A Weekend In: Luang Prabang, Laos – The Gem of Southeast Asia

After 18 days in Vietnam, it was time to head to Laos, and the city of Luang Prabang. And what a spectacular city it was. It is beautiful, walkable, safe, friendly, has beautiful architecture and constant breezes given that it’s on a peninsula at the convergence of two rivers. It’s also a major breath of fresh air after Vietnam. For some perspective, Laos is 3/4 the size of Vietnam, but has 7% of the people. There are fewer motorbikes per car, and fewer cars in general. Streets are quiet and charming, as opposed to hectic and crowded. You can feel the Buddhist vibes wafting through the city and the whole region. There’s also Mount Phousi right in the middle of the city, from which the views are incomparable:

The French influence still reigns quite strong in Luang Prabang, as the main street through town is littered with French bakeries, fruit-shake stands, and small 8-10 table cafes. Each night around 6pm, this main street becomes a night market, with cheap goods and food stalls galore. Pad Thai for $1.25. Even more fruit shake stands for $1.25. Cans of Beerlao for $0.75. In 2011, Chiang Mai, Thailand made me fall in love with Southeast Asia. But when I was there, a bunch of people had come from Luang Prabang and basically said “its a prettier and more relaxed version of Chiang Mai.” They were indeed correct.

While the sunsets from Mount Phousi are unbeatable, you’d also be remiss not to take in one from the riverfront, itself.

Another great thing to do in Luang Prabang is wander the streets, take in the views of the rivers and alleyways, take a boat ride up the Mekong, and explore the beautiful old Buddhist temples dotted throughout the city.

The best thing about Luang Prabang, in my opinion was Kuang Si Falls, about an hour away. It was so spectacular that I will be devoting a post specifically to the Falls.

I stayed a cool little guest house called Cold River, where I befriended the manager, a man who has lived all over the world before settling down in Luang Prabang. He said “This is the place where you take a vacation within your vacation.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. This town is definitely a “must visit” for any travelers to Southeast Asia.

Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel

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  1. Totally agree with you! I was also arriving in Luang Probang after Vietnam and the blue sky, the clean air, the amazing food at the vendors in the “night market” that in reality is an all day place to have great, clean, delicious food — I indulged in sandwiches and smoothies. Luang Probang is a MUST place, and while there kill time at Utopia. I used to go there in the evenings with some friends. The place is vibrant and the river view is beautiful, but on my last day my friends were gone and I want to relax and have some time to reflect. I went to Utopia in the afternoon, just a few customers. No pressure from the waiters. It was great to expend time without being asked if I want a beer or something. The waterfall was the most beautiful I have seeing so far.
    Congratulations on your article. Very precise description of beautiful Laos.

    • Thanks! And yeah good call on Utopia too, as I did find myself there once or twice. Such a cool location for a chill bar, and a place to lose a few hours to relaxation.

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