Luang Prabang in Laos is a great place to visit in December. It has both natural and historical sites. It is reputedly where Buddha smiled when he rested on his travels.
It is said he prophesied that one day Luang Prabang would be a rich and powerful city.
And how right he was. Luang Prabang is one of the oldest cities in Laos, founded approximately 1,200 years ago. Dominant in Luang Prabang’s landscape is the mighty Mekong river. This mighty river starts in the Tibetan Plateau in China flows through Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, and into the sea.
Take a nice cruise down the Mighty Mekong River
During December there is little rainfall in Luang Prabang, and temperatures in this once Royal capital are in the bearable 20s, which makes it very pleasant to take a cruise along the Mekong river. It also presents you with the chance to view the amazing mountain ranges of the PhouThao and PhouNang, and the lush greenery that encircles the city.
There is much to see here including Buddhist temples with many listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Among the natural tourism sites are the Kuang Si Falls, Tat Sae Waterfalls, and Pak Ou Caves. For historical sites see the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong, which are the most known historical sites.
Luang Prabang’s Old Quarter is probably a great place to start with its beautiful scenery, small streets bustling with souvenirs and many other products.
Check out the historic Old Quarter of the city
There is little traffic in the Old Quarter, which allows you to have time to have a good wander around, and absorb the Buddhist and French colonial architecture. Many of its old historic buildings have since been turned into luxurious restaurants and posh hotels. There are also many restaurants where you can relax by the riverside.
Locals are very friendly and want to practice their English. They can fill you in about all those things that might not get a mention in the tourist books. It once suffered from over-tourism, but since Covid things have quietened down a bit.
If you like silver jewellery and handmade silk clothes, there’s plenty on offer. And if you enjoy eating out in the evening, there’s lots of vendors available to rustle up lots of tasty food for a few pounds or dollars.
Marvel at Buddhist traditions and colonial architecture
Watching the daily Alms Giving Ceremony is something that can’t be missed in Luang Prabang. Alms giving is a Buddhist tradition where locals support monks clad in orange food, usually giving them balls of rice.
If you want to take part in the event, you need to get up before sunrise, about 5am, bring a jacket as it is quite cool at this time, and some food with you, and wait by the roadside. The spiritual Lao monks will take whatever food you offer them.
The offerings last around an an hour. You can either then go back to bed or begin the day with a good breakfast or take a hike up Mount Phousi. As you are up, also take advantage of the early morning markets and pick up a couple of bargains.
Sticky rice on a bamboo skewer should fill you up
Breakfast doesn’t need to be at the hotel – grab a khao jee – that’s grilled sticky rice on a bamboo skewer served on a banana leaf at the market. You can also pick up a few midday snacks while you are there of homemade rice wine and rice cakes.
Mountain biking is quite common in Luang Prabang, with people often biking around the town or going to the waterfalls for the day. Going down the Mekong River is a 15-minute boat ride from the city centre.
‘Best City in the Wanderlust 2015’
Luang Prabang has the accolade of having received ‘Best City’ in the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2015.
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When you do decide to come it’s good to shop around for a cheap flight and hotel. Tickets found on Wayaway were $1,668 return flight from London Heathrow to Luang Prabang from Sunday, December 10 and returning a week later on December 17. Baggage costing $129. If you book through WayAway you get $25 cashback. These will be subject to change as last-minute deals appear.