Luang Prabang: An Introduction
Luang Prabang was once the capital of an ancient kingdom, whose name meant the ‘Land of a Million Elephants and the White Parasol’. Although Vientiane subsequently became capital of the not-so-poetically named Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Luang Prabang remains one of the most culturally exquisite cities in Asia.
Its collection of 32 miraculously preserved wats and temples have rightly earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city’s business-owners and authorities are largely conscientious, making certain that it stays clean, tidy and, so far, relatively unharmed by tourism.
In the mid-14th century, the first kingdom of Laos was established here, at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, before the royal household moved south to the present day capital of Vientiane almost 100 years later.
With this destabilising departure, Luang Prabang became a prized target for invaders from across Asia. The region was subsequently subjected to many invasions, eventually ending up in the hands of the French. Despite all this, two Indochina wars and a civil war, the city managed to preserve the amazing buildings that make it one of the jewels of South-East Asia.
Traditional wooden Laotian houses nestle between peeling French facades and gleaming, gold-roofed temples. The city is full of flowers, with lush, thriving greenery outgrowing the buildings. Buses and trucks are banned, adding further depth to the tranquility.
We say: 'don’t miss out on the Pak Ou Caves. Thousands of years ago, people travelled from Luang Prabang to the site of two mysterious caves to worship the spirit of the Mekong River. Today, Pak Ou, the site of the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers, is where Buddhists still come to pray and worship the thousands of Buddha statues that have accumulated over the centuries, and has become known as the Buddha Caves. The trip also gives you the chance to make a journey on the mighty Mekong River!'
You have arrived
It's likely that Luang Prabang played a big part in inspiring you to travel in Laos and Indochina in the first place. The good news is that it's every bit as special - no - far better! - than you've heard.