Luang Prabang is the UNESCO-protected jewel in Laos' crown. Visit for a day and you'll find numerous temples, French-Colonial facades and a laid-back Sunday morning ambience. Stay awhile longer and you'll experience early morning alms-giving rituals, a sensory overload at Long Street food market, and the secret to climbing the stone steps to the top of Mt Phou Si without the crowds. Get on your bike and explore around the Nam Ou River for a more agricultural perspective on life in Laos' ancient capital.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Soft sunlight illuminates the rooftops as the dawn chorus signals the start of the day. People pass by your balcony on bikes or pulling carts overhanging with fresh vegetables. The waft of incense drifts skywards and somebody somewhere is grinding fresh beans for coffee. Once outside, your senses are heightened still further as you make your way to the early morning market on Long Street. Thoughts of freshly baked baguettes, deep fried doughnuts and khao jee (sticky rice and egg) - your new favourite street foods - make your stomach rumble. Wander between the stalls relishing the friendly faces, the sweet and sour aromas, and the thrill of the unknown.
The climb up Mt Phou Si's worn stone steps is made less arduous thanks to the procession of golden, almost garish, statues and shrines that greet you along the way. Wat Tham Phou Si is the pinnacle of Luang Prabang's temple collection, and the views from the top are matched by the opulent interiors of Wat Mai at the base. Knowing when, and where, to tour the city's temple circuit is important. Sunrise draws a lot of people to Phou Si, so perhaps opt to experience morning alms at another of the city's 32 temples and return later when the crowds have dispersed. Alternatively, cycle over the river and watch the first sunlight glint off the gold-roofed stupa from a distance.
Although it can be tempting to just potter around Luang Prabang on foot, there's a lot to be said for grabbing a bike and cycling over the Nam Ou River into the countryside. Pedal away from the city heat, lose yourself in patchwork rice paddies, and breathe in the stillness away from the busy streets. You don't have to go very far to experience the peaceful ambience on the other side of the river, and packing a warm baguette for an impromptu picnic is an excellent way to make sure you’re well-equipped to go wherever your wheels and whims will take you.
A two-week journey through Laos’ laid-back cities and rural landscapes, exploring the country’s rich cultural heritage, meeting the friendly locals and going on an adventure or two.