“The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow.” French Saying
Luang Prabang, the former capital of Laos and today a UNESCO World Heritage site is a magnificent little gem of solitude perched on a small peninsula where the Mekong River and Nam Khan rivers merge.
This remote city has it all from the river, gorgeous architecture, a fascinating religious tradition and scrumptious food.
Everywhere you turn there seems to be a scene more lovely than the one just before. The streets are lined with a unique combination of French mansions dating from the colonial period and gorgeous traditional Laos style structures restored to perfection.
Adding to the ambiance is the enchanting Buddhist feel of the city, with an innumerable number of temples dotting the city and monks constantly coming and going on their way here and there.
Luang Prabang is also home to the tradition of tak bat, whereby the Buddhist monks of the city silently line up in the early mornings to collect alms in the form of food from locals and, now increasingly tourists as well. I personally didn’t take part in the ceremony, as I felt it to be an intrusion on the traditional way of life.
Street Scenes in Luang Prabang, Laos
The River in Luang Prabang, Laos
A central feature of Luang Prabang is the ever-present Mekong River, which rolls swiftly past the town and serves as its lifeline locally and point farther afield.
The busy banks are lined with fishermen, ferrymen and tour guides constantly calling out to passersby and competing for the chance to score some business.
Adding to the appeal of the waterway is the multitudes of riverside cafes and drinking establishments, which hit the spot on a hot afternoon after a day of exploring or bike riding to points afar.
The Food in Luang Prabang, Laos
In Luang Prabang, food is literally everywhere.
In fact it would be impossible to count all the eateries, cafe, markets and food stalls that dot its streets and markets.
Although there are numerous restaurants serving a variety of different types of food these days, the cheapest and some of the best options are the street vendors that set up shop in the markets and on street corners.
From these stalls, visitors can buy Lao specialties such as lemongrass infused meat dishes, papaya salad and various noodle soup dishes for pennies on the dollar.
The food markets themselves are out of this world with a variety of foods in such large quantities and of fine quality that I haven’t seen matched elsewhere.
And of course, don’t forget about drinks-Lao coffee and the ubiquitous Beer Lao!