Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, the cultural capital of Laos, was the perfect destination to settle for some days: a place with a colonial touch where time runs slowly, a wide choice of guesthouses and restaurants and an historical centre with many interesting sights to visit by foot or by bike. In addition, Luang Prabang was the perfect base camp for many day trips around. After some days spent in crazy Siam Reap and Angkor Temples, that’s definitely what we needed!

Mornings always started with a good breakfast on a terrace with views over Mekong River, with no rush. On the first day we climbed Phu Si (yes, it is pronounced pussi), a 100 m hill with a stupa on the top. During the climbing there were some entertainments, like Buddha sculptures or some altars with flowers but of course the best was on the top, with nice views of the city and the omnipresent Mekong River. This is the best introduction to the city!

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After lunch it was time to visit the Royal Palace, where the king and his family lived until 1975. This building is an interesting blend of traditional and colonial architecture with some palms, Italian marble stairs and a little bit of Asian decoration. Inside, one can see how was life during the last days of the kingdom, the Throne Room, some dorms, etc. But the palace’s most precious treasure is the Pha Bang, a 83cm Buddha statue considered as the symbol of the right to rule Laos and for which the city is named (Luang= great/royal + Pha Bang).

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In the afternoon we visited Wat Xieng Thong (Temple of the Golden City), the most famous monastery in Luang Prabang and a significant monument in terms of local architecture. The ensemble consists of a sim (or ordination hall) built in 1570 plus stupas, temples and other chapels around, everything beautifully decorated. If you like photography, you can spend many hours visiting here.

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On the second day we were more wanderers than tourists. We woke up later, had a longer breakfast on the same terrace and we walked along the front river, crossing it from time to time through its bamboo bridges. On the other side of the reiver there were some traditional villages, with no tourists at all, and it was nice to see a little bit of local life.

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At dusk we passed through some temples with some monks inside chanting psalms in front of the Buddha. I could not help but stay there, watching the ceremony from the outside door. I did not want to disturb but at the same time I was stuck by the beauty of the scene. I loved my stay in Luang Prabang!

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