A welcome rest for many on the road who travel through Laos, Luang Prabang has been a haven over the years for those looking to relax in a colonial-era atmosphere, sample world class French cuisine and explore one of the 33 Buddhist temples throughout the city. The tourism sure is booming here with every second building seeming to be a guest house and, while it is aimed at a more mature crowd (don’t come here looking to party hard!), the higher prices certainly reflect it. However, that doesn’t mean Luang Prabang is out of anyone’s budget. Whilst many temples and museums have an entrance fee, there are still many opportunities to make of your stay in Luang Prabang an incredibly enriching experience, without going bankrupt. Below is a list of the Top 5 things to see and do in this fascinating city, made by the people – and for the people – who travel on the shoestring and don’t won’t to miss out on the cultural, and culinary, experience.
1.THE LIVING CRAFTS CENTRE (by Ock Pop Tok; Free Entry; Free Tuk Tuk)
* Our favourite *
Take a free guided tour – usually every half an hour – to learn about the traditional weaving processes, from the silkworms to finished textile. It’s a unique experience where you get the chance to see real silk worms growing, cocoons, the trees used for natural dying, and learn about different types of silk. With so many exploitative touristy tours taking you to villages so you can point your camera at uncomfortable tribal women – something we really don’t support – here you can learn and see the weaving process from up close, without being intrusive as in a small village. Master weavers are happy to show you their skills in producing stunning handicraft (which you can buy at the store in the same centre). Extremely educative and fascinating! And if you feel like you want to give it a go, you can take part at one – or more- of the hands-on weaving and dying classes – although these cost.
2. TRADITIONAL ARTS AND ETHNOLOGY CENTRE (Entrance: $2.5)
If you are interested in Laos’ ethnic groups and rural lifestyle, this small museum is a must visit. With many traditional clothes and household objects exposed, the informative posters aim at clarifying the differences between the many tribes living in low and high lands.
3. UXO MUSEUM (Free Entry – donations welcome)
In this small museum you can learn all about the American-led bombing during the Vietnam War. You can watch two short documentaries and have a close look at unexploded ordnance exposed in the hall, as well as learning about the Laotian government’s efforts to clear up the soil of bombs, which still cause a number of deaths on daily basis.
Eat here to support the efforts of local communities to reintegrate marginalised young people. The menu presents a creative local cuisine, and the dish coming out of the kitchen are simply delicious and beautifully presented! The crispy 5 spice pork belly with ginger pumpkin mash and hibiscus honey MUST NOT be missed. Main courses range between $5 and $6, which is a standard for Luang Prabang’s skyrocketing prices; but here you’ll make a positive social difference.
5. THE MORNING FOOD MARKET (Free)
Everybody knows about Luang Prabang’s night market and the plethora of handicraft and souvenirs you can fill up your luggage with. A bit lesser known, however, is the Morning Food Market. Taking place in a side lane not far from the Mekong river (click above for the exact location), this little gem showcases all sorts of edible weirdness you can possibly imagine. From rats, to prehistorical looking fish, as well as the usual grilled sausages, the market is mostly frequented by locals and won’t disappoint you.