The view from the top of Mount Phou Si, the “Sacred Hill” is definitely worth the 355 step climb. The 360 degree panoramic view gave us a new appreciation for this beautiful ancient city. Rising up from the peninsula which is straddled by the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers you get a new perspective as to just how uniquely beautiful this city really is. Here on Mount Phou Si you are literally on the top of and at the heart of a city which is both physically and spiritually impressive.
At the end of the stairs and on the peak of this hill is where the famous Wat Chomsi is located. Built in 1804, it is a popular spot where the local Buddhist faithful love to come to pray. It also a very popular place to watch the evening sunset. If you wish to take unobstructed photos I recommend you arrive at least an hour early. For a complete experience of the hill I advise to take one set of stairs up the hill and the other side’s back down. There are several small wats along the way as well as a wide variety of Buddhist sculptures which I’m sure you will enjoy as you experience this impressive attraction.
The morning Alms Giving Ceremony is a sacred tradition practiced throughout Laos. Luang Phrabang is the perfect place in which to experience this ancient Buddhist practice. Highly revered by locals, visitors are encouraged to be involved as well. As to be expected, a level of respect is to be observed at all times.
The Alms giving ceremony takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street and then spreading out to the side streets. We had purchased a large plate of fresh fruit as our offering and arrived in plenty of time before the procession of the monks began.
The offering of Alms provides the monks with their one and only meal of the day each day. This tradition of Alms giving dates back to the 14th Century and is practiced each morning by about 200 local monks in the city.
This daily ceremony is both peaceful and spiritual and is a must see when visiting Luang Prabang. It is a perfect way to observe this ancient Laos tradition. The procession of monks is quite lengthy and when taking photos one should step back from the line to avoid giving any offense.
Luang Phrabang is a great town for just walking and looking at the quaint neighborhoods and artful buildings that comprise this picturesque little city. The place is full of little shops, cafes, coffee shops and bakeries scattered about just beckoning you to stop and visit. Weather it’s grabbing a delightful breakfast after watching the Alms ceremony or relaxing on your walk with a delicious snack and a cup of strongly brewed coffee you will love your time spent aimlessly exploring this wonderful ancient city.
Kuang Si waterfall
Kuang Si Waterfall is best visited early in the morning. Only a 45 minute tuktuk ride from town it can become very crowded as the morning progresses. After arriving we immediately hiked up the more difficult right side of the falls along the wooden stairs and then over the boulders till we reached the pools above. Here we marveled at the splendid view of the pools below and the mountains out beyond. At the top there are wooden bridges to cross, leading over streams and small, pools which eventually feeding the long waterfall which cascades down the cliff to the larger pools below. Hiking down the left side of the fall is easier than it was coming up the right side as there are more stairs and the path winds back and forth. I highly recommend that you be sure and wear “trail worthy” shoes in order to safely make this little junket.
As it was quite warm we decided to take a refreshing swim in the larger pool below the falls before heading back to our tuktuk. The water was surprisingly cool but welcome nonetheless.
The Luang Prabang night market is a rather civilized affaire compared to most others found in Southeast Asia. This is a great one for first time shoppers who are not yet used to the constant pressure and chaos typically experienced in the night time setting. The vendors found here are low keyed and genuinely pleasant people. Here you can comfortably stroll around the streets as often as you wish without the slightest bit of hassle. I guess it’s because of the comparatively few tourists that visit here that the vendors have chosen to set more realistic prices without the necessity of screaming to be bartered down. The one really unique item offered here are the colorful iconic umbrellas from which this area is famous.
My wife and I ate a local street food which was quite good and throughly enjoyed our time in the market. Than around 9pm we visited the cities only bowling alley, which was a really nice one, for a real change of pace and had a great time doing so. While most bars and restaurants are forced to close by 11pm in Luang Prabang the bowling alley can stay open until 4am. So after 11pm the alley became quite busy.