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Travel, Teach, Live in Asia

How to Visit Luang Prabang, Laos
By:Edwin Thomas

With its reputation for friendly people and a supremely laid-back atmosphere, Laos enjoys a growing reputation as a tourist attraction in Southeast Asia. The crown jewel of Laos is Luang Prabang, the former royal capital and now the country's prettiest town. Simply put, a visit to Laos that skips Luang Prabang isn't even a visit to Laos at all.

Make your way to Luang Prabang. The best way to do this is to fly there from Thailand, or take an overland-and-riverboat route from Northern Thailand. If you are already in Laos, there are buses that run from Phonsovon and the capital of Vientiane.

Take in the panoramic view from Phou Si, the town's dominating hill. Then go down by the riverbank and get a closer look at the mighty waters of the Mekong River.

Explore Luang Prabang's numerous Buddhist temples. Although none are as colossal as the major temples of Thailand, their modest size combined with their sublimely ornate design is more appropriate to their purpose. Also, try to get up early one morning for the procession of monks receiving alms. The best place to do this is on the river road leading back to Wat Xieng Toung, the oldest of the town's monasteries.

Visit the old Royal Palace at Haw Kham. It is modest compared to similar buildings in Thailand and Cambodia, but then again, Laos is a modest, highland country.

Go to the Kuang Si Falls, unless it is the height of the dry season. The Kuang Si are the best falls in Asia, but aren't much to speak of if no water is pouring over them. Bring your swim trunks, as there are a handful of pools that are good for a dip.

Take the trip to the Pak Ou Caves, which are a Buddhist site. The best way to go is by canoe, which combines nice scenery with avoiding a busload of tourists.

Go shopping for gifts and souvenirs at the town night market. Night markets abound around the world, but this one really is something special.

Sample Lao cuisine: sticky rice, the meat and fresh herb salad called laap, buffalo sausages, ping kai (spicy fried chicken), and the ubiquitous holdovers from French colonization, the baguette and coffee.

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