To stop my account going dormant I post a photo journal of a trip with my daughter to Luang Prabang six months ago.
I live in Thailand so this city in neighboring Laos really is a must see, if only to avoid the inevitable “haven’t you been to…….” question. We transited in Vientiane and stayed four days three nights and that is perfectly adequate to see most things at a very leisurely pace and get a lot of reading done. If you are time constrained, two nights is adequate given the city’s compact nature.
Expect temples, a lot of temples, nice architecture and good food. A UNESCO world heritage site with a well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, with a French colonial influence during the 19th and 20th centuries. The French can always be relied upon to leave behind a good tradition of bakeries and coffee.
The Royal Palace Museum is a good start. Built during the French colonial era for King Sisavang Vong. After his death, the Crown Prince Savang was the last to occupy the grounds. In 1975, the monarchy was overthrown by the communists and the royal family were taken to re-education camps. The palace was then converted into a museum. I’m no monarchist but I found it a little sad and certainly poignant. A really modest palace, not in comparison to the homes of the local populace naturally, but say compared to other palaces around the world. I liked it more for that.
Near the entrance is the King’s reception room which walls are covered with murals that depict scenes from traditional Lao village scenes, painted in 1930 by a French artist, Alix de Fauntereau. Each of the walls is intended to be viewed at a different time of day, depending on the light that enters the windows on one side of the room, which matches the time of day depicted. It is absolutely charming. We were forbidden to take photographs though I quite understand they need to preserve it.
I think we visited around 8 temples. Above is a flavour. Some are adorned with beautiful mosaics and gold gilted carved wood. Most is kept is a reasonable state of repair which is commendable given the tropical climate.
Some of the temples stored boats used for the annual boat racing festival held on Nam Khan river one of the two rivers on which the city is located. The other is the Mekong.
The old heritage area is best explored on foot. There are handsome buildings all around. The one on the top right was our hotel.
We went to Pha Tad Ke botanical garden. The first in Laos and recently opened. It was lovely and very peaceful. That concerned me because it was clear that a considerable investment had gone into the place. I hope it is commercially sustainable. It’s located 15 minutes down the Mekong River by boat. We had the boat to ourselves on the way back.
In Luang Prabang you are never far from a river. This is the Nam Khan.
One evening we had a Lao style barbecue by this river. Similar to Shabu-Shabu, Thai Suki, etc, but with more vegetables and with a Lao twist; Kaipen made from river weed harvested from the Mekong. It was delicious.
A memorable trip. I thoroughly recommend.