Next door to Thailand is a country called Laos and the tiny city of Luang Prabang that I just about fell in love with. Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos and at the intersection of the Khan and Mekong Rivers. The city has an old world charm and a calm that is rarely found in Asia today. There aren’t any skyscrapers and all of the European influences still stand today with French architecture and meticulous street planning. In 1995, Luang Prabang was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage city. The program aims to protect the urban heritage of cities around the world. Buddhism runs strong here, with over 30 temples in the small city. Here are a few highlights that make Luang Prabang so wonderful.
It is said that those who do not climb up the 328 steps to the top of Phousi Mountain have not truly made it to the city. While it is incredibly hot in Laos, the view from the top of the mountain is worth all of the dripping sweat. Here, you catch views of the moutains, rivers and get a glimpse of how the city comes together. It is a beautiful portrait. You can walk around the top to get 360 degree views of the entire city, and beyond!
When you arrive in Luang Prabang, make sure to set up a Baci ceremony. This is typically done in the house of a village chief. It symbolizes good luck and fortune and is held for special occasions such as a new house, newborn baby, welcoming visitors, or making a long journey. Each of the elders places a tie around your wrist with a prayer of good fortune. It is a special ceremony that will allow you to interact with locals and experience the warmth of their hospitality.
People around the world are doing really cool things!! In 2010, a group of expats living in Luang Prabang realized that there was a lack of a dairy industry in the city. No one had ever milked a buffalo before, but these expats decided to figure it out. And so began the Buffalo Dairy in Luang Prabang. They began by making mozzarella, ricotta, yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake and other dairy staples. Now, the dairy has a full program where they rent buffalo from locals to provide families with a regular income stream. The farm is revolutionizing so many aspects of the community in Luang Prabang. They are providing jobs for community members and elongating the buffalo lifespan by caring for them in the proper way. The buffalo dairy is also educating the community on proper nutrition and the importance of dairy in one’s diet. While it might not make headlines, it was fascinating to me to witness such a small, yet life changing operation.
Enough with the touring, let’s play! Kuang Si Falls are beautiful and breathtaking. And also, a lot of fun. The falls cascade through various pools. You can even swim in them! The water is a bright blue, creating a beautiful contrast to the surrounding natural environment. The water is chilly, but who doesn’t love playing in waterfalls for the afternoon? The main waterfall is stunning as the water roars down and flows into the other pools. I could have spent my entire day here. It was beautiful.
Buddhism traditions run deep in Luang Prabang. Each morning, the town participates in Alms Giving. The monks from each of the 30 temples in Luang Prabang walk through the streets accepting offerings from the locals. The event occurs at sunrise, so at 5:40am, we hopped on bikes and went to the center of town to watch. This bike ride ended up being my one of my favorite parts of the trip. Sometimes, you just need a little self-exploration to truly get your bearings in a city. The Alms Giving is important as the monks are given what they will eat for the day.
There are many historical highlights of Luang Prabang, such as the Royal Palace and the Wat Xieng Thong temple. If you are interested in history, definitely make a point to see these on your visit. The Royal Palace has unique gifts from each country in the world that were given to the head of state. The United States gave many NASA themed gifts, in case you were wondering.
From Thailand to Laos, where should we go next? Cambodia!
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