Laos’ northern capital of Luang Prabang is a temple town of unspeakable beauty. Somnambulant and languid, the peaceful feel of Luang Prabang masks its fascinating history of conquest and recapture, and only hints at the intricate culture and complex traditions that take place here every day.
Set at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers, its tree-lined banks, dotted with temple roofs and the rising peak of Mt Phousi, Luang Prabang has enchanted those who arrive by boat for centuries – and docking by boat remains one of the best ways to arrive here.
The former royal capital, Luang Prabang sits on a long thin spit of land littered with dozens of wats, colonial buildings and trading houses. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, the town was described by the global body as “an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions.” A simple walk about town illustrates these ideas – Luang Prabang is picturesque, with all the charm of a quaint European town mixed with the wonderful, woodsy spice of Asia.
With an outstanding range of restaurants, guesthouses and hotels, a gorgeous location and super-friendly people, Luang Prabang has a frequent habit of wrecking tightly planned itineraries – be sure to allow at least a few days to really take this wonderful town in.
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