful silhouettes in the distance and the Mekong reflects it all. It’s absolutely magical.
Luang Prabang is a great city to bicycle around. It’s pretty flat. It’s the perfect way to travel between the temples too. You could walk, but it would take much longer.
I love temples everywhere,
but Luang Prabang had some really special ones. The temples shine with wonder. Even when there isn’t incense burning, it seems like there is a sort of haze of calm warmth. The temples are very beautiful and peaceful. They have such detailed decorations is shining gold that really stands out on rich maroon walls. Whimsical ladies tilted sideways dancing, animals, flowers, villagers and other beautiful decorations cover most walls and ceilings. Mosaics glitter on some walls. Inside most temples,there’s one main Buddha who is majestic enough, but several others typically also stand by his side on every side and cascade down from him in height order. Small Buddha-sized boats or temples sometimes accompany the Buddhas behind an altar.
I found a great map of some of the temples with a short description of their highlights in an app called triposo Laos. The mini guide was called Wats of Luang Prabang. It recommended Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Mai Suwannaphumah, Wat Sen, Wat Aham, Wat Winsunalat, Wat Xieng Muan, Wat Manolom, Wat That Luang, and Wat Pra Buddhabaht. I recommend it for walking around town. I didn’t have a guidebook and felt that this did the trick!
Of course with so many temples, you also get lots of monks! Sometimes you see them in the temples or having a meal in a local restaurant. Each morning at dawn, the monks walk through town collecting alms from worshipers who bring food to give. The morning I decided to see the ceremony, they had it at the palace instead of along the streets because of the New Year. Everyone came out in their best sinh (traditional dress) with a blanket and baskets of treats and food for the monks. As the monks walk by, the people put their offerings into the monk’s bowl with a bowed head. There is a feeling of reverence and appreciation. In Buddhism, it’s good for your karma when you share and give.
Another great place in Luang Prabang is the night market. I got some really wonderful hippie dippie stuff there. We got lanterns made of string, one made of hand-made paper, some nice clothes with traditional prints, bags with elephants or embroidery, headbands, and paintings- one turquoise Buddha and one tree of life. The vendors were really friendly and happy to sell.