“What is your favorite place?” This is a question I get often, and at the risk of sounding pretentious, it is nearly impossible to answer. I have had the great fortune to travel all over the world, and for various reasons, I have dozens of “favorite” places. Asking me to pick my favorite place is like asking me to choose a favorite among my 10 nieces. I love them all the same. (Okay, that isn’t true. There is a hierarchy that I won’t divulge here since I may need one of them to take care of me when I’m old).
If pressed to name one favorite destination, Luang Prabang in northern Laos would be on the shortlist. Situated at the confluence of the mighty Mekong and meandering Nam Ou rivers, surrounded by jungle-clad peaks, and filled with heritage buildings and gilded temples, it is a visually stunning town. Few places on Earth are as beautiful.
Luang Prabang has a chilled out vibe, unlike the hectic cities of Southeast Asia. Take a walk through the town, and you’ll encounter tourists sipping coffee at mellow cafes, locals playing bocce while shooting homemade whiskey, fishermen casting a line in the Mekong, and orange-robbed monks on their way to school. Even the lively main street, which turns into a night market, is a hassle-free place to enjoy an evening.
I first visited in late 2006, after two exhausting months traveling through China and Vietnam. My first morning, I awoke early and went to the banks of the Mekong. As I watched fishing boats criss-cross the river, a captain asked if I’d like a river cruise. When I said no, he merely smiled and walked away. After dealing with the touts of ‘Nam and China, I expected him to launch into a sales pitch, cajoling, pressuring, begging, pleading, and prodding me to go. I’d been in LP for a few minutes, and I already loved the place.
I recently spent 10 days in Luang Prabang, my first extended visit in 13 years. In a future blog post, I’ll write about the changes, which I’m happy to report, are minor – and sometimes for the better. For now, I’ll share with you some photos that won’t do justice to one of my favorite towns but could perhaps whet your appetite to see it for yourself. If you go to Luang Prabang (or have already been) I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.
Luang Prabang Photo Gallery
(Click any photo for a slideshow view)
Have you been to Luang Prabang?
Where are some of your favorite places?
Jeff, some stunning photos here. Funny I have taken a very similar picture to the one of the Temple with the night market below. But yours is so much sharper. Like you I have fallen in love with LP, what a gem of a place. I will be curious to read your next post talking about the changes you have noticed since you have last visited.
I did something rare for the night photo shot – I knocked the dust off the tripod and used it to get a sharper night image. I’m happy you enjoyed it as well. You are going to some places in Laos I’ve never been. I’m looking forward to your blog posts.
Jeff, Gilda and all…..fascinating posts from you both, just catching up on all our reading whilst sitting in the darkness outside our beach hut home on the island of Koh Lanta. We are completely fascinated to follow your posts at the minute, more so than normal, because when we leave here we are heading to Northern Thailand (including Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) and then on to Luang Prabang. So obviously we are lapping up all the detail and advice in your excellent posts ahead of seeing these places for ourselves. To answer your question Jeff about the best place visited, it’s an impossible one because places aren’t all comparable. But yes, if pushed, we all have an answer…. I think ours is possibly, so far, Puerto Escondido in Mexico….but there’s an awful lot of close seconds!
Keep posting guys, we love reading your posts and seeing your great photos.
Ah, Ko Lanta. That is one of our favorite beaches. It is more laid back and less commercialized, and the sunsets are amazing. If you have time, and if you love animals, visit the Lanta Animal Welfare center. You can drink coffee and play with cats.
Mexico is one of my favorite countries. It is such a colorful, fun, friendly, and misunderstood place.
Gorgeous pictures Jeff. We love Luang Prabang too. We also found it to be the perfect setting with just the right amount of comfort yet still feeling like Laos, after months of traveling at that point. Our only disappointment was the alms ceremony. And it has one our favourite waterfalls in the world.
Yes, the alms ceremony has been spoiled. I remember sharing the experience with a few early rising tourists in 2006. This time, there were people everywhere. Then again, we were there at peak season, but still.
Luang Prabang is a beauty and you have captured it perfectly in your words and photos. I was really surprised at how laid back it was. The vendors in the night market were so chill compared to other places we have visited in SE Asia. The town has such a nice mix of tourist amenities and authentic Laos tradition. The most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever been to is in Luang Prabang—Manda de Laos, set in a stunning lily pond garden. I agree with Maggie and Richard’s comment about the alms ceremony. Next time we visit LP I’d like to go in low season.
I just looked up Manda de Laos – that is amazing. Now I need to go back and eat there.
Despite being a tourist town, it still has that laid back, hassle-free vibe which makes it a joy to visit. I hope it stays that way.
Your beautiful photos took me right back Jeff. We went to Luang Prabang back in 2013 planning to stay for a week. We loved it so much we change plans and stayed for 12 days. Such a lovely town.
You were like us on our first trip. We planned to stay four days or so, but stayed about 10.
Yup have to agree that Luang Prabang was one of our very favorite places anywhere! We stayed over a month and were there in slow season so it was particularly pleasurable. Wonderful captures with your photos. That night market had such a high quality of artisanal goods on sale.
Staying a month would be nice. I tried to get my wife to apply for a job at the international school but she thought living there would be too quiet 🙂 The stuff at the market is great. My friend bought a giant wood-carved elephant head that was pretty awesome.
I can see were Laos could be a bit too laid back and sleepy long term. Tge international school here in Hoi An is awesome though…you might consider that?
Maybe someday! I’d like to live in Vietnam.
Wonderful post – it brings back lots of happy and not-too-distant memories. I only wish we’d gotten to the night market. (Illness prevented it.) We went to Siem Reap’s night market but it was frenetic.
The night market is chill in LP, but you aren’t missing much to be honest. Nice stuff, but it is geared for tourists. Sorry again about all your stomach illnesses.
Oh, that’s good to know. Thanks.
We also get asked about favorite places and you are right, you can’t pick just one. Funny, no one hardly ever asks what our least favorite place has been. Wow, that waterfall is amazing!
That waterfall is awesome, and I should have gone later in the day to get better light, but alas. Sometimes people ask my least favorite places and I’m glad when they do because those stories are the best!
How interesting that you like Luang Prabang! Most folks complain about how touristic or expensive (I suppose compared to other Asian cities?) it is. Perhaps they are talking about the ‘city center’ where all the hotels are because it looks like you got out.
We got food poisoning so that was my LP, unfortunately. On Christmas. We ended up booking ourselves into a nice hotel to suffer in comfort and changing our travel plans so we could get home as soon as possible.
I feel like LP has tourists but isn’t “touristy.” Do you know what I mean? Being a UNESCO site, it isn’t full of tacky new construction. The main street is mostly restaurants, not tacky tourist shops. Yes, most of the city core is full of tourists, and Mt. Phousy at sunset is an Instagram warzone, but I walked down the Mekong most evenings at sunset and had it to myself.
Hahahaha. Instagram war zone. I like it! I mean, I don’t like it, but I know what you’re sayin’. You could make that argument. The walking street though feels plenty touristy, but it’s a bit more off the beaten track as far as SEA capitols go…
Ok, I want to go there too!
It is nice. Go!
I love this place too Jeff!
Kuang Si Falls look fantastic! Surreal. I’d love to go there! 🙂
I went to Luang Prabang late 2018. Even though I only stayed there 4 days, before continuing the overland journey to Vietnam, the memories of Luang Prabang still linger on my mind. I spent the mornings by reading On the Road around the inn’s verandah. At noons, I walked around the old, peaceful town. At nights, I’d go to the small alley, the food court, to find some grills and sticky rice, or to Utopia and grab a bottle of cold Beerlao. 😀
Wonderful to return to this very special place through your lens. Read your latest on Sue’s blog and am glad to know that you are safely navigating your way through the corona-crisis. It is very much okay to start drinking wine at 4P given the current circumstances.
Hi Jeff, I first went to Luang Prabang in 2003. I’m surprised that by your photos not much has changed since around that time when UNESCO funded the footpaths around the town. First time I was there there were no footpaths at all. Maybe the main street. No doubt the biggest change will be the numbers of tourists and the numbers of hotels.
Amazing photography from Luan Prabang, Jeff. You captured how beautiful the waters are, and how vibrant the locals and culture are. As you mentioned earlier in the comments, it’s great you discovered a less crowded and more laid-back beach. Sunsets are my thing, and visiting a beach is always a treat whenever I am traveling – or somewhere with a view from the top to watch a sunset. It’s hard to name a favourite place since I haven’t travelled the entire world yet. Singapore would be up there on favourite places – love how easy it is to get around, great food, and there’s a blend of city and nature walks to do. Hope you are doing well and take care.
Thanks for your comments, Mabel. Singapore is a lovely place, so beautiful, clean and organized. Plus, there is great food due to the number of immigrants. I’d like to go back when we can all start moving again.
I remember feeling sooo relaxed when I was in Luang Prabang. For the first time, I thought to myself, this is what holiday is supposed to feel like. I still remember the quiet streets, the peaceful temples, the good restaurants, but unfortunately there was not enough time to visit the palace. How are you doing in Taiwan? It’s the perfect place to be during the pandemic.
I did love Luang Prabang when I went there 9 years ago. Went for an elephant ride and sampled the market. Still use the lampshade we bought there.