Legend has it that Buddha smiled when he stopped to rest in the place where the city of Luang Prabang is now located. He told his disciple that a rich and prosperous city would one day grow there. And so it was; Luang Prabang was capital of the Kingdom of the Thousand Elephants until 1560.
Bordered by the Mekong and one of its tributaries, the Nam Khan, this quiet and charming city has managed to preserve and combine its Laotian traditions with an interesting architecture and French colonial influences.
This care and respect for tradition was precisely what led UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site in 1995.
For me it was undoubtedly an amazing discovery and now I understand why when visiting it, one always wants to stay a little longer.
I fell in love with its people from the first greeting “nop” (clasping hands at breast height and offering a warm smile).
One of the main charms of Luang Prabang, besides its beautiful temples (it is the main religious and spiritual center of the country) it’s its calm and quiet rhythm. The city is still a very unspoilt destination since it doesn’t receive as many visitors as other neighbouring countries.
You can still clearly see an interesting mix of different tribes, mostly Lao, but also the amusing Khmu, from the northern mountains or the Hmong, hard-working and introvert people.
Our arrival took place at the same time as the celebration of Pi Mai (Laotian New Year) and its famous “water fights”, where people throw water at each other to purify and relieve the heat.
We enjoyed the Baci blessing ceremony with the family of one of our guides, who welcomed us with open arms, filling us with blessings.
Then they took us to one of the most remote monasteries in the city, where I had the privilege of being the only Westerner attending this magical moment of study, songs and meditation.
We were also fortunate to share one of our walks through the city with a very interesting person, a French commissioner sent by UNESCO years ago to advise and help the city become a World Heritage Site. He decided to stay and live in Luang Prabang forever. Strolling through the city with him was a unique experience.
Luang Prabang has a great French influence, which makes it an excellent city to enjoy local cuisine, prepared with great taste and flavours of all kinds. Along the banks of the Mekong and in some of its most emblematic streets, you can find small cafes and excellent restaurants.
Thanks to Belmond La Résidence we enjoyed a walk through the morning market and took part in the funniest and most delicious cooking class, together with one of their chefs.
In Amantaka they transported us to a universe of peace and meditation and took us to the ceremony of “Alms Giving” at dawn, a unique moment full of spirituality.
Excellent cuisine, interesting people, beautiful temples, private navigation through the Mekong at sunset and a unique atmosphere, almost intact, make Luang Prabang an essential destination.
Only a 3-hour flight from Singapore, Luang Prabang is an excellent choice to experience a trip full of contrasts.