So what’s so different and charming about this Luang Prabang, Laos, place, anyway?
Plenty. Here are some beautiful sights you might see if you were to wander the streets for a few days.
1. Quiet, clean avenues graced by tourists and locals on bicycles.
Through a wondrous feat of balance, nearly all the locals steer their bikes with one hand and hold a parasol with the other to shield themselves from the bright sun! Which brings us to…
2. Glittering, gorgeous sun.
Every single day we have been here, the sun has opened its arms wide on a sapphire blue sky. Ooh, what a feast for the eyes this is, paired with…
3. Flowers, gloriously, everywhere!
Shocking magenta blooms hang from golden yellow walls. Orange and yellow blossoms nestle against emerald green foliage. (Much like Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and Quebec City.) And, ahhh!, how stunning this looks against…
4. Over twenty Wats (temples) scattered all around the city and its environs, and saffron-robed monks in every corner to go with them!
Each temple is ornately decorated with golden figures enacting ancient tales, or sparkling green mirrors, or red and orange holy figures. Some temples perch high atop green hills, and others you can make out across the river from the movement of the monks’ orange robes. Some charge a small admission and others don’t, but it’s a small price to pay for the beauty and holiness these wats infuse into the city. (Love Bangkok temples, too.) But with them come…
5. Signs telling tourists to stop doing dumb things to the monks.
“Stop dressing up like monks by putting on orange robes!” says one exasperated sign. “Protect our Lao culture!” Other signs warn against interfering with holy ceremonies, taking random flash photos, fondling people of the opposite gender within temple gates, or dressing scantily. With so many monks and so many tourists in one place, strangeness is bound to occur. Hopefully tourists will read the signs and take the hint!
6. Blazing red chillies drying in the sun.
As we drove to Luang Prabang from Vang Vieng through the mountain villages, hundreds of small farmers spread their hot peppers across their roofs and lawns.
Along with these warming produce piles are always happy, sunning cats, fur glowing in the hot rays.
7. Many, many happy tourists of a wide age range, here for the scenery and the outstanding cuisine.
Over half of these tourists speak French, and the age leans to middle-aged, while the orientation is more couple-ish. With this affluent tourism comes…
8. A shocking range of hotel and food prices.
At our hotel, we are playing a fantastic $4 a night for a great room each. When we booked the room, however, the hotel clerk whispered, “Do NOT tell the other tourists what you pay. They are paying $50 U.S. dollars for the room across the courtyard!” I have to applaud sweet Laos, however, because even $50 is a deal to be in this great place. And with this booming tourist industry comes…
9. Lao folks studying English left and right.
In nearly every cafe I have visited, the staff has spent at least half an hour in a corner table doing English lessons together. Indeed, the English (and perhaps French?) language level in this town is amazingly high. Hooray for studying!
10. Such kind, soft-spoken people!
Laos is known for its calm, hospitable culture, and sure enough, every person we have interacted with has been lovely.
A great feature of Luang Prabang is that the local life lives vibrantly right among the Southeast Asia tourist scene. Between the two building of our hotel is the house of the owners, who play with their little babies, take their baths, and strum their guitars as we walk by and wave on the way to sleep. In restaurants, the family staff will eat together in a side room or in the table right next to you, and I always end up saying “I wish I’d known to order THAT yummy looking stuff!”
11. Wonderful waterfalls and treks around the city, and tuk tuk drivers eager to take you there.
Do you like the “Don’t Swimming Area” sign from the waterfall we visited?
12. Oh so many delightful ways to spend your money!
Night markets, classy boutiques, cheap souvenir stalls, and food food food!
Happily, it seems that much tourist money is being pumped right into the hands and businesses of deserving Lao folks, as evidenced by the construction chugging along on every corner, and by the cheerful, content air of the city.
Hooray, Luang Prabang, Laos, and thank you for welcoming us!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!